Repeating the message not a waste of energy

Last September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded its first Energy Star awards to manufacturing plants. The awards went to automakers Ford, Toyota and Nissan; cement industry leaders Ash Grove Cement Company, California Portland Cement Company and Lafarge North America; and wet corn millers Penford Products Company plant and Tate and Lyle Ingredients Americas.
By Bob Vavra, Editor March 1, 2007

Last September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded its first Energy Star awards to manufacturing plants. The awards went to automakers Ford, Toyota and Nissan; cement industry leaders Ash Grove Cement Company, California Portland Cement Company and Lafarge North America; and wet corn millers Penford Products Company plant and Tate and Lyle Ingredients Americas.

There were 17 plants honored with the first Energy Star awards. It was a great first step, to be sure. Only about 300,000 plants to go.

EPA statistics show that the U.S. manufacturing sector consumes about one-third of the energy used in the United States and contributes about 28% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. “Energy is a significant, controllable expense for most manufacturers, and energy efficiency is a direct way to reduce this cost while avoiding emissions of greenhouse gases,” the EPA states.

We can debate global warming as a political issue, but as an economic one, there’s very little debate. Regardless of your view on the world’s eco-health, reducing energy consumption makes a world of economic sense.

Cutting energy consumption in manufacturing used to be the mantra of activists and environmentalists; now it’s the charge given to CFOs and plant managers. Whether you think global warming is melting the polar ice cap, it’s certainly melting manufacturing profits.

There are simple ways to measure and manufacture energy savings. They don’t all involve ripping out every last piece of equipment and replacing it with something new and more energy efficient. Most of what’s needed is a strategy that is embraced at every corner of the plant and in every office in the company. It requires top-down plant leadership, but it is also about giving workers the responsibility for generating energy-saving ideas %%MDASSML%% and rewarding them for it.

Crisis management doesn’t work. Neither does ignoring the problem. In either case, it’s not really managing the problem; it’s managing the outcome. Or as Walt Tunnessen from the U.S. Department of Energy notes in this month’s cover story, “Too many companies do not manage energy like they manage other aspects of their business.”

Well, we know of at least 17 that do.

For the rest, this isn’t complicated. Look at your energy costs. Look at your equipment. Ask your operators. Ask your utilities. Ask the Department of Energy. Get answers, and implement them.

This also isn’t a new message. It’s worth the energy to restate it again, which we will do at the Plant Engineering Manufacturing Summit in Chicago on April 2-3.

It will be worth the energy to act on the message.