If your corporate energy management program has focused primarily on operations and maintenance activities with maybe a capital project or two, you’ve likely experienced a notable increase in energy efficiency—and then possibly some backsliding later on. Maybe now you’re wondering what’s the best approach to achieving ongoing energy efficiency? One-time improvements made a difference, but how can my company stay on top of the myriad changes that impact our energy consumption every year? The best answer I can give you is: continuous energy improvement.
Continuous Energy Improvement (CEI) is about developing a long-term strategy for maximizing your energy efficiency. CEI transforms management practices, builds critical infrastructure and increases employee aptitude—so you can manage energy just like you do any other aspect of your business. Actually, the concept is very similar to more familiar continuing improvement efforts such as Six Sigma, or Lean. Through education, assessment, action, and with the right tools in place, CEI has the potential to invigorate your company culture and sharpen your competitive edge by improving processes, product quality, and by increasing employee engagement.
Here are four reasons why launching a company-wide CEI program may be one of the smartest business decisions you can make:
- What’s not to like about saving money? Companies embarking on a CEI program that starts with an operations and maintenance tune up can realize 10-15% savings within the first three years, and 25-35% within six years. When you consider how much new revenue your company would have to generate to match the amount of money CEI can save, it’s clear that one of your best business investments is in your company’s energy management capabilities. For example, a company with 5% gross margins that saves $50,000 in energy costs would need to generate $1,000,000 in new revenue to provide equal value.
- Your employees will appreciate and benefit from it. Because CEI is a program of ongoing improvement everyone in your company has a stake in the program’s success. What this means is that employees get better visibility into the corporate vision, increased training opportunities, and a strong voice in the development of process and procedure documentation. Ultimately, they benefit from an opportunity to develop deeper technical and leadership skills that will serve them well throughout their career.
- Your company will be seen as a leader. As you gain control of your energy spend and begin to see an increase in profitability as a direct result of increased efficiency—a happy by-product is an increase in sustainability and diminished impact on the planet. This puts you in prime position to pursue certification programs such as ISO 50001 and to receive public recognition as a responsible, corporate citizen.
- It’s easier than you think. Your company may already participate in similar programs promoting ongoing improvement, whether Six Sigma, or lean, or quality related. That means that the philosophy behind continuous improvement is already a part of your corporate DNA. Not that launching an effective, lasting CEI program is without its challenges—but the ultimate, long-term value, relative to the implementation process is unparalleled.
From where I sit, watching energy costs continue to rise, and seeing companies bump up against diminishing returns from a project oriented approach to efficiency, CEI has a clear advantage when it comes to taking energy management to the next level.
Martin Lott is an Energy Performance Manager for Cascade Energy. He has led dozens of commercial and industrial customers through the implementation of Continuous Energy Improvement programs, and developed innovative tools and approaches in the process. Cascade Energy has been providing industrial energy-efficiency expertise to corporations and utilities for 20 years. For more information visit cascadeenergy.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.