Create a small, but powerful energy conservation policy

Which sounds worse to you: That gasoline prices are headed past $3 a gallon, or that gasoline prices have gone up 100% since last summer? Not much of a choice there, is it? A year ago in our cover story on energy, we pointed to the sharp rise in fuel prices – in particular that gasoline had just gone past $2 a gallon.

05/01/2006


Which sounds worse to you: That gasoline prices are headed past $3 a gallon, or that gasoline prices have gone up 100% since last summer? Not much of a choice there, is it?

A year ago in our cover story on energy, we pointed to the sharp rise in fuel prices %%MDASSML%% in particular that gasoline had just gone past $2 a gallon. Ah, the good old days.

Now as fuel prices continue to shoot up, the higher prices threaten to further cut into operating costs, revenue growth and profits %%MDASSML%% all at a time when the economy in general and manufacturing in particular is finding some solid footing.

Now, it is a more sober, thoughtful world that attacks the energy issue. While the current pain is real, maybe being more thoughtful about energy is not such a bad thing. It is going to take thoughtful people and purposeful action to extract us from our misuse of energy.

Change is evolutionary. It starts in small ways and grows. Yet the problem is so large, it seems overwhelming. How do we solve the energy crisis in manufacturing?

Simply, we don’t. YOU solve it at your plant, on your shop floor, in your organization. When PLANT ENGINEERING wrote about the issue of energy management a year ago, we offered solutions that every manufacturer could implement right away to address the issue. A few are worth repeating today:

  • Do an energy audit: You need benchmark standards for every aspect of a plant’s successful operation. You need one for energy consumption as well. If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. Simply put, this is where any energy management process must begin.

  • Manage your indoor environment: Find ways to move air, to cool machines, to effectively light workspaces that both enhance the work environment and don’t suck up energy. Check with your local supplier. He’s got LOTS of new ideas.

  • Manage travel and transportation: How do you get materials from Point A to Point B, and what is the cost of doing that? If you don’t know how much energy you consume in transportation %%MDASSML%% both inside your facility as well as to your customers — you can’t know how much your costs will rise.

  • Don’t forget the “other” costs: Do a good job on electricity and petroleum and forget about energy efficiencies in water and compressed air, and you’ve only tackled half the problem. Looking for cost savings in every corner of your operation is well worth the effort.

  • Ask your employees. After the energy audit, this may be the most important thing you can do %%MDASSML%% and probably, it’s the most overlooked. The people who know the most about what is wasted in manufacturing are the people who do the manufacturing. They have a lot of answers. The trouble is, very often we forget to ask them the questions.

    • The important item, again this year, is to begin someplace. Implement your own policy, create your own energy czar, and beat the rush of higher energy prices this summer.



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