Optimization of Production at Vestas Towers in Pueblo

Vestas Towers

The tower production must be automated, and the production should be cost-effective.

Challenges

  • Manual processes need to be automated
  • Worn equipment – need for upgrade
  • Worn equipment requires a lot of maintenance
  • Excessive maintenance costs

Results

  • Rotators with Direct Drive mean stable rotation and stable welding process
  • Flux Recovery systems allow savings on flux and compressed air
  • Flux Recovery systems allow over 90% reduction of costs on wearing parts

"Innovation is ENABL A/S's strength. They listen and spend time getting to know the project’s scope. At Vestas Tower, we get automation in our production, optimized service and maintenance through upgrades of our production plant."

Lars Christiansen  |  Senior Specialist, PE Towers in Vestas America Wind Technology Inc.

Optimization of the Production Facility

On a warm summer day in June, ENABL had a visit in Esbjerg with Lars Christiansen. Lars had flew in from the US to discuss new future automation projects at Vestas Towers factory in Pueblo, Colorado. Lars is a senior specialist in tower production with many years’ experience in the field.

The tower factory in Pueblo was built 10 years ago, and the technological development in the production is almost as old. The production plant is worn and therefore a technological upgrade is needed.

Challenges at Vestas Towers

“We are dependent on approx. 100 professional welding operators in our production today. It is a huge challenge to attract and maintain qualified labor. We need to automate the processes, so we become less dependent on the high skills required today. We have 24/7 production and there are only five days each year when the production is stopped. Service and maintenance are crucial for us. Technological development in the tower production is therefore required,” says Lars Christiansen.

Lars also talks about a market undergoing constant change: “We realize that the market is changing all the time, globally. We must be smart and be willing to adapt. The scope is changing continuously. We don’t always know where in the world development in wind turbine farms happens, since it is often politically decided, and funding opportunities can contribute to both growth or stagnation in a country.”

Rotators with Direct Drive

Four service technicians from ENABL have been in their workwear for Vestas Towers in Colorado over the last six months to work on a technological upgrade of Vestas production equipment. They have been working both in cold and hot weather, as Pueblo is situated 1430 meters above sea level, and the temperature varies a lot.

One of the projects was updating existing rotators in Vestas production. “In cooperation with ENABL, we ran a project involving the upgrade of 60 sets of rotators. They were upgraded with Direct Drive. Our old solution required a lot of maintenance. The new Direct Drive solution is unique. We have no slack in the drive and we achieve stabile rotation and therefore a stabile welding process,” Lars Christiansen clarifies.

Savings on Routine Maintenance

Spare parts and supplying these spare parts are also essential elements in Vestas’ cooperation with ENABL, as costs for service and maintenance must be cost-effective at Vestas. “We have chosen ENABL’s production equipment because the spare parts are attractively priced and are easier to replace. We achieve savings on routine maintenance, and we can achieve greater stability in our production processes,” says Lars.

“We have delivered new products to Vestas Towers, but we have also reduced their costs on wearing parts. The project includes 24 Flux Recovery systems, which Vestas have bought. With the implementation of Flux Recovery Systems, their costs for wearing parts will be reduced by more than 90%” explains Jesper A. Hansen, Technical Sales Manager at ENABL.

Innovative Approach to the Projects Are Essential for the Cooperation

In the projects, it was essential to have onsite meetings with Vestas’ operators and service engineers to utilize their knowledge and experience in technological development.

Lars emphasizes that ENABL’s engineers are good at “thinking outside the box” – and that a unique, innovative approach to the project has been adopted in the cooperation.  “ENABL is not locked into a serial production. They can always create customized solutions for us, because they listen to our needs and settle thoroughly in the project’s scope. I also highly appreciate that they are thorough in their processes. For example, precise measurements are taken before the design and construction phase,” says Lars.

Lars recounts the many technical discussions he had with ENABL’s specialists in tower production. They sit together and discuss 3D drawings over a cup of coffee. “We had nice technical discussions about Flux Recovery and Flux Hopper systems. We are continuously working with optimization, changes in construction, together with new solutions for optimizing the production. It is a rewarding collaboration we have with ENABL, and we can spar with each other, applying our technical competencies and in-depth knowledge of the field.”

The cooperation with Vestas Towers in Pueblo is very interesting, explains Jesper A. Hansen: “We have an excellent collaboration, where ENABL does not deliver standard products. Instead, we are allowed to work innovatively, working with solutions that are specific to Vestas production.  We work together as a team, where each contributes with ideas and solutions, and the target is clear for everyone: optimizing production.”

In the projects, there has been an unresolved issue  – a problem with a delivery. We have asked Lars to evaluate how we solve the challenge.

Lars Christiansen

“I find that ENABL takes action and that running projects continue unrestricted, while we discuss the extend of the problem. When problems are discovered, inspection work is initiated fast by ENABL, and we start negotiations. We have good communication, and the confidence on both sides is strong, so we can solve it in a constructive way.”

VESTAS TOWERS, PUEBLO, COLORADO

In a desert landscape of Colorado, towers Vestas Towers with their huge buildings and massive production area covering 13,000,000 m2.

800 employees meet daily in the factory in Pueblo and build more wind turbines than any other facility in the world with their highly skilled workforce. The capacity is 3,300 sections.

The factory opened its doors in 2010 just as the US’s wind turbine industry began growing significantly. The tower factory is situated in Pueblo, Colorado, due to its central location, extensive infrastructure, existing production base and skilled workforce. Pueblo is known as “the steel city,” with a lot of employees working in the steel industry.

Since 2010, Vestas has further built two wing factories and a nacelle factory in Colorado. The 4 Vestas facilities count a total of 4,000 employees.