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The global manufacturing services provider shares its four-part strategy for reducing energy use while increasing operational efficiency.

Geoff Giordano

June 16, 2022

5 Min Read
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Image courtesy of Alamy/Kunnicha Luengrungwaree

A significant part of any plastics manufacturer’s sustainability story must be sound energy usage and procurement. Global manufacturing services provider Jabil has created a blueprint for energy management that helped the company slash year-over-year greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 19% in 2021.

The 360-degree carbon-reduction strategy by Jabil’s Global Energy team targeted scope 1 and scope 2 emissions. Scope 1 emissions are those directly from company-owned and controlled sources, while scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions generated by purchased electricity.

Jabil’s four-part strategy to achieve its energy goals aims to do so without overly relying on the purchase of high-cost renewable energy certificates or credits (RECs), explained P.J. Farrenkopf, Project Manager for Jabil Global Energy.

The four pillars for reducing GHG emissions

“While RECs are one way for organizations to go carbon neutral on paper, if they are a company’s sole emissions reduction strategy, they can be costly and do little to change the amount of non-renewable energy a company actually purchases,” he said. Jabil’s strategy is to reduce its scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions “while increasing operational efficiency, managing data, and investing in renewable energy based on four pillars — manage, reduce, produce and procure.”

Farrenkopf explained each pillar thusly:

  • Manage the amount of electricity being used at manufacturing sites by identifying the most inefficient processes and pieces of equipment, reporting data in a more systematic and timely manner, and aligning with investment opportunities. “This can be done through full building audits and/or automated using building management systems to provide both a macro and micro level of operations.”

  • Reduce emissions using the data collected in the first step. That data “gives us a more accurate portrait of our emissions landscape so that we can see where there is room for opportunities to reduce our energy usage. This is critical because it’s impossible to reduce emissions if you have not first measured them."

  • Produce green energy at Jabil sites through power purchase agreements (PPAs). According to the Department of Energy, in a PPA, a third-party developer installs, owns, and operates an energy system on a customer’s property. The customer purchases the system's electric output for a predetermined period — generally 10 to 25 years.

  • Procure green energy where needed and available through PPAs, virtual PPAs, RECs, and, in Europe, GOs (guarantees of origin). GOs indicate electricity has been obtained from renewable sources.

“The first step will always be to measure and collect data,” he stressed. “Conduct an audit of your full site, or each of your sites, to calculate your baseline scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions. This is the biggest challenge that companies of any size face in their sustainability journey, but it is the most critical to overcome. From there, your work starts — finding ways to reduce electricity consumption using tools like building management systems, making your own electricity with the installation of solar panels.”

In 2021, Jabil began working on “a solution for a transformational digitization of electricity usage data,” he said. The goals: Unburden site teams from manual data entry; eliminate the risk of human error in data entry; improve the timeliness of data capture; create visibility into real-time data trends and progress toward goals; and facilitate the annual third-party data assurance process.

Outreach to customers

“Jabil works with each of its customers and suppliers to evaluate their current emissions reductions and sustainability goals or help develop new targets,” Farrenkopf noted. “We can also provide guidance to and share knowledge that we’ve gained with our partners who are just starting out on their journey to a climate action plan or sustainability reporting. At Jabil, energy and environmental data from each of our global sites is tracked in an enterprise environmental data management software and aggregated to analyze trends and to monitor progress toward target achievement.”

Jabil’s transformation of its operations clearly illustrates the benefits of its energy-savvy approach.

For example, Farrenkopf said, “compressors are one of the biggest energy users at any given manufacturing site, accounting for anywhere between 15% and 30% of a site’s total energy use. We are currently installing variable-speed drives across our own facilities to help regulate the amount of air that is pushed out of a compressor and reduce the amount of energy used by the machine.” At the Jabil Healthcare site in Clinton, MA, which offers precision injection plastics molding, “the installation of the variable speed drives led to a 28% reduction in electricity use for the entire site in the first month.”

Hybrid injection molding has a role to play

Meanwhile, energy costs are being cut by replacing inefficient machines at the Jabil Healthcare site in Gurnee, IL. “There, we are swapping traditional injection molding machines for hybrid injection molding. By electrifying the screw recovery process instead of using hydraulics, the hybrid machines use between 50% and 70% less electricity than the older models.”

Supply chain network optimization bears further fruit, he added, by modeling and forecasting financial costs versus emissions costs of a product or material. Elements like logistics routes and manufacturing site selections are examined.

“Generally, the types of analysis performed by a supply chain network optimization would more typically be used to help an organization reduce scope 3 GHG emissions,” he explained. “But by including a site’s use of renewable energy in that analysis, this optimization could also help cut scope 2 emissions. These practices help our partners understand the true cost of ownership and allow them to make the best decision from both a bottom-line perspective and a sustainability perspective.”

To learn more about scope 3 emissions, tune into our Resin Report Monthly Edition podcast with guest Jeremy Pafford of business intelligence firm ICIS.

About the Author(s)

Geoff Giordano

Geoff Giordano is a tech journalist with more than 30 years’ experience in all facets of publishing. He has reported extensively on the gamut of plastics manufacturing technologies and issues, including 3D printing materials and methods; injection, blow, micro and rotomolding; additives, colorants and nanomodifiers; blown and cast films; packaging; thermoforming; tooling; ancillary equipment; and the circular economy. Contact him at [email protected].

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