Editorial


 

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Energy Savings Fall Right to the Bottom Line

By: Brad Kuvin

Tuesday, August 1, 2017
 

Just a few weeks ago, on July 13, U.S. Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Tom Reed (R-NY) introduced the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Act, designed to authorize state grants to help small to midsized manufacturers (with less than $100 million in sales and fewer than 500 employees) adopt “smart” manufacturing technologies. (Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, introduced companion legislation in the Senate). The goal, as the legislators define “smart” manufacturing, is to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. The bill also directs the Secretary of Energy to develop a national smart-manufacturing plan. These pieces of legislation follow similar legislation introduced in 2015, which failed to pass.

Pass or not, the act brings to the forefront the need for manufacturers to focus on what can be a big number on their budgets right about now—energy costs. Yes, we are deep into the dog days of summer—a phrase whose origins date back to the ancient Greeks. They noticed that the star Sirius, in the canine constellation Canis Major, was present in the sky during the hottest part of the year. Over time, the phrase has come to refer to the sweltering temperatures occurring at the peak of summer.

So, now is the perfect time for manufacturers to review their energy polices and conduct an intensive energy audit. From lighting systems to HVAC equipment to operating machinery, opportunities abound to take a bite out what can be a significant expense. Inspect, assess and evaluate the most significant energy hogs in your facility, and I bet you’ll unearth opportunities to drop significant savings to the bottom line. In addition to finding ways to use less energy, smart manufacturers may find opportunities to shift energy-intensive activities to off-peak hours, and identify (and address) energy-wasting activities and inefficiencies.

In a recent blog post from Brian Lagas, who manages the NIST MEP (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) sustainability, continuous improvement and export initiatives, we learn of several (seven to be exact) tips to reduce energy costs (nistmep.blogs.govdelivery.com). They include evaluating compressed-air systems for leaks, upgrading aging HVAC equipment with new fans and motors, and installing waste-heat recovery systems.

Don’t run and hide from these types of actions. Businesses that put a fresh charge into their energy-management programs yield good results. So finds the 2017 Energy Decision Makers Survey Report, which reveals that 94 percent of U.S. and Canadian businesses are acting to reduce their energy use. A whopping 85 percent have lowered their energy costs via sound energy-management practices, and 25 percent have cut costs by more than 20 percent simply by procuring new energy-efficient equipment. Perceptive businesses also monitor the energy market for opportunities to cut costs—the survey finds that of the companies that do so, 54 percent reduce their energy costs by more than 10 percent.

What actions make the biggest impact? The survey finds that 47 percent use monitoring technology, and 65 percent promote energy-saving practices. One more tip from Lagas:

“Secure employee buy-in…Getting your staff involved will empower them to develop new ideas… (Help them see that) reducing energy costs may yield enough energy savings to invest in a new piece of equipment, to make their jobs easier.”

 


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