Making stone veneer panels for offices, homes, schools and other external facades entails a unique manufacturing process at Stone Panels Incorporated, located in the heart of Coppell, Texas, just outside of Dallas. Key to every step of manufacturing is productive labor, and as this company realized, it’s hard to be productive in Dallas heat and humidity.
The design of the 166,000 square foot facility incorporates multiple areas and work stations each dedicated to a specific step in the manufacturing process. Products flow from raw material receiving through these areas until finished goods end up in shipping for distribution to customers around the world.
The facility does not have a centralized air-conditioning system and working in close quarters in a humid, and often dusty facility has lead to uncomfortable employees and occasional drops in productivity. With a product that generally has long lead times, any additional delays can be devastating to order processing and profitability.
“Our employees are needed during every step of the manufacturing process, so keeping them cool, comfortable and productive is a top priority,” says Dewey Winker, facilities manager.
The manufacturing process entails multiple steps to cut the stones, polish and create the panels and then add a finish to seal them for protection from the elements. The drying time during the final step generally takes the longest at up to seven days for a completely cured product which accounts for a lengthy lead time on many products.
It was the need to keep employees cool during these processes that drove Stone Panels and Winker to look into installing high velocity low speed (HVLS) fans throughout the facility to reduce the temperature and the humidity in the facility. Working with equipment distributor Miner North Texas, Winker installed six, 24’ Kelley Fusion HVLS fans. Their anodized aluminum blades produce a large column of air that flows down toward the floor and outward in all directions before it is pulled back vertically toward the blades to create what is known as a horizontal floor jet.
By creating this slow moving breeze at 2 to 3 miles per hour, facilities have reported a reduction in perceived temperature equivalent to 7 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Without having a centralized cooling system available to employees, the mid-day heat of the Texas summers can really bring work to a halt,” Winker adds. “After we installed the fans, we have a much cooler and less humid work environment and we have seen lead times decrease as a result of employees’ comfort levels having improved so dramatically.”
The sensation of coolness does not depend on air temperature in Stone Panel’s case because there is no centralized cooling unit. Rather, the circulation causes the air to feel cooler than it actually is as the breeze passes over the skin, making workers more comfortable and potentially more productive. These fans also provide airflow throughout the warehouse and eliminate warm or cold air pockets for more consistent cooling and energy efficiency.
The slow moving breeze created by the fans has also reduced the drying time from upwards of a full week down to two days. Thus, managing the internal temperature of the facility has not only created opportunities for energy savings, but increased capacity due to decreased lead time.