Large plastics manufacturers use many different types of energy in every aspect of business, from building or plant management to plastics production, product development and even shipping. It's unlikely every activity is as efficient as it can be, leaving many opportunities assess and improve energy usage. A number of manufacturers have created energy assessment groups to not only look for ways to improve efficiency and save money within their operation, but to also be on the lookout for favorable outside opportunities that not only can reduce costs, but can even generate revenue.
Even smaller companies without dedicated energy management staff may be able to take advantage of the types of opportunities these larger companies are finding by taking a more energy-aware mindset when developing new operations or evaluating existing ones.
3M bids to cut energy usage 15%
3M's corporate energy management program helps operations become more efficient and have a more positive impact on the environment at each facility in 65 countries worldwide. An energy team leader at each site helps meet corporate goals of reducing energy use by 15%. The corporate group provides guidance on what the sites should be doing, tracks energy usage at each facility to see if goals are met, and recognizes sites with celebrations when they are.
A good example is a 3M packaging tape and post-it note manufacturing facility in Kentucky. The energy team there found it important that the team participates with the utilities department and production areas, who are end users, so everyone feels included in the process. To meet the corporate goals, Steve Schultz, 3M's Global Energy Manager, discussed how they've approached saving energy.
Awareness: People are encouraged to make suggestions on how to save energy at the workplace. "Many people don't treat energy use at work the same as they do at home," says Schultz. It's just as important to turn off equipment when it's not being used or turn off the lights when leaving a room as it is at home.
Energy-saving Practices: High energy-use equipment in the facility is identified, and it is ensured they operate at the highest capabilities.
Projects: Replacing existing equipment with newer and more efficient versions is considered.
The Kentucky facility's combined energy management strategies, including replacing systems for process heating and compressed air, have improved energy usage at the plant by more than 20% over last 5 years, according to Schultz.
Another recently completed 3M project spanned multiple manufacturing facilities. Removing pallets from some products that are delivered on trailers enabled more efficient packing, so fewer trucks were needed and fewer miles were driven. This project alone saved an estimated $1M and reduced miles driven per year by 1.75 million.
The company as a whole implemented 169 energy projects in 2010, saving $8.1 million and more than 542,000 mmBTUs.
ROI? Rhodia's solar energy installation now earning revenue
Rhodia is a specialty chemical and plastics manufacturer and member of the Solvay Group with more than 14,000 employees and 60 locations worldwide. At a facility in central France they recently completed a solar energy installation project that is