For manufacturers in the U.S., change will always be a constant.
Change has become the one thing that manufacturers in the U.S. can count on as a constant. Indeed, manufacturers have to respond to innumerable challenges and opportunities, including rapid technological advancement. Just as important, global competition is fiercer than ever, and manufacturers are looking for any advantage to strengthen their competitiveness. As part of a drive to achieve manufacturing excellence, many manufacturers are prioritizing energy efficiency. The U.S. industrial sector accounts for more than 30% of all U.S. energy consumption, resulting in an annual energy bill of about $200 billion . But there are significant energy-efficiency opportunities for industry, which can lead to energy cost savings and improved global competitiveness.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings, Better Plants Program and Challenge (Better Plants) is a public-private partnership with American manufacturers, cultivating a community of nearly 200 partners to reduce energy costs, increase productivity, create jobs and improve resiliency. Partners, ranging from the energy-intense chemicals sector to the food and agricultural sector, to the water and wastewater treatment sector, represent 2,900 facilities across all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Partners have achieved a cumulative $4.2 billion in cost savings through energy reduction since 2010. Through the Better Plants program, partners learn about and share replicable solutions so that many more companies can see a pathway to saving energy.
Better Plants provides partners with a variety of resources to help them improve internal expertise and achieve their energy savings goals. Technical assistance is delivered through technical account managers (TAM) who help companies develop energy management plans, track energy performance metrics, identify energy-saving opportunities, and leverage DOE and National Lab expertise, tools and resources.
One of the most valuable resources Better Plants provides are In-Plant Trainings. During these unique, three- to four-day sessions, world-class experts in industrial energy efficiency train plant staff in establishing an energy management system, conducting system assessments, applying DOE tools and implementing cost-effective projects. Two Better Plants Challenge partners, TE Connectivity and Electrolux, have leveraged In-Plant Trainings to identify new, cost-effective opportunities to significantly reduce energy consumption and further strengthen a culture of energy efficiency within their respective organizations.
Green Spirit Certification
Electrolux, a global leader in home appliances, joined the Better Plants Challenge in 2015 and set a goal to reduce energy intensity (energy consumption per unit of output) in its U.S. plants by 25% in 10 years. Sustainability is a core value at Electrolux that runs throughout the corporation. In 2011, Electrolux developed an internal energy management certification program called Green Spirit certification that evaluates all their manufacturing plants annually on energy performance, energy management systems and implemented energy efficiency actions. Sites are graded from zero to four stars depending on the outcome of the evaluation, with the four-star rating being highest.
The Green Spirit certification acts as a stepping stone to other certifications like ISO 50001 and other lean certifications for the company. The program is the key driver for sustainability and has helped Electrolux lower its energy intensity by 42%, totaling $50 million in annual cost savings from 2005 to 2015. Electrolux also uses the Green Spirit certification program to target energy-intensive industrial systems. Based on the knowledge and experience of Electrolux staff, the company identified leak repair in compressed air systems as an avenue for saving energy. This led the company to establish compressed air leak detection/repair and air pressure reduction requirements for achieving the Green Spirit certification.
Looking for new opportunities, Electrolux hosted an In-Plant Training on process heating systems in the spring of 2017 at their appliance plant in Memphis, Tenn. This training enabled Electrolux to understand how to assess the energy consumption in the site’s furnaces and take actions to improve energy performance.
According to Daniel Lefebvre, Electrolux’s director of North American sustainability, “This training workshop was an eye opener for us since we did not realize that the fixtures in our enameling oven were a source of energy waste. The [DOE’s] PHAST software allowed us to simulate effects of parameter variations and calculate potential energy savings. We are currently working on new fixtures to minimize their weight, determine their potential energy savings and optimize furnace load to reduce operating time.” At the one plant site, the expert and employees were able to find annual energy savings of 13,000 MMBtu and energy cost savings of $50,000. In addition, the best practices that were gleaned by the Memphis plant employees were shared with other sites that use similar furnaces.
With more than 50 facilities and multiple business units around the U.S. [and over 100 globally], TE Connectivity (TE) is a $13 billion global technology and manufacturing leader. Prior to joining Better Plants, TE Connectivity sought to create a mechanism that could effectively share and promote best practices across all of its sites. To accomplish this, TE Connectivity developed an internal “Centers of Excellence” (COE) program. The COE program was developed to facilitate collaboration across business units and regions for core manufacturing processes such as stamping and molding. The COEs are teams of people from all parts of the company with expertise and/or interest in a particular COE topic who come together to share their knowledge and best practices. The COEs also created “Ready to Deploy Projects” -- projects that were successfully implemented at one or more TE sites and could be and should be deployed at other TE sites. For each project, the COE website provides resources and a method for sign-up and project tracking. In 2014 TE established a COE for energy efficiency, which was particularly important because of the large number of sites that could benefit from being engaged in addressing energy efficiency.
In the fall of 2016, TE was awarded an Energy Treasure Hunt Exchange In-Plant Training. This training bolstered the company’s COE approach by forming teams from different departments and different business units to identify energy savings opportunities. It combined some brief classroom training with hands-on technical assistance in finding, analyzing, and developing the business case for energy efficiency opportunities. In addition, one employee spent extra time with the DOE facilitator and was able to facilitate additional energy treasure hunts in other plants. Following the in-plant training, TE piloted the approach at other sites and showed that it could be done without an external facilitator and without significant corporate resources. TE then adopted the Energy Treasure Hunt as an Energy COE “Ready to Deploy” project,
According to Carl Schultz, senior director, Environment, Health & Safety, "DOE made us aware of the energy treasure hunt exchange approach, taught us how to do it with an "in-plant training" at our Greensboro, North Carolina, site, and then provided excellent support as we piloted the treasure hunt at other locations and developed it to the point where we are now deploying this across the entire company.”
To date, energy treasure hunts have been performed internally at nine plants that have identified energy cost savings equivalent to 5.5% of the sites’ annual energy expenditures and $1.1 million per year. In addition, the employees who have participated in the energy treasure hunts are better able to identify and act on opportunities to eliminate energy waste.
Energy-Efficiency Treasure Hunts
The Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge encourages its partners to participate in employee-engagement programs to identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption. Increasingly, Better Plants partners like TE Connectivity and Electrolux are leveraging Better Plants In Plant trainings such as the Treasure Hunt Exchanges to maximize energy savings identification by leveraging the respective skills of its employees and their experiences in the plant.
- Better Plants works with nationally-recognized experts to lead In-Plant Trainings (INPLTs) to train participants how to identify, implement, and replicate energy-savings projects.
- These three-day, focused trainings occur on-site and can help provide manufacturers with hands-on skills that range from specific new technology areas like compressed air, process heating, or industrial refrigeration all the way to Energy Treasure Hunt Exchanges in which energy teams uncover opportunities for energy savings at each other’s plants.
Eli Levine oversees the Department of Energy’s corporate industrial sustainability program, Better Plants. With nearly 200 prominent partners representing 12% of the total U.S. manufacturing footprint, Better Plants is working with industry to achieve energy savings, resulting in over $4.2 billion and 830 TBtu in cumulative savings to date.
Bruce Lung is an ORISE Fellow with the U.S. DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office where he supports the Better Plants and Technical Assistance programs by helping with expansion of industry participation and developing program elements that offer value to manufacturers and industrial-scale energy end users.