While warm and sunny summer temperatures may be a plus if you’re heading out on vacation or enjoying the weekend outside, high temperatures cause several problems for those who work on factory floors. As we head into the hottest part of the year, plant managers need to have a plan in place to reduce heat on their factory floors.
The Importance of Reducing Heat in a Factory
High temperatures in factories can increase health risks and cause trouble with equipment, both of which can reduce productivity and potentially harm factory employees. For these reasons, it’s essential to implement proper factory cooling solutions.
- Avoid Health Risks
Heat presents several dangers if you work on a factory floor. Exposure to extreme heat or spending time in areas that aren’t well ventilated can hamper the body’s ability to maintain a healthy temperature. This leads to heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be deadly.
When employees work in high temperatures, they need to take frequent breaks, stay hydrated and eat healthy to stay safe. If you work in several areas that have different temperatures, you may need to dress in layers, so that you can ensure you’re always wearing comfortable clothing.
If conditions are cooler, they’ll also be able to work more efficiently and enjoy their work more. People can’t get as much done when they’re overheated and need to take frequent breaks. It’s always important, though, to prioritize worker safety over efficiency. Taking steps to reduce heat on the factory floor reduces health risks and make it easier for workers to protect themselves. A comfortable work environment can increase productivity.
- Prevent Equipment Failures
Heat can affect the health of employees and impact the health of your equipment. According to the Arrhenius Equation, an electronic device can operate for 32 years at 45° C and will last four years at 80° C. Needing to replace equipment more frequently leads to higher operating costs and hurts a company’s bottom line.
Heat can hurt production levels by causing equipment to operate less efficiently or break down entirely. When equipment does fail due to heat, the issue can be hard to spot because the damage is often internal and damaged components may appear to be functioning correctly at first glance. It’s often not until extensive testing is completed, that the damage can be located. This leads to even more downtime and lost productivity.
Why Heat-Related Issues Are Becoming More Common
Factory workers have always had to deal with problems related to high temperatures, but several factors have caused heat to become an even more common issue today. This has raised awareness of the damage that heat can cause and the importance of factory cooling solutions.
- Rising Temperatures
Heat waves have recently afflicted people in various parts of the world from the Southwestern United States to Western Europe, causing heat-related health problems, sparking wildfires and even leading to death. If it seems to you like heat waves are becoming more common, you’re not alone in noticing this.
According to a recent study, almost three quarters of the world’s population will experience at least 20 days of potentially deadly heat wave per year by 2021. Today, heat waves affect around one in three people. Data from NASA also shows that 16 out of 17 of the hottest years on record occurred since 2001 with 2016 taking the top spot.
Higher temperatures are likely to impact factory workers more heavily than others. They are often on their feet all day and performing physical labor. Machinery can also produce extra heat and poor ventilation or cooling mechanisms can exacerbate the issue. As extreme heat becomes more common, plant managers will have to step up their factory cooling strategies.
- Longer Hours
When employees work longer hours and factories operate more frequently, temperatures and the risks associated with them can rise. Today, many factories operate around the clock — meaning equipment has less time to cool down. Over a long workday, the heat produced by running machinery builds up and slowly raises the heat on the factory floor.
Factory workers also sometimes work longer hours than those in other professions. Some may choose to take on extra shifts to earn extra money through overtime pay. Others may regularly work long hours, especially in countries like China. Surveys conducted by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) found that 80 percent of Chinese workers employed in the electronics industry spend more than 60 hours per week working. FLA also estimated that 80 percent often work seven days without a day to rest.
While long hours come with problems of their own, when coupled with high temperatures, the risks are even higher. Controlling plant temperatures helps to protect workers’ safety as well as factory productivity.
- Hitting Production Goals
When factories are in a time crunch to hit their production goals, they need to crank up their operations to meet them. This can mean that both equipment and employees are working and longer than they normally would.
All of this excess activity can cause temperatures to rise. When machines work harder, they generate more heat, which contributes to rising temperatures on the factory floor. If machines don’t get time to cool down, they might produce even more heat, operate less efficiently and even break down.
Employees may also end up working harder, be less likely to take breaks and pay less attention to their own health in an effort to hit production goals. This increases the likelihood of heat-related health issues and makes them less productive even if they don’t experience any adverse health effects. Because the company and its workers are in such a hurry to hit their targets, they may pay less attention to cooling solutions, which can hurt productivity in the long run.
Manual Methods of Reducing Heat
If the temperature becomes too high in your facility, and you need to cool it down, you can try a manual method of reducing heat on the factory floor. In more extreme cases, this may not be enough — its effectiveness depends on the setup of your building. However, manual methods are a practical first technique to try.
- Open Doors and Windows
The first method is the simplest, but in some cases, it may be enough to fix the problem. Opening doors and windows as well as other openings can improve circulation, let hot air escape and lower the temperature of the building.
Opening doors and windows to the North and South is the most effective way to get air flow through a building. Opening higher windows works well to remove hot air, because warmer air rises. When you give hot air a place to escape, it will naturally rise up, leave the building and be replaced with cooler air. Some buildings even have an opening in or near the roof that can open to let warm air escape into the atmosphere.
Workers may not be as happy with just opening windows in high places though, because they can’t feel the cool air coming in due to the windows’ height. So, if your main goal is to make workers feel more comfortable, open ground floor doors and windows as well. Another disadvantage of this method is that the areas around the openings will be cooler than others and some parts of the factory floor may not get relief at all. This is why this method works better in some facilities than it does in others.
- Build for Temperature Control
While this solution might not work if you need immediate results, it’s one of the smartest things you can do to control building temperature in the long run. If you’re building a new facility, have the chance to remodel or can even just move equipment around, give this method a try.
Designing a plant with temperature control in mind can help prevent heat from becoming a problem in the first place. Avoid nooks and crannies or tightly packed areas unless they’re absolutely necessary. Spreading out equipment that generates heat helps prevent pockets of hot air from forming around them.
Orienting windows for optimum airflow helps reduce heat as well. Place them on the south or north side of the building when possible, because more sunlight will enter through openings on the east and west sides in the summer.
The materials used for construction also impact how well a building can ventilate. Properly shading windows and using glass that lets in less heat can improve temperature control. Proper insulation and installing a reflective, light-colored roof can help as well.
Equipment, both large machinery and small appliances, emit heat, so investing in more efficient equipment can help cool a factory floor. Even light bulbs can increase a building’s temperature. Only about 10 percent of the electricity in a standard incandescent light bulb is converted into light. The rest becomes heat. Fluorescent and LED light bulbs are much more efficient.
- Manage Air Flow
In some situations, moving air around on the factory floor can be enough to keep the building sufficiently cool. Fans that sit on the floor, are mounted on walls or placed elsewhere inside the facility move air from place to place, which creates a cooling effect. While standard fans won’t actually cool air down, the breeze they create can provide some relief to workers. So, if your main goal is the comfort of employees, fans may suffice.
High volume, low speed (HVLS) fans, which are larger than standard fans, can break up blocks of hot air and provide an even more substantial cooling effect. Some models of industrial HVLS fans are even equipped with smart technology and can schedule when to run and work together with other cooling equipment. If temperatures are not too excessive or your main goal is to provide relief to workers, consider using fans to lower factory floor temperatures.
While manual methods may sometimes be enough to sufficiently manage heat, other times more advanced cooling equipment is required. In some industries, factories cannot open windows and doors, because they can’t allow outside air into the facility. Dust, insects and other contaminants can come in with outside air and cause problems with equipment and processes.
Other industries need to maintain a specific temperature inside, which requires more precise cooling solutions and prohibits leaving doors or windows open. Also, in cases where temperatures are exceptionally high or a facility is not set up to support manual cooling methods, plant managers may need to look elsewhere to reduce heat to the necessary level.
- Evaporative Coolers
Evaporative coolers, also called swamp or desert coolers, are an efficient means of cooling down an industrial facility but work better in certain climates than in others. As the name suggests, they use evaporation to cool air down by up to 20 degrees.
A fan inside of the device draws in air, which passes through a cooling pad. The cooling pad is kept wet by a pump and water tank inside the system. As the air makes its way through the pad, it’s cooled by the evaporation of the water. That cooled air is then released into the building, lowering its overall temperature.
The downside to these units is that they work much better in drier climates. In areas where humidity is high, they’re not effective as too much water is already in the air and will make the air more humid. Humidity should be below 60 percent for these types of coolers to work best.
In areas with low humidity, evaporative coolers may be the ideal solution because they add moisture to the air in addition to cooling it. They’re also less expensive, use less energy and are more environmentally friendly than many other cooling options. You can also buy portable evaporative coolers, so that you can use them for spot cooling, reducing temperature in areas of the factory floor that get especially hot.
- Air Conditioning Units
Another popular cooling method, in residential, commercial and industrial buildings, is air conditioning (AC). Air conditioning works well in humid climates as well, because it dehumidifies the air as well as cools it.
AC units use chemical compounds called refrigerants to reduce the temperature of a building. Fans in the units pull in warm air, which then pass over coils that contain refrigerants. These chemicals are extremely susceptible to evaporation, so they turn to gas when the air passes over them. In this process, they absorb heat from the air and lower its temperature. This cool air can then be pumped back into the building. A compressor then subjects the refrigerant gas to high pressure, which converts it back into a liquid. The excess heat created through that process is then pumped outside away from the building.
Air conditioning works well for small areas, but for large areas like factory floors, many or an extremely powerful AC unit would be needed. While AC may work for an industrial facility, many use a larger, central cooling system and use portable air conditioners to control heat in areas that get especially hot.
Portable AC units are frequently used as spot coolers and are placed near equipment that gets hot as it operates or other areas where central cooling systems aren’t enough to sufficiently reduce temperature. Some equipment, such as servers in large data centers, require spot coolers to keep them operating reliably and to avoid overheating. Spot coolers can be used for equipment that requires maintaining a precise temperature at all times.
Industrial facilities often use chillers, which remove heat from water or another liquid through vapor-compression or absorption refrigeration cycle, to cool equipment or to cool an indoor space. Some chillers are used to in tandem with air conditioning equipment to reduce heat in a facility. The chiller is used to cool water or another liquid that is then pumped into an air conditioner’s coil system.
At other times, chillers are used on their own to cool and dehumidify the air inside of a building or to reduce a piece of equipment’s temperature. Air may be pushed through the chilled water to cool an indoor space or be pumped directly to a piece of machinery to reduce its temperature and prevent it from becoming overheated.
A facility may have one, large, centralized chiller or several smaller, decentralized chillers. These chillers may be water-cooled, air-cooled, or be cooled via evaporation. Water-cooled systems utilize water for the cooling process, while air-cooled units use air, which is moved through the system with a fan. Chillers that operate via evaporation use a cool mist of water.
Vapor-compression chillers are mechanical and are powered by an electric motor, gas turbine or other similar technology. Absorption chillers, on the other hand, require very little electricity to operate and rely instead on a heat source such as steam or combustion. They do, however, take up more space and operate less efficiently.
- Cooling Towers
When using water-cooled chillers, you’ll also have to install a cooling tower – a cylindrical structure that removes waste heat from other machinery. Pipes pump water that has been heated by another industrial process to the cooling tower, and an electric fan brings air into the system. When the air and water come into contact, some of the water evaporates and then cools the rest of the water. The air becomes hot and is released into the atmosphere.
Cooling towers can be either be open- or closed-circuit systems. Natural draft cooling towers take advantage of the natural process of convection to move air throughout the system. Warms, humid air naturally rises will cooler air falls into the tower, creating a constant flow. Mechanical draft cooling towers, however, use fans or other machinery to circulate air. These types of cooling towers are more effective but also require more electricity to operate.
Mechanical draft towers can also be subdivided into two different types depending on which way air and water move through the system. In crossflow towers, air moves horizontally while the water moves downward. Counterflow towers, which tend to be more energy efficient, air moves upward while water moves downward.
Cooling towers are often used in factories to remove heat from machinery and industrial processes, which allows a plant to run more efficiently and is more environmentally friendly than constantly pumping in cool water. This helps to keep equipment and the factory floor from becoming too hot as waste heat would otherwise build up. It also keeps equipment from becoming damaged due to heat and from losing operational efficiency.
At Global Electronic Services, we know how important it to keep all your machinery in prime condition. We have experience in servicing and repairing industrial equipment, including cooling systems and machinery that’s been damaged by heat. If you enjoyed this resource and would like to learn more, please read and subscribe to our blog. Be sure to visit us online at www.gesrepair.com or call us at 1-877-249-1701 to learn more about our services. We’re proud to offer Surplus, Complete Repair and Maintenance on all types of Industrial Electronics, Servo Motors, AC and DC Motors, Hydraulics and Pneumatics. Please subscribe to our YouTube page and Like Us on Facebook! Thank you!