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Plant in Hollen­bach: “Every­thing in the green range”

Just a few kilo­me­tres north of the head­quar­ters in Mulfingen, a new plant grew from the home soil of Germany’s Hohen­lohe region in just six months. Here, in Hollen­bach, ebm-papst has produced the largest flag­ship models in its product range: fans with a blade diam­eter of up to one meter.

Equipped with state-of-the-art tech­nology and span­ning over 13,000 square metres, the plant sets bench­marks — including those in energy effi­ciency. Managing Director Produc­tion Thomas Wagner explains the concept behind ebm-papst’s newest loca­tion.

Mr Wagner, why is this plant located in Mulfingen-Hollen­bach and not in Shanghai, Chennai or another low-wage loca­tion?

Thomas Wagner: Because all our data speaks in favour of the Hollen­bach loca­tion. Refrig­er­a­tion and air-condi­tioning tech­nology, the indus­tries for which we manu­fac­ture here, is a primarily Euro­pean busi­ness with a high percentage of project busi­ness, in which speed and the ability to deliver are impor­tant. We cannot supply a customer in Vienna, Offen­bach or Sheffield from China. With delivery times from eight to twelve weeks, that takes much too long.

Other than the geograph­ical prox­imity to the markets, what else speaks in favour of Germany as a loca­tion or, more specif­i­cally, Hollen­bach?

Wagner: For example, when looking at the costs, you have to remember logis­tics. Ocean freight for one large EC fan is a good 50 dollars! Much more impor­tant, however, is the fact that we produce high-tech prod­ucts that need an appro­priate devel­op­ment and produc­tion envi­ron­ment. In Hollen­bach, we have that: highly skilled, expe­ri­enced employees, long­time rela­tion­ships with suppliers, short distances. All those involved in the project are close by and can make their contri­bu­tions directly. If there is a problem, I can have all of the respon­sible colleagues sitting at a table in 15 minutes. We can easily produce simple “me-too” arti­cles in cheaper foreign coun­tries, but we manu­fac­ture premium prod­ucts here, in the green Hollen­bach coun­try­side. This is supported by rational argu­ments like those I mentioned, but also, of course, by our close feeling of connec­tion to the region.

The Hollen­bach plant is not only located in the green coun­try­side, it also has a lot of green tech­nology built into it. What are you most proud of?

Wagner: The credit belongs primarily to the designers and special­ists from a wide variety of trades. In an outstanding display of team­work, they were able to complete the plan­ning of this plant in just six months and build it in another six.

As Managing Director, Thomas Wagner is in charge of the new plant for large fans in Hollen­bach as well as all other world­wide produc­tion sites.

Which tech­nolo­gies are most note­worthy with regard to energy effi­ciency?

Wagner:A number of energy conser­va­tion measures have been imple­mented in the new plant. In addi­tion to a photo­voltaic system and the consis­tent use of compo­nents with the highest energy effi­ciency, the most outstanding feature is the intel­li­gent use of waste heat. We attain a primary energy consump­tion level that is 80 percent less than the value required by the German Energy Savings Ordi­nance for new build­ings.

How were you able to get the value so low?

Wagner: In indus­trial build­ings, in addi­tion to the energy demand for heating, factors such as the demand for cooling and venti­la­tion are eval­u­ated. Our tech­nology gives us a home advan­tage in this area. After all, we produce energy-saving EC fans here, and of course we use them in our own venti­la­tion and cooling systems. Thus we are in the green range, both in terms of the effi­ciency of the plant itself and the prod­ucts produced here.

What is the “green range” for indus­trial build­ings? Can you give concrete numbers?

Wagner: The primary energy consump­tion of the entire plant is about 210,000?kWh per year. Normally?—?if we used conven­tional technology?—?it would be a good million kWh. We keep over 300 tonnes of CO2 per year out of the environment?—?and save 75,000 EUR rela­tive to the annual oper­ating costs for heating, venti­la­tion and cooling. To attain these values, we have imple­mented a package of measures. The photo­voltaic system on the roof supplies up to 153 kilo­watts. To support the heating system, we use the temper­a­ture strat­i­fi­ca­tion in the build­ings. This temper­a­ture strat­i­fi­ca­tion is specif­i­cally induced using displace­ment venti­la­tion. We guide the warm air, which accu­mu­lates espe­cially in the higher strata in the produc­tion area, through a distri­b­u­tion system and into the cooler areas, such as the ware­house or ship­ping depart­ment. Another note­worthy feature is the sprin­kler reser­voir, which we use as a heat accu­mu­lator.

You use fire extin­guishing water as a heat accu­mu­lator?

Wagner: Yes, due to the size and design of the hall, we were required to install a sprin­kler system with a corre­sponding water reser­voir. Thus the base­ment of the building has a concrete tank with over one million litres of fire extin­guishing water. We use this water as a heat accu­mu­lator, for example for the heat given off by the compressor system, which, in turn, serves as the heat source for a heat pump. In summer, the heat pump is used for cooling as a chiller.

ebm-papst has invested about 15 million EUR into this plant. What busi­ness goals are being pursued with this invest­ment?

Wagner: Plan­ning for the new building began in Summer 2006. After the split from our sales partner for large fans, we initially added these prod­ucts to the produc­tion in our Mulfingen plant. However, Mulfingen was never designed for these prod­ucts; prob­lems were caused by the sheer size of the fans with diam­e­ters of up to one metre. We were liter­ally running out of space. The new building basi­cally gave us the oppor­tu­nity to build the plant around the produc­tion line, ensuring that produc­tion would be opti­mally suited to these fans. We see an excel­lent future, partic­u­larly for EC fans; the manu­fac­turing plant is currently designed for approx­i­mately 800,000 units per year. If it should prove inad­e­quate, we still have enough room to expand. Here, too, every­thing is going green.

The new Hollen­bach plant:

  • Ground-breaking: 16 April 2007
  • Begin­ning of move: November 2007/li>
  • Employees: approx. 150
  • Invest­ments: approx. 15 million EUR
  • Produc­tion space: 13,500 square metres
  • Manu­fac­turing capacity: 800,000 fans

Air-condi­tioning tech­nology:

  • Venti­la­tion: 13 units with EC motors
  • Heating and cooling pumps with the highest effi­ciency class
  • Heating with displace­ment venti­la­tion
  • Sprin­kler reser­voir as heat buffer: 1,100,000 litres
  • Photo­voltaic system: 153 kW
  • Primary energy consump­tion: 210,000 kWh/a (approx. 1/5 of stan­dard consump­tion)

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