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Energy Saving: A Beginning

Robert Eppich, Cindy Belt, Brian Reinke

It’s easy to talk about energy savings – it’s much harder to make it happen – not just once for a specific project, but again and again on numerous project/programs on a continuing basis. Note that energy saving/dollar saving doesn’t necessarily require significant capital expenditures or even any capital expenditure at all.  It begins with leadership and that leadership must begin at the top! Two major first steps are needed to make that happen:

1.    A WRITTEN, WELL PUBLICIZED COMMITMENT FROM THE TOP.  It takes this “at the top” leadership to make certain all understand that energy saving is money saving and that is good for all.  

2.    A specific person is held accountable for making energy saving a reality.

If these two items do not happen – the energy saving program is essentially doomed to failure.

Addressing item 1 - without this written, well-publicized commitment from the top, energy saving will tend to end up on the bottom of each person’s priority list; this includes hourly team members. Too often, the CEO or Plant Manager talks about energy saving but then you go out into the facility and no one – absolutely no one - is involved in an organized manner that will result in documented energy saving. There is no letter of commitment posted on any bulletin board. There is no updating that shows any history or progress. Soon energy saving becomes a “thing” of the past. A written commitment is a MUST item.

Addressing item 2 is also critical. A specific person MUST be held accountable for making documented energy savings happen.  Again, that person needs to be recognized as the “go-to” individual.  It can’t just be an “oh – by the way” add-on to his/her numerous other duties. He needs clear specific energy saving objectives and it’s critical that reporting on these objectives be part of a regular reporting system.

Again, as has been pointed out in the past, it is easier to save $50,000 in energy than it is to get the profit from $1,000,000 in new business. Make certain that all employees recognize just how many dollars in sales it takes to generate $1,000 or $10,000 in profit (Money that is “put in the bank.”)  It’s vital that everyone recognizes just how hard it is to “make a buck” in the metalcasting industry. Run your own survey – you’ll be surprised.  (When I ask this question, the answer I virtually always hear is “oh, if the metalcaster sells $1,000 of casting, I think about $300-400 is “put in the bank”) This survey will help all employees to understand the real impact of their energy-saving efforts. The energy-saving effort is as important as scrap reduction, down time reduction and safety and it must be reported and publicized.  It’s all part of a culture in a well-run facility. All of these efforts will provide those savings year after year.

Checking for potential energy saving opportunities can happen in a variety of ways or combinations of ways. The simplest is to designate one individual to do a “walk-through” audit and report the findings. The single individual “walk-through” is a start. The individual will note that some unnecessary lights are on – a blower or conveyor is running even though there is no production scheduled. He may also note furnaces are not covered or he hears air leaks. Usually there is no organized follow-up. It’s just “a guy” walking through the facility. Often the individual does not have the authority to make things happen. There is no lasting impact from the effort.

Another approach is to ask one of the U.S. Department of Energy Industrial Assessment Centers to conduct an energy assessment in your facility.   The Industrial Assessment Centers are located at 28 universities across the country.  Their locations can be found at: https://www.energy.gov/eere/amo/locations-industrial-assessment-centers. They are generally operated out of the Industrial Engineering Department at the university. A team, led by an IAC Director, will spend one day at your facility. They will provide a thorough report and in about 6 months they will re-contact the facility to find out which of their recommendations have been implemented. Many of these recommendations do not require capital expenditure. To gain maximum value from this IAC assessment it is important that a facility engineer accompany the IAC team.  Too often, the IAC report then just sits on someone’s shelf because an energy saving team has not been established to evaluate and utilize the value of the IAC assessment.

You company can also organize an energy program as described in the “Guidelines for Energy Management” manual. This manual breaks down seven main steps to energy saving: 1) Make the commitment; 2) assess performance; 3) set goals; 4) create an action plan; 5) implement the action plan; 6) evaluate progress; and 7) recognize achievements.

The first step requires written commitment from the top. Without this leadership, the program will fail, and successfully going through steps 2 through 7 will be impossible. Likewise, the last step is vital. Give credit to those who are helping achieve your goals. Use pizza parties, company-wide announcements or simple, personal “thank-yous” to let the team know their input and work is valued.

The EPA Energy Star program creates a team-oriented atmosphere that an individual walk-through or IAC assessment can’t. However, it should be noted that once the team has been put in place, their efforts can be supplemented by an IAC assessment.  

Your feedback regarding your company’s energy saving achievements will be/is appreciated. Let us know the specifics of your energy saving approach and more importantly – the results.

Click here to see this story as it appears in the May 2018 issue of Modern Casting