Regardless of whether you're applying Total Quality Management, Six-Sigma or another methodology, initiation is the most important step in the improvement process. To initiate an energy management plan, follow these four steps:
1. Identify and quantify the benefit potential.
2. Develop steps to realize the benefit potential.
3. Implement steps to reduce energy losses and increase efficiency.
4. Monitor the process and take necessary actions to sustain positive results.
Once you've established the benefit potential of energy management, it's important to ensure commitment from top management. Success depends upon top management firmly believing the benefit potential is achievable. It's also important to properly initiate the energy management plan instead of just "thrusting it upon" lower management levels. The next step is to form a team to implement the plan. This team should have representation from each department that uses a significant share of the plant's energy.
Forming the right team is critical to energy management success. Because people frequently are both the strongest and weakest links in the energy cost-reduction chain, they very often can make or break positive results. Many times it's simply not the team, but the way the team's motivation is developed towards the common goal. Energy management plans that best use the human element often report more positive results and longer sustainability. Hence, the human factor in the team's formation and function can impact significantly the results.
A senior engineer with sufficient knowledge of the plant's energy flows should be appointed the energy manager. All successful energy management teams I've seen have had a full-time energy manager, who was knowledgeable, influential, dynamic and friendly.
The next step is to define the methodology for monitoring the energy performance/productivity. In smaller plants with less-complex energy use, monitoring the purchased energy use itself may suffice. Defining the monitoring methodology helps set the starting point and the intended path for improvement. For complex industrial processes, it's better to seek external expertise to develop the monitoring methodologies. One such monitoring methodology is the Solomon Associates' Energy Indexing that's widely adopted by many petroleum refiners. Larger petroleum refining companies have their own energy productivity monitoring methodologies.
Here is an example of a successful energy management plan initiation. A petroleum refinery started its energy management plan by forming an Energy & Loss Steering committee (ELSC). The heads of its four processing divisions made up the committee, which was lead by the technical services manager, one of the top three managers in the refinery operation. The energy manager served as the secretary of the ELSC. This team's energy management plan was one of the most successful I've witnessed. The plan yielded measurable results continuously and sustained the benefits for several years after its initiation.
As a first step, the energy manager collected information on various energy performance monitoring methodologies practiced by several refineries around the world and presented them to the ELSC — indicating the merits and demerits of each methodology and its applicability given the metering and instrumentation levels of the plant. The ELSC reviewed the options and choose to adapt the Corrected Energy & Loss Index methodology for its plant.
Once the methodology was determined, the present condition of the plant was defined along with the path for improvement, based on best achieved results in the past. Members of the ELSC also agreed that the plant's energy performance would be monitored every month from that time onward.
The ELSC divided the whole plant into four processing areas and formed four subcommittees, each with members from the operation, maintenance and technical services group serving in the respective processing areas. The members of each subcommittee were briefed on the plan, the adapted monitoring methodology and the performance level of their respective processing areas. Then, they were invited to a brainstorming session to offer their own suggestions. They were encouraged not to worry about the size or impact of their suggestions. These suggestions were summarized and prioritized based on ease of implementation.
In the next eight weeks, a team of 50 implemented about 80 useful action items that made a positive impact on the overall plant's energy performance. Over the next five years, the members of the ELSC and management changed, but efforts continued and the results didn't slip. With a proper initiation, this energy management plan proved very successful.
VEN V. VENKATESAN is Chemical Processing's Energy Columnist. You can e-mail him at VVenkatesan@putman.net