Building Automation System Upgrade Project


General Motors’ (GM) Romulus Powertrain plant currently employs 1,339 people and produces V6 engines used in several GM cars, trucks and crossovers. The plant conducts energy conservation activities and identifies energy efficiency projects on a regular basis. The plant engineers reviewed the existing array of various control systems governing manufacturing floor ventilation systems, lighting, and energy metering. The overall goal of the project was to migrate the separate and distinct systems to a common building management system with advanced scheduling and operating technology while continuing to operate the plant and to meet a two-year simple payback with company investment and utility incentives from DTE Energy.



Due to the diverse nature of the various HVAC and building envelope systems across different parts of the plant, GM plant engineers realized that they would need a sophisticated building management system (BMS) to provide effective, real-time control of the energy consumption. After significant research, plant engineers working with the plant’s IT personnel decided on a system that had the ability to integrate all the affected hardware through the plant’s Ethernet.


Implementation took place over the next six months with the following system integrations:

  1. Plant floor lighting, controlled by 13 intelligent lighting panels; this provided the ability to schedule lights by each operating manufacturing unit.
  2. Energy metering, by integrating over 50 individual electric meters; this enables increased vigilance during shutdown periods, and provides for advanced analytics of energy usage.
  3. Plant floor HVAC, comprised of 56 rooftop air houses, totaling 1.8 million CFM; advanced scheduling algorithms, such as optimized start-stop, were enabled.

The cost to implement this project was approximately $460,000 with annual electrical energy savings of $213,000 and utility incentives offering a two-year simple payback.

After the project was implemented, an annual savings assessment was conducted by comparing historical operating data and current operating data, taking into account weather conditions and other anomalies. The result of this analysis indicated annual energy savings of 3,336 MWh, along with some added maintenance savings and additional cost avoidance. Additionally, during the project, a comprehensive assessment of the air houses was performed. This identified many small deficiencies in the equipment and sensors, providing opportunities for repair operations. Heat savings was not included in the original business case, but is estimated, with weather normalization, at an additional $88,000 per year, driving the payback to 1.5 years.



The building management system upgrade project increased efficiency of the Romulus site and reduced operating costs. GM intends to incorporate the lessons learned at Romulus whenever possible in future project installations and modernizations. The company is currently investigating similar projects at multiple manufacturing and warehouse sites, utilizing the same technology used in the modernization of the Romulus site. If successful, these systems will operate with greater efficiency than the ones they replaced at a scale comparable to what was realized at Romulus.


Annual Plant Electricity Use

Baseline Electricity Intensity (2017)
0.81 MMBtu/prod
Actual Electricity Intensity (2018)
0.78 MMBtu/prod

Electricity Savings:


Annual Plant Electricity Cost

Baseline (2017)
Actual (2018)

Cost Savings:


Sector Type



Romulus, Michigan

Financial Overview

Project Cost $460,000