Are you a witch?

Photo courtesy John Sturgis Photography via Flickr

Improving energy efficiency relies as much on culture as it does on technology.

One hurdle to improving energy efficiency is that plant operators can feel energy assessments are sort of like witch hunts. A person who is measured and rewarded for quality and throughput may suddenly become a villain costing the company tens of thousands of dollars in wasted energy. Even worse, they might get the added burden of addressing this problem while they barely have enough time and resources to deal with their own workload.

Of course seeking greater efficiency is part of a mindset, a culture that must come from the top. That is why executive buy-in is such an important part of the equation. Many technologies exist to improve energy efficiency, but like any other step-change program, it is equally important to look at behaviors and the culture.

C-level commitment is also necessary because continuous improvement processes are very cross functional, involving facilities managers, procurement, operations, quality and several corporate functions. One unsupportive stakeholder can derail the most promising of initiatives.

This is why the ISO 50001 energy management standard is particularly effective. It helps create a culture of continuous improvement. This can be far more effective over the long run than a project-by-project approach, which is often not sustained or falls off the radar when other priorities emerge or energy prices drop. A recent UL DQS study confirms that over 70% of the cost savings from energy efficiency improvements go to the bottom line, rather than being reinvested into new efficiency projects.

Of course, it’s hard to know how you are performing if you can’t measure your energy performance. Companies are adopting ISO 50001 and its practices so they can visualize their energy performance, identify and prioritize opportunities, and take meaningful steps to improve. Think about your own culture – is it one that labels people who identify such opportunities as witches, or heroes?

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About the author

Philip Lewin

I'm one of the many people sharing ABB's passion and great stories for robotics and industrial ingenu-ity. It’s exciting for me to be at the leading edge of a new age for one of the most fundamental things that people do - we make things. At the same time, the awareness has never been greater that economic progress, higher living standards and new ways of making things cannot come at the expense of our environment. I’m proud to contribute to this exciting and important discussion.
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