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March 28, 2016 Manufacturing Excellence Awards

Aaron Industries competes internationally by lowering energy costs


All of us want to reduce our carbon footprints and be good global citizens, but when you're a Massachusetts manufacturer, containing energy use isn't just a good idea.

It's a life-or-death matter.

“In Georgia or Texas, companies are paying half what we are for electricity per kilowatt-hour,” said Peter Angelini, environmental consultant for Aaron Industries Corp. in Leominster.

Founded in 1983 in the “Pioneer Plastic City,” Aaron has 47 full-time employees making and distributing plastic resins for use in all kinds of products. Aside from payroll, Angelini said, electricity is the company's biggest expense. That has made its executives acutely aware of the possibility that it's not using power as efficiently as possible.

“The thing with Aaron is, they're always looking for ways to become more efficient,” said Michael Horton, a National Grid sales representative who has worked with the company for 20 years, helping to find new technologies and ways of operating that are both greener and better for the bottom line. “They're extremely conscious of their environmental impact on society and the local area.”

Aaron has been working with National Grid and Leidos Engineering of Framingham for years, Angelini said. The partnership lets the company investigate the potential effects of big investments before pulling the trigger.

Along with changes to the company's production machinery, Angelini said, Aaron installed LED lights and motion sensors in one building, reducing the lighting costs by 90 percent. Another project channeled the heat put out by plastic melting equipment – which had previously been vented out of the building – to provide winter heat, cutting natural gas consumption in half.

Since 2010, Aaron has performed 12 energy improvement projects totaling $1.9 million. To cut the company's expense, National Grid awarded Aaron $557,668 in incentives.

The capital investments Aaron has made in efficient technology have been well worth it, Angelini said. The company has saved nearly 2 million in kilowatt hours of electricity.

“The projects generally pay for themselves within three years,” he said. “You keep getting the dividends for years after, decades. It's a great investment.”

National Grid can sometimes also offer 0-percent financing for new equipment, making projects even more attractive.

Meanwhile, Aaron's core mission has an environmental component. The company has always done recycling work, reclaiming plastic trash and transforming it into fresh products. Just this past December, it received U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval for a new recycled polystyrene for use in disposable food packaging. Angelini said the material can be made of half post-industrial and half post-consumer recyclables.

“We're very excited about that,” he said.

Aaron should serve as an example to other manufacturers, many of which don't think of contacting the utility company before making a big decision about a new piece of equipment, Horton said.

Aaron is “always asking questions as to what new technologies and operational analysis can be done,” he said. “They're a joy to work with.”

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