Operations

Energy

Food Processing Efficiency: Strategic Energy Management for Your Facility


Grainger Industrial Supply • Peter Buxbaum

Food processing is one of the most energy-intensive industries, yet many companies still lack a strong organizational commitment to improving their energy management.

Companies that do make the commitment, however, implement energy management programs that yield impressive results. Frito-Lay, the snack-foods manufacturer, for example, implemented a corporate energy program that led to savings of 21 percent across 34 facilities, amounting to a reduction of over $40 million in energy costs.

To create change in your organization and get buy-in from every employee, a sound corporate energy program is a must. Energy management programs help ensure that improvements are not one-off anomalies, but rather are constantly identified and acted upon. Without the backing of a sound energy management program, proper maintenance and routine follow-up won't happen. Companies without a program in place may identify opportunities for improvement, but they may not have the right structure in place to act on those opportunities. 

Four components of a successful energy plan

Frito-Lay’s plan included four major components:

  1. The company designated three tiers of energy management personnel
  2. It allocated capital budgets designated exclusively for energy efficiencies
  3. It set annual energy budget targets for each site and conducted weekly performance tracking
  4. It convened an annual energy summit for continuing education, sharing success stories between facilities and doling out awards for top performers

The last element of Frito-Lay’s plan points to the importance of involving personnel throughout the organization in order to ensure the plan’s success. Personnel at all levels should be aware of the organization's energy use and its goals for efficiency. Staff should be trained about how to manage energy use in their day-to-day practices. Performance results should be regularly evaluated and communicated to all personnel and stellar performance should be rewarded and recognized.

Identifying the right personnel 

The organizational commitment to energy efficiency starts with assigning oversight and management duties to an energy director, establishing an energy policy, and creating a cross-functional energy team. The energy director puts steps and procedures in place to assess performance through regular reviews of energy data, technical assessments, and benchmarking. From these assessments, an organization can develop a baseline of energy use and set goals for improvement.

The energy team is primarily responsible for planning, implementing, benchmarking, monitoring, and evaluating the energy management program. Its duties can also include training other employees, communicating results, and recognizing employee achievements.

Forming an energy team involves establishing an organizational structure, designating team members, and specifying roles and responsibilities. The energy team leader or director should be empowered by senior-level management and should occupy a corporate-level position. The energy team should also include members from each key operational area within an organization and should be multidisciplinary to ensure a diversity of perspectives.

The energy team should first perform facility audits with key plant personnel at each facility and on each shift to identify opportunities for energy efficiency improvements. The team should also develop tools—including best practice databases, facility benchmarking tools, and performance tracking scorecards—for tracking and communicating progress and for transferring the knowledge gained from facility audits across the organization.

Evaluating progress involves regularly reviewing data and current initiatives. Information gathered during the review process should help set new performance goals and action plans, and should also reveal best practices. Once best practices are established, the goal of the cross-functional energy team should be to replicate these practices throughout the organization. A strong communications program—particularly in recognizing staff accomplishments—is critical when it comes to improving food processing efficiency through strategic energy management. By communicating efficiently with the entire organization, every employee will feel invested in helping the company conserve energy. 

W.W. Grainger, Inc. itself recently completed a lighting upgrade at a one-million square-foot distribution center in Kansas City, Missouri, which will improve the quality of light in the facility and provide 80 percent more efficiency in power consumption than the previous fixtures. The energy-saving LED light fixtures are also eligible for local utility rebates, which equated to nearly 20 percent of the total cost of the project. The project is expected to pay for itself in less than four years due to projected energy savings and utility rebates.

Grainger can help businesses meet their energy-reduction and cost-savings goals by offering rebates on energy-efficient products through select Midstream Utility Incentive Programs, available at over 20 participating utilities around the United States. Grainger customers that purchase eligible products receive the rebates in the form of a credit within one to five business days of the invoice date.

Grainger Lighting Solutions helps customers implement lighting retrofits through a network of qualified, insured and licensed service partners. These partners help identify and facilitate the installation of energy- saving lighting products, dispose or recycle of any applicable product and secure all available incentives and rebates from local utility companies.

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