Keeping critical power on 24/7 at Subaru of Indiana Automotive

Keeping critical power on 24/7 at Subaru of Indiana Automotive

Auto manufacturing has evolved significantly over the past 30 years, but for Subaru of Indiana Automotive, the need for reliable, safe and sustainable power has remained constant. Since 1988, they have relied on ABB’s innovative solutions and responsive service to keep the power on and minimize costly downtime.

The Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) plant was built in 1988. Located in Lafayette, Indiana, USA, the facility carries a legacy of quality vehicle manufacturing.

The plant’s production volume has grown exponentially since it first opened. In 1989, their first year of operation, the facility produced 4,087 vehicles. In the 2023 financial year, that number was 298,837. To stay ahead of the industry’s evolving needs and keep things running smoothly, SIA needs access to safe, efficient electrical infrastructure and round-the-clock power.

The need for clean and efficient power

SIA is an industry leader in sustainable manufacturing practices. They were the first U.S. auto plant to achieve zero landfill and the first to earn ISO 50001 Certification for Energy Management in 2012. Their dedication to “finding new and innovative ways to become better stewards of our environment” is closely linked to their electrification needs.

“We have an 850-acre facility with approximately 5 million square feet of manufacturing space that runs three shifts per day 24/7,” says Justin Whitaker, Building Engineering Group Leader, SIA. “We have to supply power to all those areas of concern, and being able to maintain clean and efficient power for all those manufacturing processes can be challenging.”

Ensuring our manufacturing processes and equipment are getting correct, consistent power is our key concern. There’s over 6,000 people working here, so any downtime that can be avoided is money ahead for us.

As a long-standing partner of SIA, ABB supports the manufacturer every step of the way by taking care of the electrical infrastructure to maximize their power supply for improved productivity and profitability.

A key solution enabling real-time power and demand monitoring is ABB’s envisage® energy management system that trends voltage and current power energy, which enables SIA to monitor disturbances on the electrical network and look at past history to make sure their substations are not overloaded. ABB engineers can connect to the meters and trip units to pinpoint the issue – and get SIA back online as quickly as possible.

The envisage® system helps to prevent future outages by identifying anomalies in the power system and alerting ABB engineers before it becomes a more widespread issue.

“They have access to our equipment at all times, even if they're not here on site. Having that relationship has made it very easy to supply good power for Subaru,” says Whitaker.

Taking a partnership approach

A well-established partnership between SIA and ABB has improved reliability, availability and sustainability across the plant’s substations. At the heart of this partnership is a shared commitment to making the world greener, made possible through ABB power monitoring that delivers real-time insights into the energy efficiency of equipment.

“ABB was initially established as our partner of choice when the building was built. Due to their loyalty, dedication, and persistence in supplying us power and technical support, we've continued to use them as our primary service provider for medium power gear here at SIA,” says Whitaker.

“Our field service team was involved with the startup and commissioning of all the ABB provided equipment for the entire plant. The local service team has built upon that relationship from the beginning until now,” says Brandon Morgan, Senior Field Service Engineer at ABB Electrification Service.

ABB engineers are trusted to work with SIA’s entire power system. They turnkey project manage everything from design specification to procurement, to startup and commissioning, and hiring the rigging and electrical contractors to install products.

“We provide continuous support to Subaru of Indiana Automotive – whether it's a $20 part for a breaker or a $2 million substation, we are their go-to for all their electrification needs,” says Morgan.

Expert service on speed dial

For SIA, downtime can result in the loss of anywhere between hundreds to millions of dollars – which means reliability is key. When they do have a problem, they want to call someone and get a quick response.

They can rest easy thanks to a dedicated local ABB Electrification team on call 24/7/365 to ensure maximum plant uptime.

When storms rolled through the area and knocked out all power, a breaker tripped and shut the plant down. Despite the late hour, Brandon Morgan guided SIA through logging into their HMI, reviewing the event log, and figuring out why the breaker tripped. Together, they discovered it wasn’t a real fault trip, and successfully got the breaker reset and the plant back online.

We have a very long-lasting relationship with ABB and very close communications between their technical side and our maintenance side to ensure constant power,” says Whitaker. “If we do have issues, ABB is just a phone call away. It's easy to connect with them to determine or troubleshoot those issues and resolve them.

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