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Efficiency equals big savings for manufacturers

Saving on energy in manufacturing isn’t just a “green” thing. It can free up money that manufacturers can use to grow their businesses in other ways.

That was the message delivered at the enHance workshop hosted by the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and Mississippi Department for Environmental Quality April 5.

ABB Kuhlman, a power products manufacturer in Crystal Springs, benefited greatly from walking throughout its plant “mapping the value stream,” or observing ways to increase efficiency in operations from steel cutting to payroll to accounting.

“It’s important to “broaden the scope of the event from labor and quality, etc. to include all waste streams,”  said Phillip James of ABB. “Our plant has gone through two or three iterations of this, but is never ceases to amaze me what we find when we walk.”

ABB made a 43 percent improvement in forklift moves and an 81 percent improvement in data management in its most recent value stream evaluation, and it also increased safety, improved housekeeping, reduced labor and found ways to use products that had previously been recycled. James noted that employees are never fired after an efficiency walk; they may be redeployed to other parts of the plant.

Patrik Lazzari of Sinergi Integrated Building Sciences shocked attendees with a gruesome picture of hidden mold growing above the ceiling tiles of an operating room due to moisture condensation from an air duct. The mold illustrated the important of a “tighter building envelope.”

Air infiltration can cause mold and also increase load on HVAC equipment and invite pests into a building, Lazzari said. Simple tests for air leakage can provide major energy savings for a building.

Jeff Seabold of Jackson’s Seabold Architectural Studio, said “happy people are more productive people.” Providing customized comfort for employees by adding thermostats and temperature control zones in an office building can save energy. Employers can ban inefficient personal space heaters under desks.

Another improvement that can translate into extra dollars in the down economy is the installation of a “shadow meter” and developing a metering plan to use data from that meter.

“Some utilities are actually overcharging their customers for energy,” said Chad Moore of Engineering Resources Group of Jackson.

Because of this, shadow meters, which act as a check on the standard utility meter, are becoming more popular, he said. But meters can’t help if you don’t properly utilize their data.

Many shadow meter users are opting to use third-party vendors who collect, analyze, store and backup data.

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