The Fast Track to a More Efficient Work Environment

Project: Gunderson, a subsidiary of Greenbrier Companies

Project Type: Lighting Retrofit

Type of Facility: Manufacturing

Location: Portland, Oregon

Project Challenge – Improve the Efficiency of Operations

The Greenbrier Companies is an international supplier of equipment and services to the freight rail transportation markets. It designs, builds and markets freight railcars, tank cars, rail castings and marine barges, and provides wheel services, parts, leasing, freight railcar repair, refurbishment and retrofitting services to the railroad and related transportation industries. Greenbrier owns a lease fleet of more than 9,000 railcars and performs management services for 268,000-plus railcars.

Greenbrier’s Gunderson facility in Portland, Oregon, is its flagship manufacturing facility for marine barges and rail cars. The massive 58-acre plant is made up of more than 875,000 square feet of manufacturing floor space under multiple roofs.

At its peak, more than 1391 employees are on the floor. Lighting conditions at this facility had deteriorated to the point where light levels ranged from 13 to 36 foot-candles, a unit of illumination equal to that given by a source of one candela at a distance of one foot. It wasn’t uncommon to see a significant number of light fixtures out of commission and yellow lamps intermingled with those that were white. Employees frequently complained about shadows that made it difficult to perform their job. To operate at peak efficiency, the lighting needed to achieve an even 50 foot candles throughout the facility.

The issue with the quality of light was beginning to trigger additional concerns.

Research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that, “the quality of lighting can have a positive impact on reducing the risk of the primary causes of occupational injuries.” The safety and security of its employees were of the utmost importance to ownership, and they realized better lighting would decrease the likelihood of accidents.

While the process for swapping out lamps and light fixtures might appear to be simple, at a facility like this it was a logistical challenge. The proven longevity of LEDs was appealing to ownership and they were optimistic they could identify an opportunity to decrease energy use, even though the lights at the facility are never turned off.

Current Lighting’s Solution – A Switch with Only Upside

The lighting team of Creative Lighting and Current Lighting initiated extensive research to identify a solution that would work best for the Gunderson facility. A detailed analysis of products from various manufacturers that compared wattage, efficacy and annual energy costs was facilitated, and the team determined Columbia Lighting’s LLHV VersaBay® High Bay LED and MPL Megaplane™ LED would offer the best combination of powerful, high light output with the ideal energy savings for a significant return on the investment.

The LLHV is offered in six different lumen packages, making it suitable for replacement of 150W to 1,000W HID fixtures. For this massive facility, the team selected the Ultra High Lumen Package with Wide Distribution (LLHV4-50-U-W-ST-E-U) to replace the 1,000W metal halide and HPS legacy fixtures. The optical design of the LLHV provides one-for-one replacement of metal halide and fluorescent high bays with substantial energy savings.

At a projected 60,000 hour L80 life, the LLHV is the smart choice for warehouses, manufacturing centers, gymnasiums, convention centers and other large, open commercial spaces. It is DesignLights Consortium (“DLC”) qualified, meaning the fixture selection would enable Gunderson to qualify for any applicable utility rebates.

The MPL is a linear suspended luminaire well suited for retail, design/build, back of house, warehouse, and commercial storage applications. This attractive industrial features a lumen range of 6,000 to 24,000 lumens and replaces 150W to 400W HID and 2L, 3L, 4L or 6L fluorescent with mounting heights of 12’ to 30’. It too is DLC qualified.

Solution Benefits – A New Standard 

The quality of the light source has made a noticeable impact on worker safety and morale, the efficiency of operations, the balance sheet and Gunderson’s sustainability goals.

Employee vision has improved due to the light uniformity, and in many areas the light levels have been doubled or even tripled to an even 50 foot candles. Prior to the lighting upgrade it wasn’t uncommon to see workers using additional light sources to support their jobs, especially in the Main Line (“Out the Door”) final inspection area where experts were looking for any defects in the final product. In the Plate Shop the MPL’s TIR directional linear optics are providing optimal lighting performance to guide the Machinist where cutting, drilling, and forming of materials takes place.

Each of the LLHVs are performing at 138 Lumens per Watt and the MPLs at 96 Lumens per Watt. It’s estimated that energy use for the entire 58-acre facility will be cut by more than 1.65 million kWh per year, translating to annual energy savings of $130,000, more than $10,000 per month.

In addition, the Gunderson facility is benefiting monetarily from a rebate from the local utility since it selected energy efficient LEDs that are DLC qualified. The one-time rebate helped cover more than 50 percent the cost of the lighting upgrade, establishing a payback period of 1.7 years.

Finally, The Greenbrier Companies has significantly reduced maintenance costs associated with maintaining and fixing the legacy fixtures on a continuous basis. It can expect a 60,000 hour fixture life for each LLHV and MPL at L80.

Testimonial –

“It’s been great to see the renewed energy on the manufacturing floor. Employees are positive, excited and emotionally enthusiastic because of the brighter environment. Management is thrilled with the impact the lighting has had on worker safety, the balance sheet and our broader sustainability goals.”

Geof Knutsen – Maintenance & Facility Supervising Electrician at The Greenbrier Companies

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