Energy Efficiency: Doing More With Less

Energy Efficiency: Doing More With Less

Myriad opportunities exist to drive down energy usage in your plant and across your enterprise. That's good for your bottom line and good for the environment.

Ever walk out of your manufacturing plant, stroll toward the parking lot and watch waste heat lazily exit the stacks? Did you take it one step further and think, "There must be a way to capture and reuse that heat?" And then did you go even further and actually make that change happen, helping to reduce energy waste in your facility?

It happened at a Procter & Gamble Co. plant. It happened because the consumer goods giant makes energy efficiency every employee's business. Indeed, the worker who observed the heat escaping his plant and initiated the process that resulted in the implementation of a heat-recovery process was not an expert in that area, explains Willie Johnson, P&G product supply sustainability leader. But while other folks may have seen the energy inefficiency, "he took it upon himself to say, 'We're going to do something about it.' What we are trying to do is to get everyone to act like they are owners of this business or of this company. And when you do that you begin to get more creative solutions," he says. "If you make it where only a small group of people are working on it, you get a small amount of results."

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Getting Started

Begin your energy efficiency program by identifying your current power usage. Then rely on real data.

Not every manufacturer is pursuing energy efficiency in the same manner as P&G, but you'd be hard-pressed these days to find any kind of manufacturer not seeking methods to dial down their energy usage or to use that energy more effectively. The cost of not doing so is simply too high.

Small Changes, Big Savings

AAI Corp.'s Charleston (S.C.) Operations discovered some rather obvious opportunities to reduce energy usage after it moved in mid-2005 into an existing facility. The building previously had housed a Corning specialty materials plant that required a much larger and more complex HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system than did AAI's Charleston operations, which manufactures aircraft maintenance training simulators for the military. AAI's Charleston workforce of nearly 300 is largely office personnel and engineers, with a production staff of 20. The production work primarily is final assembly and integration.

Given their lack of experience with the building, AAI staff initially operated the facility much as it had been run by the previous tenant, according to Dan Davis, director of operations. Relatively quickly it became apparent that significant opportunity existed to reduce energy simply by turning some things off. Easy wins with significant returns included shutting down an 800-ton chiller that operated 24 hours a day and instead relying on an existing 300-ton chiller that did not run around the clock once the plant's load had been reduced. Others included reducing cooling tower operation by half and shutting down two 100-horsepower cooling tower pumps. The heaviest loads were the focus of the first energy-reduction efforts, Davis explains. "We gained a lot of momentum early on," he says.

Procter & Gamble takes a comprehensive approach to energy efficiency and other sustainability measures. Key to making that approach successful is involving all of its employees.
In another instance, the building had one large air handling unit that served both a high bay area and cooled 3,000 square feet of IT office space and servers. Because it serviced an IT area, the system had to operate 24 hours a day despite the high bay not requiring that level of cooling. Additionally, it had to run at 68 degrees to maintain 72 degrees in the IT space. AAI's solution was to install a separate HVAC system for the IT area that worked independently of the central chilled water system. As a result, the company was able to shut down more of its HVAC system, and the temperature of the high bay could be increased to a more comfortable level for workers there. While this conversion came at a cost, "we were saving money that we had budgeted to spend on overhead costs through the year," Davis says. "We gained a lot of confidence in being able to exercise these small projects of $20,000 or so -- small modifications that we could get big benefits from."

While several of AAI's energy-reduction efforts centered on circumstances unique to its facility, others did not. For example, production manager Lonnie Russell has been testing different operating schedules for the heating and cooling systems, working to extend the downtime of the system without impacting workers' comfort. Additionally, the company added variable speed drives to several pieces of equipment. Reducing the speed to only what was needed allowed AAI to reduce energy consumption (up to 90% in some cases) and better control humidity without using expensive reheat. Slower blower speeds can also make for a quieter work environment.

A ventilation control project and lighting retrofits are other projects AAI has completed to reduce energy usage in the building. Davis points out a beneficial "human element" to these modifications as well. "The environment that the workers are in becomes much better and they're not as stressed as they would be in a very noisy, not well-lit environment," he says. "You can't put a price on that.

All told, AAI has reaped big benefits from its efforts. For example, electrical energy consumption has been reduced by 63.5% and natural gas consumption has been reduced by nearly 88% for a savings of about $515,000 since the project got under way.

Efforts to improve continue. "Even though we're a couple years into this process of looking at the utilities and improving our use of them, we're still able to get 20% and 30% reductions of a given period based on a project. Even though we're much further down that curve of dollars per improvement opportunity, we're still seeing large improvements, and we're still pushing for them," Davis says.

Sustainability in the Corporate DNA

For Procter & Gamble, it's all about a holistic approach to sustainability. P&G doesn't address energy in a vacuum. Instead it takes a comprehensive approach to its environmental footprint, which includes energy usage, CO2 emissions, waste disposal and water usage, explains P&G's Johnson.

In the energy arena, the company has reduced its energy usage by 6% since July 2007 and 46% since July 2002, according to its 2008 sustainability report. Progress on the other environmental fronts continues as well, with CO2 emissions down 8% since July 2007, waste disposal down 21% and water usage down 7% in the same time frame.

Energy reduction and efficiency projects at AAI Corp.'s Charleston Operations have saved the company more than $500,000.
Employee participation makes such results possible. "The worst thing that can happen with sustainability is to have it be a program of the day. The best thing that can happen is to make it part of your life blood and to get all your employees involved," Johnson says. "Our base approach is to make sure we have total employee involvement by ensuring they understand what our goals and objectives are, our approaches to deliver those objectives, and by providing folks in the organization -- all the way down to individuals running specific equipment at our manufacturing sites -- with tools to attack opportunities that look like energy reduction, CO 2 reduction, waste and water elimination."

To that end, P&G has developed a cascading method by which it shares its sustainability strategies from the corporate level to the individual business units and ultimately down to individual manufacturing sites. A global sustainability team led by Johnson drives the deployment. Important to the success of P&G's sustainability efforts is consistency, says Johnson. That means the company has developed best approaches (to fix steam leaks, for example) and standards to "ensure consistent execution across all business so businesses don't create their own way of life."

A lack of standards translates to missed opportunities or a needless duplication of efforts, says Johnson. Instead, if a P&G plant in China, for instance, develops a process that works, and "we can reapply it in our London plant or in our Iowa City plant in the U.S., it helps in the speed of reapplication and ensures that we have a higher probability of delivering the same kinds of results," he says. P&G maintains those best practices in an electronic database that can be accessed by any site. The manufacturer also has a repository that tracks the environmental footprint of each of its sites, as well as the progress they are making against goals.

Given the size of Procter & Gamble, multiple endeavors at many sites in different business units are continually underway. Examples of energy-savings initiatives or events include a "Back to Base" program to return the energy systems to base conditions. In 2008, the company also introduced a method to cool water by using water spray rather than electric power. (A line operator came up with this approach to reducing energy consumption.) And energy audits and training also were conducted at all sites. Johnson says the audits are yet another example of P&G's emphasis on total employee involvement in the energy conservation process. Typically it is the workers closest to the equipment who perform the audits, he says.

Johnson emphasizes that Procter & Gamble does not pursue sustainability for the sake of sustainability alone. "Our approach is economically smart and sustainable design, so we're doing things that drive the business without negatively impacting our sustainability environmental results. Everything has to pay for itself," he says. "The key is sustainability needs to be in our DNA, but it also needs to be economically smart."

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