Strategic Energy Management alongside Lean management reduces costs, boosting savings

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Please note that the views expressed by guest authors represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of Energy Trust.


Men inspecting machinery

By partnering with experienced manufacturing consultants at Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership (OMEP), manufacturers are developing processes and systems that increase capacity, while also reducing energy intensity, decreasing waste and streamlining production. “Part of our holistic approach is we help organizations set and communicate clear expectations, measure what’s actually happening and provide the right kind of feedback to the organization so improvement can take place,” said John Hunt, senior consultant at OMEP.

Strategic Energy Management (SEM) is a natural complement that extends the value of these investments. Through Energy Trust of Oregon’s SEM offering, coaches can help manufacturers leverage their existing continuous improvement work with OMEP to provide facilities a comprehensive overview of energy-efficiency recommendations, goals and indicators, and ongoing technical assistance. SEM enables engagement of all employees in an ongoing endeavor to identify and cut energy waste, substantially boosting and sustaining savings at their facilities.

Hardwood Industries’ current SEM engagement is already yielding big benefits

Man sawing lumber in factoryHardwood Industries’ current SEM engagement with Energy Trust builds on project management and problem-solving foundations developed through its ongoing work with OMEP. Through SEM, Hardwood has already produced substantial energy savings – and management is seeing other non-energy benefits as well.

“SEM should save us around $19,100 in energy costs this year. If you look at a graph of our energy performance, we’re well on our way to hitting our 10% goal,” said Chad Bentley, operations manager at Hardwood. He predicts Hardwood will meet its 10% annual savings goal by November.

SEM is also bolstering Hardwood’s existing commitments to employee engagement. “It all goes back down to the employees, getting them involved, letting them know that what they do every day is what makes us successful,” said Bentley.

But wait, there’s more!

For manufacturers participating in SEM, Energy Trust sweetens the deal with cash incentives. Manufacturers already reducing waste and energy intensity through Lean initiatives could enroll in Energy Trust’s SEM offering. Additional energy savings often manifest during or shortly after projects commence and accrue during engagement and beyond.

Furthermore, Energy Trust’s SEM engagement – a roughly year-long offering of workshops, SEM coaching and technical assistance – is free to industrial customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural, Cascade Natural Gas and Avista.

“If I’m a business owner, and I’m trying to make a decision on where I am going to spend my resources to improve the business, SEM generates resources, both in terms of cost savings and incentives to pay for it,” said Hunt. “It frees up resources and generates a little bit, which makes it easier than other projects.”

FactoryFor facilities already employing Lean management and continuous improvement processes, implementing SEM is relatively straightforward. SEM builds from a site’s current processes; driving a more in-depth exploration of energy use. “It’s almost like you’ve got an extra flashlight out on the floor looking for the keys,” said Hunt. “I think SEM helps organizations see some of their other operational problems from a unique perspective that creates insights they weren’t getting before.”

SEM also boosts facilities’ employee engagement by encouraging behavioral change at all levels. For example, every SEM engagement includes a Treasure Hunt; an employee engagement event that includes staff from leadership to maintenance staff, as well as engineers from Energy Trust program delivery contractors. The half- to-full day event engages staff in identifying energy-saving opportunities and prioritizing those based on savings vs. cost/effort. Most of the savings realized in SEM tend to come from opportunities found during the treasure hunt.

“SEM is useful because it takes a holistic approach to help a site set up a program to tackle energy efficiency from a number of different viewpoints. It creates a culture that understands how to reduce energy waste,” said Mike Koch, an SEM coach with Energy Trust. “It goes beyond one-off projects and aims to up the general consciousness of employees around saving energy.”

Your facility could benefit from Strategic Energy Management, just like Hardwood. Learn more about this unique offer, connect with your local Energy Trust program delivery contractor.