Go all in!

bublAside from their day-to-day concerns, such as paying the bills or providing for their family’s needs, if you were to poll people today, regardless of the region in the world they reside, the vast majority will tell you that they care about sustainability. They want to do their part and expect businesses to provide goods that are well designed, affordable, and made in a manner that has the least impact on the environment. Unfortunately, many businesses today have been reluctant to fully embrace these priorities. Welcome to this Rotoworld® issue’s sustainability column where I’ll speak to commitment/goalsetting and how it can positively transform your corporate culture.

Sometimes to achieve a goal it’s easier to make bold statements and to aim high than it is to make half-hearted compromises. Saying that you’re 100% committed means you are motivated and provides the opportunity to engage all of your staff and seek their input to achieve that goal. Alternatively, if you establish a lessor value, like 90%, you will discover a lot of people will find a reason to be in the remaining 10% group! When our company began our journey in sustainability in 2007, we committed to shift 100% of our facility’s power to only green/renewable sources. We searched out providers and found one company (Bullfrog Power) that also was very active nationally. As a bonus, this provider also helped spread awareness about our achievements and we would regularly see our company listed in full page ads throughout various nationally distributed publications. Fortunately, in the last decade, more providers like Bullfrog have sprouted up and similar offerings are generally available in most industrial regions. Consider looking into this option and use it as a starting point in your sustainability program.

No doubt, by placing a price on carbon you have increased the input cost in your utilities bill but once you’ve signed on board you can begin to search for ways to reduce your power waste. One area to investigate is the lighting in your facility. Generally speaking, lighting in a plant uses between 12%-15% of your power. You can make significant reductions if you look at how you illuminate your facility and darken areas of inactivity based on your operations. Perhaps you run your operations 24 hours, but only do some types of tasks on a dedicated shift. Do you run lights in these areas when no work is being done? What kind of lights do you run in your plant? If you are still using incandescent lights you need to replace them immediately! These types of lights are so outdated and are operating at about 10% efficient (90% is heat generation). During the weekends do you run more lights than you need? Perhaps you can set up some small CFL or LED lights for security of to provide a safe pathway for persons who need to be in the plant when it’s shut down. Most lights also have reflectors that can become dirty over time. You’d be surprised at how much brighter your shop is if you cleaned them on a quarterly basis. Also, dust can collect on the cooling ballasts, which lowers their efficiency and can even present a fire hazard in some cases.

Another low-cost effort is to look at shutdown procedures when you end your workweek. Do you have a specific checklist for the last designated person to leave the facility? Checklists are more important that you might think. Pilots use them (and with good reason!) as well as medical professionals in surgery (did we leave anything in the patient before we closed them up?). Put a checklist together that itemizes a sequence of procedures for shutting down all the critical systems that could draw power unnecessarily. As an example, leaving an air compressor system on for a whole weekend is an obvious mistake, but I can almost guarantee it has happened to you when operators have other things on their minds on a Friday night! Assigning a designated person is also very important and should require a sign off from that individual to enforce accountability and responsibility for that task. Successful companies like Toyota identified problems with shutdowns when they performed energy audits and gained significant savings from their checklists. Remember, the bigger your facility the higher the energy costs when things are unknowingly left on. So, before you start to consider any large capital investments to drive sustainability, I hope I’ve shown simple solutions to engage your team. Good luck!