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 in touch header                                                                                  Q2 2013
In This Issue
AppStst Product Launch
Featured Project--TDK's Headway Technologies
Featured Partner--Harris Companies
Climate Change (cartoon)
There's an AppStat for That!

For those who need to easily and efficiently control fan coil units, rooftop units, or heat pump units, there's an AppStat for that.   




"AppStat" refers to a new series of BACnet communicating thermostats from KMC Controls.  Each model in the series combines a BACnet applications specific controller and sensor options into an attractive, space-mounted device.


"We designed AppStat" says KMC Product Manager, Erich Kreuter, "as a cost-effective alternative for unitary control in commercial or institutional applications.  AppStat is equally suited to standalone environmental control or as part of an integrated BACnet control system."


The visual appeal of AppStat is accented by the overall design, a color LCD screen, and soft-touch buttons.  Through the screen and buttons, installers and users can completely configure the devices and access various menu options.


"Intuitive set-up and operation," says Kreuter, "were essential considerations for us in this offering.  We consider it installer friendly and operator easy.  And, we can also customize the design or functionality to specific OEM requirements."


Various feature options are available for each of the included applications.  Such features include modulating versus on/off operation of associated components, such as valves and fans, as well as control for components such as economizers.  Sensor options, beyond standard temperature sensing, include humidity and motion/occupancy.


KMC has launched a product-specific microsite ( for those needing further information.  The site is optimized for both desktop and mobile users.



Our Featured Project--TDK's Headway Technologies

Milpitas, CA


Continuous Improvement. When there's a great deal of low-hanging fruit to gather, it's an easy concept to embrace. But what happens when all the easy stuff is done and expectations for continuous improvement still exist? Such has been the challenge for Senior Facility Manager, Dan Burris, and his team at the Silicon Valley headquarters of Headway Technologies, a TDK subsidiary.  


Headway Technologies, a subsidiary of TDK Corporation,  
is located in Silicon Valley.



Headway manufactures, in clean room fashion, aluminum titanium carbide wafers consisting of thousands of read/write heads used in computer hard drives. TDK sales of such devices account for about 1/3 of all such sales worldwide. The exacting standards for such fabrication necessitates that Class 100 clean rooms dominate the 115,000 sq. ft. Headway facility.


Their ISO-14001 registered quality system instills an inherent amount of interest in continuous improvement. Accordingly, each year Headway and TDK management determine high-level goals and more specific objectives, including those related to energy-use reduction. Such goals are always based on the fabrication capacity requirements.


Beyond this driver, the fact that the Headway fabrication facility is located in Silicon Valley puts inherent pressure on management to contain costs so that they can remain competitive in the worldwide manufacturing arena.


"For the last 5 years," Dan Burris explains, "we've had a year-over-year decrease in energy use as we planned. But we had done so through all the low-hanging fruit such as lighting and high-efficiency motors on the HVAC equipment."


"When we reached the extent of our internal knowledge," he continues, "we had to look to external sources for skill sets we did not have internally. Specifically, we needed to evaluate our entire mechanical systems and to optimize their performance."


That search eventually led Dan and his team to Comfort International Inc., an authorized representative of KMC Controls. Alan Pong is President of Comfort International.


"Dan certainly put the fear of God in us as he explained the demands of the project," Alan says. "We needed to achieve a 10% reduction in energy usage and do so without disrupting the fabrication process. 'Thou shalt not hurt the fab,' is Dan's cardinal rule," Alan concluded with a smile.


He is referencing here several characteristics peculiar to the project. First, Headway is a 24/7/365 operation. Second, each of their many clean rooms contains dozens of tools or production machines churning out the wafers through1000distinct fabrication steps and cycle times from 8 to 12 weeks per product. Third, these tools depend on the building's mechanical systems for their operation. Fourth, this fabrication requires unyielding standards for temperature and humidity control. The environment must be maintained at 68° F +/- 1° and 45% relative humidity +/- 2.5%.


Any deviation from these standards can cause a shutdown and affect multiple layers of the wafer and millions of dollars in losses. Just 30 minutes of out-of-spec humidity can erase 4 to 5 hours of production (and it grows exponentially from there).


Alan's first task in preparing for the project was to conduct a deep energy audit. "A base audit had been completed by a previous contractor," Alan explains. "But we had to go deep to full ASHRAE standards, and do so over a period of two months, in order to put together the required profiles and go back to Dan with our proposal."


That proposal, in essence a performance contract, called for a savings of 4.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year and 324,000 therms of gas per year with a 1.5 year payback.


It would not be easily accomplished.


Dan Burris explains: "Our incremental growth over the last 20 years had led to a bunch of equipment that's not in harmony or efficient as a whole. We had dissimilar pipe pressures and pipe diameters. We had four different mechanical yards, each with chillers and towers. We needed a way to look at this intelligently and make comprehensive decisions versus discrete ones."


That sort of system-level thinking was exactly what Alan Pong and his team at Comfort International brought to the table.


"We modified the design and operations of the facility by creating an entirely new way to utilize the existing primary equipment," Alan says.


"Alan did take a different approach," Dan Burris adds. "While we had vetted another contractor for this project, their proposal was lacking in that they really didn't understand our constraints or take a comprehensive approach that we wanted. By the time we pulled out from their proposal all that wouldn't work for us, the ROI became unacceptable."


"Alan, on the other hand," Dan continues, "illustrated a complete understanding of our facility and our needs through his energy audit and resulting profiles. He then applied a creative control approach."


The project revolved around the facility's air handling units. There are 20 standard and 52 re-circulating AHUs on site used for both supply air and re-circulating air purposes.


"In particular," Alan says, "the re-circulating AHUs were oversized and had crude dampers. We needed better control to achieve the promised results."

To lay the foundation for this control, Alan's team added Toshiba variable frequency drives of varying capacities (30, 20, 15, 10 & 7.5 horsepower). Comfort International also replaced 22 damper assemblies with highly controllable ones. VFDs were also added to other rooftop units and water pumps.


With this foundation in place, Comfort International added numerous and precision sensors to the clean rooms and outfitted each AHU/VFD pair with model A1616 BTL-listed BACnet building controllers from KMC Controls. The high resolution of A-to-D conversion on the inputs of the controllers was needed to properly manage the highly accurate sensor data.


Beyond equipment, real energy savings were realized with a change to the control logic.


Says Dan Burris: "We had been conditioning 100% of the air, supply air and re-circulated air. A given clean room here uses the AHUs to make 10 air changes per hour at 90 ft/min. Outside air must be heavily conditioned before it reaches the HEPA filters and flow modules."


"Alan's idea was to only condition the initial supply air and any make-up air," Dan continues.   "If we consider the total or 100% of supply air in circulation at any given time, we realize that some is lost through the production tool exhaust and some through the occasional open door to the clean rooms. In reality, of 100% to start, only 70% makes it back for recirculation."


"Alan's stroke of brilliance was that 70% of the air was already conditioned. It may have acquired only some latent heat load along the way. It could be brought back into spec with only minimal intervention. So the focus then shifted to the 30% make-up air."


At TDK headquarters, Dan Burris (center) holds the recognition reward check form PG&E. Alan Pong (second from right) is assisting.


Beyond these air-related measures, the facility and contractor team had to look at water usage and its conditioning. The facility uses chilled water, hot water, and steam for domestic and production purposes. Here VFDs were also added to appropriate motors and valve changes were introduced for greater controllability.


"For the chillers," Alan says, "we raised the water temperature to optimize the strategy for the best combination for the supply cooling load. We also staged the chillers to maintain proper flow to the production tools."


"For boilers," Alan continues, "we saw that they had been set to maintain a constant PSI. Through new sensors and controllers, we changed this strategy to achieve the target PSI only when needed. But we always had enough capacity in standby mode to accommodate production needs."


What results have been achieved as a result of these measures?


"ROI occurred in 10 months," says Dan Burris enthusiastically. "On the electrical side, we went from a continuous demand of 5.4 megawatts to 4.7 megawatts. In fact, we've seen it as low as 4.4 megawatts. That's enough to power 128 homes per year and easily surpasses our 10% reduction goal. It also represents a direct costs savings of over $800,000."


With regards to gas, Dan's team was disappointed to learn that a key gas meter had failed, giving them good data only after it had been replaced, which was after project completion. Comparative data from before the project is not available. "However," Dan states, "I can say that we went from a total of ten operating boilers for hot water and steam production to only five in operation today. That's a 50% reduction in these big users of gas."


As a direct result of these energy savings, Headway Technologies/TDK was recently rewarded by Pacific Gas & Electric with a handsome rebate check for over $633,500. This award was presented in a special ceremony at Headway headquarters in Milpitas on March 24, 2013. It was noted as being the largest of such rebates given within Silicon Valley.


At the same award ceremony, the mayor of Milpitas, Jose Esteves, presented a certificate to the Headway staff recognizing their contributions to global CO2 reductions.  


Mayor Jose Esteves (center in suit) presents a CO2 reduction recognition certificate to Dan Burris.


The efforts of the Headway Technologies facility staff have not gone unnoticed within the TDK family. Representatives of Headway's sister plant in Japan (also responsible for the same product line) are planning a visit to Silicon Valley to see if some of the lessons learned and results achieved could be applied there.


Such are the possibilities when vision and planning for continuous improvement meet technical creativity and competence.

Our Featured Partner--Harris Companies 

What It Takes to Win
"It's not magic," Todd Thiele says. "There's no secret to our success," he continues. "It just takes a lot of hard work."


He would know.


As Vice President of Controls for the Harris Companies, Todd has been a driving force behind the companies foray into the controls arena.

Founded in 1948 by Charles Harris, Harris Plumbing & Heating has grown from its modest beginnings into one of the largest mechanical contractors in the United States. Harris maintains operations in nine U.S locations and one Canadian location.


As the Controls division leader, Todd Thiele is responsible for business and technical operations of this business unit. The controls team is an independent profit center within the Harris Companies. Todd is responsible for such things as business planning and development, sales training, finding new markets, and setting the direction and objectives for his controls teams.


The headquarters for Harris Controls is in St. Paul, Minnesota. But the company also operates a distinct controls unit in Salt Lake City, UT and is now starting up a new unit in Washington D.C.   Wasatch Controls in Salt Lake was acquired about 4 years ago and is now hitting their stride as a fully integrated member of the Harris family. Capital City Controls is the name of the new controls business unit in the U.S. capital.


Given the strength of the mechanical contracting arm of Harris, you might suspect that the Controls division simply has to follow the mechanical divisions around to get work. Not so.


"The vast majority of our controls-related work comes to us directly from our customers and not as part of a mechanical project being performed by Harris," Todd says. "We have fostered customer relationships for over 15 years and they make an active choice to use us for their control-related needs."


That work has taken Harris Controls to geographically dispersed locations.


"We have performed controls projects in nearly two dozen states and Canadian provinces, says Todd. "If we are not licensed to perform the install in a particular area we'll sub-contract through local sources or use whoever the owner prefers. However, we do all the project engineering and manage the other technical aspects such as startup and commissioning."


"The bottom line," Todd concludes, "is that we'll travel to wherever our customers want us. We're there to please the owner."


Harris, as an overall company, is committed to turnkey solutions, with innovation and responsiveness. The work of Harris Controls also mirrors this direction.



Todd Thiele inspects a production process at KMC headquarters during the  
In Touch 2012 dealer conference. KMC's Deb Pederson feeds the wave-flow solder machine.



"We're not the juggernaut in the Harris family," Todd explains. "We're a small part of a big company. But we have equal importance with other groups and an equal responsibility to seek profitable work. We seek projects that have challenging or high-tech environments such as hospitals, museums, clean rooms, or biologics."




Todd continues his explanation: "The controls business, as a whole, is being commoditized. That leads to everyone buying on price. And that's not our market. The challenging projects are more compelling to us because they enable us to add greater value. And that keeps the commoditization dogs at bay," he says with a grin.


Beyond the hard work and strategic market focus, Todd notes one other factor that has led to success in the Controls business of Harris.  "We've got a great team with hard-working and talented people," he says. "That has enabled us to grow."


"That growth," he continues, "is an outcropping of team diversity. We don't look for a given type of individual such as CS (computer science) majors to do programming or EEs (electrical engineers) to do engineering. We seek and we have diverse backgrounds on our controls team. You know," he continues, "this is what made America great. And I have similar thoughts about our controls team: we are a melting pot. We treasure diversity and try to foster it."


Winning teams of diverse members don't just happen however. That's where Todd's style of quiet leadership contributes.   "Our guys work very hard," he says. "And I find it personally rewarding to create opportunities for them to grow and in seeing them seize these opportunities."  


Harris after hours--a shot of Harris headquarters in  
St. Paul, Minnesota.



Each year, corporate objectives for sales growth and margins help drive the overall team direction. Todd then expands these goals into more specific quarterly challenges, with compensation-related tie-in for specific team members. He also sets aside dedicated dollars for training every year to keep his team current.


Beyond these team leadership responsibilities Todd is responsible for overall strategic direction for Harris' controls business. He considers emerging technologies that may have an impact on their business. He helps open new markets and qualifies external resources that might assist in project implementation. And he manages the external partnerships that can help Harris Controls reach their stated goals.


One other characteristic helps define what it takes to win for Harris Controls. You see it in any routine interactions with them. It is integrity. "We've been asked many times how we can do business the way we do in this cut-throat world of contracting," Todd concludes. "To put it simply, we treat customers the way we would want to be treated. It works for us."


It certainly does.

Climate Change
© 2013 Ben H. Dorsey III
Stay in touch!

Ben H. Dorsey III
Sr. VP of Marketing
LEED Green Associate
KMC Controls, Inc.

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