In depth: 2011 so far, according to Hiram Urbina
Plant Engineering asked Hiram Urbina, plant manager for Eaton, about productivity, manufacturing recovery, and the challenges he’s faced at his plant in 2011.
Hiram Urbina is the plant manager for Eaton’s miniature circuit breaker component plant in Las Piedras, Puerto Rico. The plant is about 160,000 sq ft and employs approximately 385 regular, full-time employees. The facility produces components for miniature circuit breakers used in residential and light commercial applications.
PE: Everyone seems to feel the worst of the 2009 recession is behind us. In what ways has 2011 met or exceeded your expectations?
Urbina: Eaton results exceeded expectations by a wide margin in 2010, in part because of decisive actions Eaton took to refocus and resize during the economic downturn. Importantly, Eaton has also been investing in what we believe will be one of the most powerful megatrends for decades to come—power management. In terms of the specific demand for the products we manufacture—miniature residential circuit breakers—we see a strong demand as customers seek solutions that enhance safety and provide premium protection and efficiency.
PE: Where are the warning signs? What still needs to be done?
Urbina: Demand for energy is on the rise and, with that, so is the cost of energy. Simultaneously, businesses and consumers are demanding solutions that deliver increased uptime and reliability, greater efficiency, and improved safety.
Given growing energy demand, solutions that help us grow sustainably—while protecting the global environment—are crucial. We are developing and bringing to market solutions that enable more efficient energy consumption and reduce the amount of harmful emissions. Given rising costs and rapidly changing markets, sustainability also makes good economic sense.
PE: Why has maintenance re-emerged as such an important part of the manufacturing operation?
Urbina: Often, the power system is a disparate collection of components that do not always work in harmony to deliver the optimal level of reliability, safety, or efficiency. Because an enterprise’s power system changes as the business evolves, it can become more complicated, inefficient, and difficult to manage over time. But expectations of improved performance, efficiency, and reduced costs continue to rise.
So, maintenance is a key aspect of any operation. By managing power as a strategic, integrated asset throughout its lifecycle, enterprises achieve a competitive advantage. Specifically, maintenance programs are crucial to ensuring that vital operations continue to work around the clock; saving energy, reducing costs, improving productivity, and helping to protect the environment; and enhancing safety.
PE: What initiatives have you undertaken to get more productive within your own plant?
Urbina: In 2008, our energy costs in this plant were going through the roof. So we tapped the Eaton Business System (EBS), which provides our businesses with a proven set of processes and serves as a compass that directs and measures the actions, decisions, and behaviors of employees. The program was initiated by our facility maintenance team and resulted in a 13.5%t reduction in energy consumption.
The project included a range of improvements to enhance capacity, optimize the efficiency of manufacturing equipment, heating and lighting, and simple procedural changes.
For example, the adjustable frequency drives match power consumption to actual process demands, so we use the power we need and no more. Essentially, the SVX9000 drives are helping us take advantage of downtime to reduce energy consumption. With sophisticated semiconductor technology and modular construction, the drives alone created annual energy savings of 98,000 kWh.
Between Friday afternoon and Sunday, we shut down the plant and use emergency generators to avoid peak demand when we’re back and running on Monday. They help us to slowly take systems back up, staggering processes and avoiding premium peak demand charges.
All in all, these projects were recognized with an award from the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association in 2010.
PE: What’s your outlook for 2013?
Urbina: Eaton will continue to help customers manage power more efficiently, effectively, safely, and sustainably. We will also continue to do business right by employing energy efficiency and sustainability products and solutions within our own operations. We believe that power management will be one of the biggest trends shaping the future as the world’s energy demands grow.
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.