At RenewAire in Waunakee, manufacturing energy recovery ventilation units is not just about cleaning indoor air, it’s about saving the planet.
Marcus Crump in the RenewAire warehouse in Waunakee.
Photographs by M.O.D. Media Productions
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
There’s something to be said about walking into a manufacturing facility and immediately sensing that the air you’re breathing is cleaner inside than the air that you just left outside. But that’s just one reason why 29-year-old Marcus Crump enjoys his job as heavy commercial cell lead (HCC lead) at RenewAire in Waunakee.
Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, RenewAire designs and makes energy recovery ventilation (ERV) units for both residential and commercial buildings that clean and condition indoor air. Why does that matter? Because on average, people spend about 90% of their lives indoors, yet the air we breathe, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, can be much worse than outdoor or “fresh” air. The impact on human health can also be significant, reducing productivity, concentration, and job performance due to conditions such as poor ventilation or the “off-gassing” of contaminants.
But the fast-growing company with 109 employees is also doing its part to save the outside air, as well. After just one year of operation, ERV systems produced in 2017 are reducing carbon emissions at a rate that’s equivalent to displacing more than 6 million gallons of gasoline, or removing 12,000 cars from the road.
“I love the going-green aspect and the fact that we’re bettering the environment,” Crump states.
Seven years ago, the Adams-Friendship native had no idea RenewAire existed. Now he believes in the company’s product so much that he recently purchased a residential unit for his own home to help clean the air of dust particulates (known in the industry as “PM 2.5”), pet dander, and other odors that used to linger — from cooking smells to his girlfriend’s nail polish remover.
Now he’s a six-year employee and an important go-to guy on the company’s production floor, which is surprisingly quiet. In fact, it feels and looks clean with a white — sometimes-shiny — floor below and a combination of LED lights and skylights above.
A model of QRM
Marcus Crump assembles parts to construct a door for an ERV unit, encasing insulation in sheet metal and riveting all around.
Company founder Chuck Gates long ago subscribed to QRM, or quality response manufacturing, a time-based methodology that Crump says “eliminates the white noise” in manufacturing, resulting in a quick and efficient product turnaround.
QRM is the premise behind the company’s ERV manufacturing process, which is designed around work areas, or “cells.” Other companies might choose to manufacture products in batches or on an assembly line, but that, Crump relates, “would go against QRM.”
At RenewAire, a dozen identically laid-out cells make up the commercial floor space. They’re identical so employees can always locate the tools they need regardless of which cell they’re in. Each cell also has its own crane hoist overhead so workers can lift and maneuver heavy engines and units without injuring themselves.
Depending on the order, as many as four workers can be assigned to a cell.
In a nutshell, the ERV units are metal boxes containing computerized parts, wires, gauges, and blowers. They might sit on rooftops, hang from industrial ceilings, or attach to residential ductwork.
“We have an internal core that traps moisture and humidity,” Crump explains. “When you exhaust air outside, the core traps the moisture from the cool air and humidifies the dry air that comes in from outside. That’s where the energy savings is produced.”
As HCC lead, Crump is the point person should other technicians have questions or issues. He also builds units, coordinates cell activity, helps with documentation, addresses any quality issues, and assembles parts and electrical components.