Energising cost savings in manufacturing

Posted on 26 Apr 2011 by The Manufacturer

Sam Jones of SUSTAIN Lincolnshire presents ten quick wins for manufacturers looking to cut costs, save energy and streamline production.

Cutting costs is fundamental to profitable manufacture. Often the apparent cost of a product is well understood. But less clear are the hidden costs associated with feedstock wastage, energy use and waste disposal. Understanding, managing and reducing these hidden costs can have a dramatic positive effect on the bottom line.

These suggestions highlight areas where improvements to energy usage could be possible with relatively little effort and quick pay back times. In general, these actions would represent the first steps in reducing environmental impact and further improvement will be possible through the development and implementation of a more comprehensive environmental management plan.


Reduce electricity consumption

1. Improving energy monitoring is the key to managing energy consumption. If you are on a maximum demand electricity tariff you should be able to obtain half-hour data from your supplier. Calculating your useage during non-operational hours will help identify waste – what’s being left on unnecessarily?

The Carbon Trust helps provide guidance on improving energy monitoring and management.

2. The way you purchase electricity can lead to substantial savings – be proactive! If you are on a maximum demand tariff and have a reasonable consumption you can purchase on non-standard terms and tender for supply. Make a note of the termination date and notice period and retender before its expiry. If you have a smaller consumption and have to purchase on standard tariff terms then check suppliers to find the best standard tariff. OFGEM has rules to protect smaller business. A factsheet is available at ofgem.gov.uk.

3. Compressed air is an expensive commodity and air compressors are only about 10 per cent efficient. Inspect systems regularly for leaks. A drop of one bar (psi) can result in a six per cent reduction in electricity consumption.

Understand your process and minimise your waste costs

4. In order to manage, you must measure. You need to know how much you’re producing in relation to raw materials being used and then work out how to increase that figure.

5. Segregate your waste and recycle where possible. Good segregation saves money because landfill waste has a premium. Review waste management practices regularly as the market for recyclables fluctuates. Negotiate waste contracts. Make sure skips have lids – you don’t want to be paying for rainwater! Clearly label skips and train staff.

6. Work with customers and suppliers to reduce packaging. Could suppliers use returnable packaging – or less packaging? Could goods be packed more efficiently? Could packaging material be changed to a material more easily reused or recycled.

7. Review manufacturing wastes. Could they provide a feedstock for a different process such as packaging? Or for another business. NISP is a free government backed programme which aims to connect businesses that have synergies between waste outputs and process inputs.

Optimise your material handling and storage

8. Optimising bulk storage could save up to £90 per tonne. List your liquid feedstocks in order of consumption to ensure the most commonly used are being stored in bulk tanks.

9. Avoid wasting feedstock. If you use heat to reduce viscosity, consider co-locating drum heaters with the process to minimise temperature loss. Get powders delivered in pellet form to reduce bag residue. Store reels the right way round to reduce turning and minimise the risk of handling damage.

Let everyone know

10. Communicate your plans and achievements with staff. Ask for suggestions, Set targets and monitor performance. Tell customers. Use your environmental and resource efficiency as a marketing tool – especially to customers with environmental supply chain requirements.

SUSTAIN Lincolnshire is a project offering free support to help small and medium sized businesses introduce environment management systems. Energy consultants work with qualifying companies to identify areas where they can save money through reduced energy consumption with the knock on effect of a reduced environmental impact.

Contact the author at [email protected].