Your warehouse may be the epicentre of your operations or it may only be used a few times a day. Either way, it’s an opportunity to save money — one that’s often overlooked
“There’s a general lack of awareness around how energy costs relate to overall company expenditures,” says Andrew Luke, industrial program manager for gas and electricity utility FortisBC. “Often there’s a disconnect between the person who pays the energy bill and the person responsible for operations. If the bill looks about the same as the previous month’s, it’s fine.”
Learning to see energy as a variable cost — not fixed — is the first step to capturing warehouse energy savings. (For some systems, savings can be as high as 70 per cent.) Getting to know your consumption profile is where to start.
BC Hydro Senior Engineer Loren Gudbjartsson recommends an “energy map” — an outline of how energy is being used. “Then you can say, ‘Here’s what forklift charging costs.’ That first level of understanding is critical. Then you know where to invest your time and money.”
“It’s important to consider your usage outside of operating hours too,” adds Colton Aston, energy solutions Manager for FortisBC. “I’ve seen systems such as circulating domestic hot water in full operation all night, using energy when the facility is not operating.”
Luke, Gudbjartsson and Aston agree: it costs little, and saves a lot, to get started on warehouse energy efficiency. Here are some of their recommendations — tackle them all and you’ll be well on your way to developing an Energy Management Plan — one that could easily result in overall savings of up to 30 per cent.
1. Understand your consumption profile. Learn the elements of your energy bill(s) and know what you’re paying for. Catalogue all the energy uses in your warehouse. Use inexpensive power logging equipment to see which are most energy-intensive. Establish regular tracking to chart energy bills over time and look for hourly and daily usage patterns. (Energy management software can help, but “starting out by hand is fine,” says Gudbjartsson.) Investigate anomalies and figure out what happened.
2. Engage your employees. (They don’t like waste either.) Develop switch-off protocols. Share the effort of finding costly energy waste points, such as compressed air leaks. Promote shared successes and cost-savings.
3. Build a business case for capital upgrades. Target older systems or those where changes in operations may have caused a “patched-together” system or left your equipment poorly located for your needs. Consider the following:
- Industrial lighting: Task and zone lighting, efficient lamps and controls make a significant bottom-line difference. Errors are reduced and productivity enhanced with the right lighting. Maintenance costs are slashed due to longer lamp life.
- Heating and cooling: Know where your energy is going. (How many inefficient personal heaters are in use?) Contain your tempered air with air doors, strip curtains or high speed rollout doors. Consider a system that shuts off heating/cooling when doors are open. Efficiently improve worker comfort with de-stratification fans and localized radiant heaters rather than conditioning the entire space.
- Refrigeration: Consider modern controls, variable speed compressors and reconfigured systems to improve efficiency.
4. Make use of your local utility’s energy efficiency programs. Many utilities offer incentives, tips and guides, and can connect you with qualified contractors and consultants. Incentives reduce payback times for equipment purchases; consultants help you build your best business case. Utilities are the place to start on your efficiency effort.
“Small tweaks can make a big difference,” says Luke. “There are a lot of no-cost initiatives you can undertake to cut your energy waste.” Says Gudbjartsson, “Energy efficiency improves your operating cost competitiveness, and it also has a very positive impact on operations. Employees like to participate in doing things a better way.”
“It also translates to your customers,” says Aston. “Increasingly, customers want to do business with companies that consider sustainability within their operations. The bottom line is: it’s very valuable.”
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