Founded in 1972, Schoeneck Containers is a manufacturer of plastic containers for a variety of industries, including food, beverage, personal care, household, and industrial products. The company’s flagship facility in New Berlin, Wisconsin, is approximately 180,000 square feet with more than 30 production lines producing over 300 million containers annually.
New facility needed to meet customer demand
In 2018, Schoeneck Containers was running at full capacity and wanted to expand its footprint beyond the New Berlin facility. The company opted to build a second facility approximately 40 miles away in Delavan, Wisconsin. The new 250,000-square-foot facility, which is equally divided into production and warehouse space, is large enough to support projected future growth.
Although the Delavan facility currently operates only six product lines, Schoeneck Containers was looking for a cooling system that could grow with the company and eliminate the need to spend additional incremental capital down the road.
Process cooling critical for plastic blow molding
Process cooling plays a significant role in plastic blow molding. Inside the mold, the molten plastic is cooled by a cooling tower or chilled water. The process cooling water is fed through small channels within the mold. As the cooling water travels through the mold, it removes heat from the plastic and hardens. Schoeneck Containers needed to find a system that offered the flexibility to increase cycle times when needed, while providing reliable, consistent cooling.
Balancing efficiencies with future growth
Schoeneck Containers partnered with Thermal Care, a global supplier of water chillers, process cooling equipment, and systems, to help with specification. After thoroughly evaluating the cooling requirements of the new facility — taking into consideration future expansion needs — Schoeneck Containers selected the HFCG 250-ton, closed-loop adiabatic fluid cooler, which is located outside the new production facility, and a TCW700 250-ton, water-cooled, central chiller, installed inside the facility.
The closed-loop adiabatic fluid cooler with variable frequency drives (VFDs) and central chiller with free-cooling capabilities allowed Schoeneck Containers to stage and cycle down to lower tonnage requirements while being able to ramp up as production lines are added.
“The Thermal Care unit allowed us to have the capacity to ramp up from a small load of 30 or 40 tons up to the rated capacity of the unit that's in place right now, which is 250 tons,” said Bill Bushman, facilities engineering manager, Schoeneck Containers.
Oil-free system with low water consumption
This chiller, which uses Danfoss Turbocor® oil-free magnetic bearing technology, has fewer mechanical parts and a simpler design since all components associated with the oil management system are eliminated. This results in reduced maintenance and higher reliability over the life of the chiller and allows Schoeneck Containers employees to focus more attention on the core capabilities of the business.
The company also uses a lot of water at the New Berlin facility, which has open cooling towers. The closed-loop system at the new Delavan plant requires minimal water consumption. This significantly lowers treatment costs since there is no need to replace or treat large quantities of evaporated process water.
“The cost for treatment at our new facility is less than a quarter of what we pay at our New Berlin facility,” said Bushman. “We also have minimal water treatment requirements, so we don't need to test our water systems on a daily basis.”
Free cooling provides additional energy savings
Southeastern Wisconsin experiences temperatures consistently below 50°F during the fall, winter, and spring seasons. The system’s free cooling mode automatically shuts down the chiller when the adiabatic fluid cooler can efficiently cool process water and supply all the chilled water needed.
The chiller’s two Danfoss Turbocor TTS350 oil-free magnetic-bearing centrifugal compressors allow the system to operate at part load very efficiently and can also automatically shift to free-cooling mode to reduce the load on the chiller when ambient conditions approach the 50° set point. Removing these energy costs during the colder months has led to significant cost savings for Schoeneck Containers.
Remote monitoring provides next-level convenience
The Thermal Care system also includes CONNEX4.0, which offers integrated connectivity and system-wide operational remote control with secure access. The high-resolution color touchscreen provides complete remote access to all operating and diagnostic screens of chillers or pumping systems.
Operators can control and monitor systems remotely, which relieves employees from traveling the 40 miles between facilities to conduct diagnostics and ensure the system is running properly. This also helps reduce costs of having dedicated service managers at each plant. Thermal Care also can log into the system and perform quick service checks to verify settings, temperatures, and performance.
Future expansion already in the works
The Delavan facility has enough space for 12-14 injection molding and eight blow molding lines. Schoeneck Containers had to be forward-thinking with how it set up space for future equipment expansion. Phase two will include an identical chiller compressor module, some additional pumps, a plate and frame heat exchanger, and a fluid cooler, which will double the size of the system in the next expansion.
After further discussions with Thermal Care on the layout and installation, they were able to fit all the equipment into a relatively small area and save the rest of the space for production and warehousing.
Strategic partnership delivers long-term benefits
Schoeneck Containers partnered with Thermal Care to specify the Danfoss Turbocor compressor for the scalable capacity, staging abilities, overall efficiency, reliability, and low maintenance requirements. As an early adopter of oil-free magnetic bearing technology and longtime partner of Danfoss Turbocor, Thermal Care recommended the best technology to generate great value. Schoeneck Containers is happy with its return on investment (ROI) — in fact, the company is planning to implement the same type of system at its New Berlin facility.
“We didn't pick the cheapest, though we picked what was going to be the most robust system in the long run — the one with Danfoss Turbocor technology,” said Bushman.