Company Overview - Ecolab is a global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources. It delivers comprehensive solutions and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use and improve operational efficiencies for customers in the food, healthcare, energy, hospitality and industrial markets. The company has 45,000 associates at more than 1.3 million locations in more than 170 countries.
Challenge - The Ecolab Allan L. Schuman campus in Eagan, Minn. includes a pilot plant responsible for product development. R&D and production teams work across three production floors and a warehouse to manufacture new or improved customer solutions, as well as conduct approximately 2,300 product-related experiments each year. The work at the Schuman campus supports the movement and approval of products into the greater Ecolab supply chain.
Ecolab needed a synchronized timekeeping solution that could help its staff accurately mark and synchronize time for its experiments, employee meetings, and even the time stamps of its products to indicate features such as chemical batches or alterations. In addition, Ecolab sought to reduce the amount of time its maintenance staff spent changing 55 clock batteries each year, as well as adjusting each clock for daylight saving time.
"I was in the military and worked on a submarine, and synchronized time was just a given," said Jimmy Stokes, principal plant engineer of the Ecolab Schuman campus at the time. "At a place where we conduct so many experiments and where accurate time is so important, we knew we needed a synchronized timekeeping system to ensure we continued to meet the highest industry standards."
Solution - After reviewing the options from several providers, Ecolab selected the American Time SiteSync IQ wireless clock system with CDMA time sync, along with a combination of 55 digital and analog clocks. The company also purchased three wireless digital calendar clocks that display the time, day and date.
With SiteSync IQ, Ecolab has a synchronized timekeeping solution that can wirelessly synchronize and control any device with a signal circuit. The CDMA sync option — code division multiple access — allows SiteSync IQ to receive a time signal from the nearby cell phone tower. This made it simple to locate and program the system controller within the Ecolab facility, as there is no outside cable or wire installation needed. Ecolab now has guaranteed signal coverage with one transmitter, 100 percent FCC compliance without the hassle of extra paperwork and pinpoint accuracy to NIST, the official world time.
Results - From the straightforward set-up to the seamless operation of SiteSync IQ and its clocks, Ecolab now has a precise, synchronized timekeeping system that rarely requires attention.
"It's been very hands-off," said Stokes. "Instead of maintenance staff taking time to install 55 batteries each year, there's a central controller that keeps everything in sync for us. Now, our maintenance team can redirect their efforts to other areas of the facility. Our meetings flow better because everyone see the same start and stop times, and we experience better operational efficiencies on the production side as well."
Stokes also noted the time that the facility experienced a power surge. "The batteries kicked in as a backup, and all of the clocks stayed at the precise, synchronized time. If this had happened before the American Time system, our old hardwired clocks would've stopped working and the maintenance staff would have had to spend time readjusting all of the clocks."
Synchronized time has also helped to ensure that hourly associates take breaks at the scheduled time, ensuring better consistency of occupant flow throughout the facility.
"The wireless clock system takes care of itself," said Stokes. "It's been well worth the investment."