Legislative Uncertainties and New Sustainability Opportunities

Owens Corning Canada and Other Panelists Talk About the Potential for Improving the Sustainability of Manufacturing Processes

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Peel later spoke of how Owens has begun using Kaizen improvement in its energy efforts, as it had been doing in other segments of the operation, recognizing that engaging everyone towards the objectives is essential. He got there reluctantly. "To me, being a controls guy, it was more something for the process guys," he admitted. "So we caved in, and established an energy Kaizen." It exposed some low-hanging fruit immediately. "We put dampers on furnaces to close them down a bit. We found moth-balled parts of the facility with steam heaters still turned on during the summer. It was an eye-opener when we questioned why we were doing stuff that we'd been doing all along."

Asked if his company is holding energy-reduction expenditures to standard ROI criteria or viewing it as some level of systemic need, Peel says in some cases, energy projects have three-year or more ROI, compared with the standard six months for other capital projects.

Not so much in oil and gas, lamented McBride. "Unless it has a solid ROI or has a regulatory requirement, it typically doesn't get funded."

Hand added that ConAgra also is pursuing a "use no more than you need" approach to cooking temperatures and cooking time with the help of Rockwell Automation controls.

The products and solutions that Rockwell Automation offers to help companies attack sustainability opportunities and problems are on full display on the exhibit-hall floor. A short theater presentation by John Nesi, vice president, market development, emphasized that to Rockwell Automation green means lean. "Sustainable production is about your bottom line," Nesi said. "It's not just energy. It's about raw material consumption, worker safety and product safety and life cycle."

During a second presentation, Marcia Walker, market development manager, sustainable production, for Rockwell Automation, emphasized the need to use less energy, use energy at cost-effective times or optimize if you have a choice of energy sources. "It's about cost, brand protection, stability of supply and compliance."

Walker outlined the "seven pillars" of Rockwell Automation's "greenprint," a manufacturing blueprint for energy sustainability, that emphasize:

  • monitoring the energy entering the facility;
  • production monitoring--a real evaluation of how energy actually is used by various plant segments;
  • making energy consumption a bill of material item just like any other consumable;
  • production modeling—think about optimizing energy as a process variable;
  • active controlling of energy use by considering timing and other use adjustments;
  • active response to energy changes using integrated automation and controls that include an energy component;
  • scorecarding--know if you're making progress.

In addition, exhibit hall visitors were encouraged to take advantage of a series of self-guided tours that highlight the products and solutions available at several booths as well as non-commercial technical sessions, to confront sustainability opportunities. Rockwell Automation's Angel Sustaeta demonstrated the value of bringing energy issues, such as boiler performance, natural gas availability and cost and permitted emission levels, into your process modeling as key components in the optimization process. "You can evaluate the potential of using a lower-priced fuel supply and how that impacts emissions, along with production demands, and determine the optimum energy choice."

For more immediate impacts, exhibit-hall visitors can check out variable-speed drives for HVAC systems in Rockwell's FanMaster retrofit kit. Substantial energy savings can result.

Hall visitors also can get an overview of the sustainability consulting services that Rockwell Automation provides in a fashion similar to the company's safety consulting initiatives. "We can look not only at the facility energy opportunities, but also look at the production equipment as well," explained Rockwell Automation's Doug Burns. "We categorize savings in three areas: things that are behavioral in nature; things that can be improved with training and awareness; and those that will require capital expenditure." He explained that simple awareness that recharging lift truck batteries overnight instead of at the shift change could take advantage of lower electric rates. Automation Fair visitors will find other such examples to consider.

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