Meet the Champion: Dan Wahlstrom, lean manufacturing engineer, Simonds International


a man in a blue polo shirt standing in front of table saws

As the oldest cutting tool manufacturer in North America, Simonds International has learned to maximize the value of the industry’s latest technologies. That penchant for innovation is one reason Simonds’ Portland plant adopted lean manufacturing and Energy Trust’s Strategic Energy Management (SEM) offering at the same time.

“The goals of both initiatives are complementary,” says Dan Wahlstrom, lean manufacturing engineer at Simonds. “It was fairly seamless to integrate SEM into the training we were doing on lean manufacturing.”

Wahlstrom and his co-workers attend monthly SEM workshops where they focus on identifying behavioral changes and no- or low-cost operations and maintenance improvements that deliver significant and persistent energy savings. They formed an energy team with representatives from throughout the plant and Wahlstrom serving as Energy Champion. They set a goal to trim plant energy use by 5 percent—a goal they exceeded almost twice over by saving 9.4 percent.

Together with Energy Trust energy coaches, they went on a plant-wide “treasure hunt” to look for energy waste. “It was amazing how many energy-saving opportunities we uncovered during SEM,” says Wahlstrom. “We thought we were keeping up with compressed air leaks and had no idea we still had so many. We also discovered quite a few lights that were on when they didn’t need to be.”

Wahlstrom made energy a standing topic at the plant’s lean manufacturing meetings, with one person assigned to discuss a new energy-efficiency idea each week. Energy also became part of the plant’s lean idea submission program, with employees earning a $25 gift card when an idea is implemented.

The energy team implemented a “Turn it off – Close it up” program, training operators and making it their responsibility to shut down and start up equipment according to when it is needed. Simonds also developed several YouTube videos on energy topics such as compressed air leak repair and dust collection shutdown which they showed during weekly lean stand-up meetings and use as onboarding tools for new staff.

As a participant in SEM, Simonds received energy tracking software that monitors facility energy use; normalizes it against production; and tracks the results of Simonds’ efforts. Wahlstrom discusses the results during energy meetings and weekly lean meetings.

“Strategic Energy Management significantly increased awareness of energy use for employees throughout the plant,” Wahlstrom says. “It showed us how to keep up the momentum.”

+Check out the latest videos and success stories featuring Energy Trust SEM participants to learn more about the benefits of SEM.