Located roughly three hours north of Toronto in the remote community of Moose Deer Point, Ontario, Canada, Niigon Technologies is a state-of-the-art injection molding manufacturer that produces small, high-end products for several industries, including automotive, agricultural and consumer packaging.
Niigon’s production operation runs 24/7 and uses fully automated injection molding cells and packaging equipment. The facility molds a variety of resins using Husky Hylectric molding equipment and PET molding machines.
Niigon executives are acutely aware of the importance of backup power in ensuring a continuous supply of reliable electric power. Injection molding operations are not very tolerant of interruptions in power, and even a flicker or spike costs any highly automated plastics manufacturer money due to the loss of production and increased machine maintenance.
“Power quality from the regional grid has been our main challenge for years, and we do not like unexpected interruptions in production,” said Steve Mason, general manager of Niigon. “Even a power flicker can cause machines to stop, and once that happens, it can be hours before everything is up and running again.”
According to Mason it is also common to lose only one phase of grid power, which is very dangerous for many of the company’s systems.
“Prior to installing our backup generator from Caterpillar, poor power quality had cost us thousands of dollars in repairs to sensitive electrical systems every year,” Mason noted. “We are constantly experiencing grid power disruptions in the form of poor quality or actual outages that can last anywhere from three seconds to several days.”
To meet Niigon’s emergency standby power needs, Cat® Dealer Toromont Power Systems installed a Cat 3516 1500 kW diesel generator set, a Cat 1600 amp automatic transfer switch (ATS), and a Cat 1200 kVA uninterruptible power supply (UPS).
Typically, Niigon’s electrical load runs about 1000 kW. In the event of a power disturbance – whether it’s under voltage or over voltage – the UPS engages seamlessly to prevent a power interruption. If the system does not detect the resumption of normal power after several seconds, the generator set starts. The UPS is designed to provide power until the generator set is up to speed and supplying up to 1500 kW of quality power. Once the generator set takes on the load, the flywheel-based Cat UPS starts its regeneration cycle.
“In a typical month we have about 20 interruptions where the UPS turns on,” Mason said.
The Cat ATS was selected based on its ability to provide the over and under voltage monitoring necessary for signaling the generator set to start. The unit also allows technicians to adjust the time delay before starting the generator set upon losing normal power. This flexibility allows for a balance between the prevention of unnecessary starts of the generator set and ensuring the seamless transition between UPS and generator set power. All these factors are critical in providing Niigon with a complete power solution.
As part of Niigon’s regular schedule of maintenance, technicians run the generator unloaded once a month to confirm regular operation.
Installing Niigon’s emergency standby power system was not necessarily about any particular payback period. “We feel that it was just not possible to run our business effectively without this system,” Mason said. “As our company grew, the repeated power disruptions made it increasingly difficult to properly staff for outages, meet our customers’ demands and keep scrap levels under control.”
Toromont provides quarterly preventive maintenance inspections, which include a visual inspection of the generator set and replacement of the unit’s fuel/water separators. Oil changes are performed as determined by Toromont’s fluid analysis lab. Niigon’s support agreement also includes inspection and maintenance of the UPS and ATS. “We have trained Niigon’s maintenance personnel to do all other routine maintenance checks,” explained Brent Urquhart, power quality account manager for Toromont.
Not only has the standby power solution helped with production, but it has also helped with Niigon’s sales efforts. When making presentations to potential customers that require just-in-time manufacturing, Niigon has effectively used the UPS and standby generation system as key benefits.
Customers appreciate the investments Niigon has made to minimize production disruptions and, as a result of these successful sales efforts, the company is expecting to add manufacturing capacity in the near future. “We are in constant contact with Niigon and are currently accessing future growth requirements,” Urquhart said.