PennTAP Helps Construction Tool Manufacturer Make Process Improvements

We are very happy to have found out about PennTAP. It has a dual benefit of giving businesses high-quality, state-of-the-science advice at low or nocost while also providing Penn State engineering students with valuable real-world experience.  The results of the first project were so successful that we signed up for a second one that will be implemented soon.

Stephen Swanson, Director – Strategy & Corporate Development, Bon Tool Company

The Need

Bon Tool is a professional hand tool manufacturer and supplier in Allegheny County, PA.  

While planning for process improvement projects, Bon Tool reached out to PennTAP for energy assistance. 

The PennTAP Connection

In fall of 2018, Bon Tool did an LED lighting conversion that included a rebate from Duquesne Light, who recommended PennTAP services. PennTAP not only provided a full site assessment to Bon Tool, but also acted as the connection point between Bon Tool and the Penn State College of Engineering’s Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory, ensuring a smooth project collaboration experience for two separate engineering capstone design projects. 

The Projects

Bon Tool received an energy audit for their facility from a PennTAP advisor. 

During the site assessment, PennTAP identified and quantified air leaks found in the compressed air system, which is used for a variety of purposes including tooling and machining. The advisor recommended Bon Tool implement a compressed air preventative maintenance plan to periodically review the tools, regulators, and air lines for potential leaks. PennTAP also provided Bon Tool with estimates for implementing solar panels at its facility. 

This project was funded in part by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program. 

After completion of the energy audit, the PennTAP advisor connected Bon Tool with Penn State Learning Factory students to address innovative engineering design projects at its facility. The first student project, completed in fall 2019 and funded in part by the First Energy Foundation, involved designing a mechanism to fully automate the loading of round steel bars for Bon Tool’s horizontal band saw. 

Without the automated process, the system required an operator to stay at the machine for the entire length of the bar-cutting process. The research and design completed by the four Penn State engineering students will reduce band saw labor time by 60%, saving approximately $13,000 per year. 

Stephen Swanson, Bon Tool Director, said they had been wanting to set up an automatic saw for a while but didn’t have the time to research and design the machine. 

“This project allowed us to automate a process in our shop using our current machines to free up our workers for other priorities, without having to invest a lot of money into new machinery,” Swanson said. 

After a successful first project, Bon Tool decided to sponsor a second Learning Factory capstone design project in the spring of 2020. The project involved improving Bon Tool’s countersinking process to produce concrete hand trowels. 

Operators at Bon Tool currently countersink each blade hole individually, bottlenecking the concrete hand trowel production. The team of student engineers conducted research and recommended Bon Tool use a CNC turret punch press to significantly reduce the amount of time spent on the countersinking process. 

Energy Savings

Bon Tool has repaired all confirmed compressed air leaks, resulting in approximately 15,302 kWh saved, equivalent to $1,108 saved. The company has also implemented a compressed air preventative maintenance plan. It is estimated that a compressor will experience a minimum loss of 5% if a preventative maintenance plan is not in place. A savings of 5% is equivalent to 1,677 kWh saved, or $121 saved.  

About the Client

Bon Tool Co. 
4430 Gibsonia Rd. 
Gibsonia, PA 15044 
Phone: (724) 443-7080 
County: Allegheny 
Industry: construction hand tool manufacturing