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From PLANT’s print edition: Power play

3M raises the energy efficiency ante.


March 13, 2013
by Noelle Stapinsky

As manufacturers grapple with soaring energy costs and supplier demand to make supply chains tighter and more environmentally responsible, reducing power consumption is not only a way to improve the bottom line, it’s also a reputation booster.

Energy use is often seen as the cost to produce and supply a product with the focus on heating, cooling and lighting as opportunities to reduce costs.

That’s a good starting point, but it’s going to take a lot more than shutting off some lights and closing the dock doors to keep up with today’s energy efficiency demands.

The latest ISO international standard brings energy management to a new level. ISO 50001 provides manufacturers with a framework that monitors real-time energy efficiency results and encourages continuous improvement strategies. The voluntary program has been implemented at a 3M Canada tape manufacturing plant in Brockville, Ont. where the company has reduced energy consumption by 30%. It’s also the world’s first plant to achieve ISO 50001 certification.

Based on a Do-Plan-Check-Act framework, ISO 50001 helps businesses reduce energy related operational costs, boost efficiencies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and refine energy procurement practices. ISO says the key to compliancy is a company-wide culture around energy related best practices and develop a customized energy management system (EnMS).

While the standard was still being developed, 3M proactively launched two ISO 50001 and Superior Energy Performance (SEP) pilot programs (the other at a chemicals and adhesives facility in Cordova, Ill.) with $155,000 from the Natural Resources Canada Eco Energy Efficiency for Industry program and the US Department of Energy (DOE).

The SEP standard (or MSE 50021), a US program, is a roadmap for continuous improvement in energy efficiency that also accelerates performance and management practices to increase the adoption rate of ISO 50001.

Some of the bigger challenges at 3M’s 140,000-square-foot Brockville plant included rising electricity and natural gas costs – the facility’s two main sources of energy – and developing a way to maintain energy performance.

“With any management system, there has to be a commitment from upper management,” says Andrew Hejnar, 3M’s energy manager. “They must understand the benefits of improving energy efficiency, not just from a cost standpoint, but from an environmental one as well.”

The next step is to establish a team of management and energy-familiar employees that also understand the standard, he adds.

For many Canadian companies with management systems such as ISO 9001 (quality) or ISO 14001 (environmental) standards, that knowledge base helps form a team. ISO 50001 is also easily integrated with the other systems because it’s based on the same model.

These include common document management and approval systems, while operating practices and standards incorporate into operating procedures, according to Bob Fraser, chief of engineering support services at Natural Resources Canada.

Filling the gap

“Improvement suggestion systems and corrective and preventive action systems can also be shared, and the energy elements of a company’s environmental management system link to the EnMS.”

Fraser says Canada recognizes the value of the SEP system, and plans to develop a similar support system for ISO 50001.

3M’s Brockville team included Hejnar, plant engineering leader Earl Taylor, master technologist Tyler Blakely and internal auditor Alan Polk.

Once the team was assembled and everyone understood what was necessary to comply with the standard, it performed a Gap analysis to determine project costs and how ISO 50001 would integrate with other management systems already in place.

“The big difference with this standard is the energy part. You need to have a management system that covers quality, energy and environmental components, but there is also the energy portion that requires calculating energy, and developing targets and action plans,” says Hejnar.

The plant’s entire workforce must also be trained, educated and involved. To engage the facility’s 170 employees, plant manager Rich Muir says management installed posters, bulletin boards and corkboards throughout the facility explaining where energy costs go. A TV in the cafeteria displays the plant’s energy use information and it’s a topic of conversation at team meetings.

“We try to treat the plant as we would our homes. If we leave a room, we turn off the lights and shut down equipment when it’s not being used,” says Muir. “We have the entire workforce focused on energy reduction. We found air compressors that weren’t working at peak efficiency, compressed air leaks in our piping, and chillers that weren’t working efficiently.”

The plant also has a web-based system in place that encourages employees to submit ideas for the energy team to work on. About 75% of the flagged opportunities came from employees on the production floor. 3M has also contracted Enbridge Gas Distribution, Hydro One and Energy Performance Services for third party opinions on further improvements.

Like most plants, the Brockville facility uses compressed air, but discovered that using such a powerful system to create a light breeze in its wrapping process was a big waste of energy.

“It works, but it can be a very inefficient process,” says Earl Taylor, 3M’s plant engineering leader. “We had a hot air blower using compressed air to shrink film around the tape. Now we’re using blowers to achieve the same air flow and using far less energy.”

This simple change to the wrapping process dropped the compressed air system’s energy use by almost 90%.

Through an internal audit, the team also discovered the plant’s natural gas powered ovens used in the drying process would benefit from more circulation and decreased the amount of fresh air it used.

“We did some trials on increasing the internal circulation and found that we could still achieve the same results using less energy. We just had to adjust some dampers and air flow controls,” says Taylor.

The plant was retrofitted with high efficiency T8 florescent lighting and peripheral lighting was converted to LEDs to save energy used by its lighting system.

3M also verified efficiency specifications of its HVAC units and hired an external company to maintain them.

“Before, we’d say ‘just change the filters, clean the units and make sure everything works,’” says Hejnar. “Now they report how efficiently the system is running.”

All of the plant’s gas and electrical use is metered and now reports into its EnMS, displaying real-time results and historical data for comparison.

“You can never have enough metering. It can be expensive and difficult, but it’s not as expensive as not knowing where your energy is going,” says Taylor.

He describes ISO 50001 as a good way to formalize good practices and ongoing processes for improving energy.

“We didn’t need it to implement energy savings, but we found that without it, energy management is less focused and more vulnerable to personnel changes.”

To hold the system together, the team developed a roles and responsibilities matrix to identify workforce needs to support the system, which is also a part of the standard requirements.

“The plant manager is accountable for the entire system, I’m responsible for energy objectives and timelines, the energy management system coordinator takes care of the reporting system, and all operators and supervisors have defined roles to support the system and make sure it works,” says Hejnar.

Although the Brockville plant has been working on implementing energy efficiency practices for many years, Hejnar says the pilot project took about a year to complete and generate the data to show that the facility is 30% more efficient over the past three years. Such results recently landed the Brockville plant ISO 50001 designation and the SEP platinum certificate, the first Canadian operation to achieve both.

The Cordova, Ill. plant has also received ISO 50001 certification.

Achieving the platinum level SEP will certainly bode well with 3M’s North American customers, such as Walmart and Home Depot. Both demand stringent efficiency processes from their suppliers.

Thanks to the success of the Brockville pilot project, 3M will implement a system to meet ISO 50001 requirements in just six months, and it’s already scoping out two other facilities for the designation.

According to the US Department of Energy, the ISO 50001 standard could influence up to 60% of the world’s energy use, and since energy costs directly affect a manufacturer’s bottom line, early adopters will certainly gain a competitive advantage by decreasing operational costs and gaining favorable attention from customers.

However, as supply chains continue to turn up the heat on environmental responsibility, ISO 50001 might not be voluntary for long.

Noelle Stapinsky is a Toronto-based business writer and editor, and former features editor of PLANT.

This article appears in the March 2013 edition of PLANT.