Intelligent LED Retrofit Enables Kenwal Steel to Dramatically Improve Lighting Quality While Saving 93% in Lighting Energy Costs Annually


Customer: Kenwal Steel
Location: Dearborn, MI
Facility Size: 110,000 ft2
Operational Schedule: 24 x 7
Savings: 93% lighting
Environment: Steel Production
Installation: Retrofit
Temperature: Ambient
Solution: 1,000 W Metal Halide Luminiare
Partner: Total Source LED

Luminaire Count Reduces by 60%

Headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, Kenwal Steel Corp. is one of North America’s largest flat-rolled steel distributors, with more than 500,000 square feet of production and service space under management. Within the automotive, electronics, appliance, tubing and major equipment manufacturing industries, the company is well known for its deep technical and metallurgical knowledge, precision processing and the exceptional quality of its steel inventories. Kenwal Steel Corp. (Kenwal) is family owned and operated, employs about 450 people, and reported annual revenues in excess of $900 million in 2013.

Since its founding in 1947, Kenwal has consistently invested in operational excellence and forward-looking technologies that enhance the effectiveness of facility operations. So when the management team was confronted with the need to replace rapidly aging 1,000-watt metal halide fixtures within its Dearborn production facility, they reached out to one of the region’s leading industrial lighting firms, Total Source LED, to evaluate their options.

Working with Total Source LED, the Kenwal team initially evaluated both T5 fluorescent and LED lighting options for their lighting retrofit. Well aware of the maintenance burdens associated with re-lamping and re-ballasting traditional fixtures, however, they were reluctant to replace the mill’s 369 metal halide fixtures with 6-lamp T5 fluorescents, which would result in more than 2,200 lamps to maintain. Instead, the team quickly turned their attention toward high efficiency, maintenance-free LED lighting alternatives.

To maximize both the quality of lighting and energy savings, the Kenwal evaluation team ultimately decided to deploy the Intelligent LED Lighting System from Digital Lumens. More than just an incremental improvement, the Digital Lumens system is enabling the Kenwal facility to:

  • Save 93% in lighting-related energy costs annually.
  • Secure an investment payback period of less than one year, with a return on investment (ROI) of more than 124%.
  • Deliver higher quality lighting and illumination levels throughout the facility, while reducing fixture counts by more than 60%.


“Our steel mill is a very active, high-performance facility, so I questioned how much additional savings sensing and dimming technologies could deliver beyond the expected wattage-based efficiency gains,” said Kevin Stoops, IT Manager for Kenwal Steel Corp. “With the Digital Lumens system, the answer is a lot, and we now have the data to prove it. Yet, what is truly remarkable is how natural the transition to managed lighting delivery was for us with the Digital Lumens system. I attribute this to the quality of its data reporting tools and control software, which are intuitive and easy-to-use.”

The 93% Difference

Early on, the team at Kenwal recognized that during the life of its new lighting installation, the additional energy savings available from intelligent LEDs (with integrated controls, wireless networking and sensors in every fixture) would have a significant impact on their budgets in a rising utility rate environment. This is because, in addition to wattage-based savings, the Intelligent Lighting System would enable them to:

  • Automatically turn lighting off within its massive steel storage area when overhead crane operators were not actively picking stock for its pickling operations and instantly back on — without hesitation — when needed,saving enormous amounts of additional energy.
  • Leverage the independently rotatable and dimmable light bars within each fixture to direct lighting to work surfaces within the production area, eliminating the need to over light space while providing better lighting for inspection operations.
  • Dim aisle lighting to 20% in lower traffic areas of the facility when workers were not present, further reducing energy usage, while providing background and security lighting.
  • Leverage daylight from open bay doors of the facility’s shipping and receiving areas via integrated daylight harvesting sensors in every fixture.
  • Schedule automatic changes to lighting behaviors, such as shorter timeout settings and increased dimming factors, during weekends and holidays when workers are generally not present within the facility.


“The ability to easily and effectively manage lighting in a wide variety of complex spaces — from pickling and production to shipping, receiving and storage — was a deciding factor in our decision to move forward with the Digital Lumens system,” said Wes Steffey, Plant Manager for Kenwal Pickling LLC. “Not only do the energy savings rapidly add up, but eliminating the need to regularly close down sections of the facility to re-lamp or re-ballast hard-to-reach fixtures really does make our workday that much easier.”

Leveraging Sensor Data to Increase Efficiency

For any timeframe needed, the Kenwal team now has access to a wide range of energy usage and occupancy data, which is accessed through the system’s LightRules lighting management software. Visually depicted on interactive maps of the mill facility that can also be used to change fixture settings and behaviors, data has enabled management to:

  • Quickly report, down to the kWh, how much energy is used by fixture, zone or facility-wide and document the efficiency savings.
  • Observe when peak usage occurs in different areas of the facility and change settings, such as fixture timeout delays, to match actual operating conditions.
  • Track occupancy patterns, enabling the optimization of lighting to support high-transit, -occupancy or -usage areas, and vice versa.
  • Collect other energy management and operational efficiency metrics.


“Tracking a wide variety of decision-making metrics surrounding lighting and energy use is the secret to achieving upwards of 90% energy savings over T5 and metal halide fixtures,” said Ron Cimino, CEO of Total Source LED. “Customers, like Kenwal Steel, are increasingly demanding intelligent, high-efficiency solutions for the massive energy savings and quality of light they deliver, and, importantly, to protect against uncertain energy prices moving forward. Not surprisingly, intelligent LEDs are increasing coming out the winner in competitive evaluations.”