A 'triple win' on energy management

GM's energy reduction effort delivers profits and cuts costs while helping the environment

04/15/2013


GM's energy reduction effort delivers profits and cuts costs while helping the environment. Courtesy: General MotorsA two-year effort by General Motors to meet the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star Challenge for Industry has allowed the global automaker to cut its energy intensity by 26% across 54 facilities worldwide. For GM’s energy manager, the results can be measured both inside and outside a GM plant.

“Energy management saves money and reduces the greenhouse gases, and it also improves our maintenance practices. It’s a triple-win,” said Al Hildreth, who leads the U.S. effort on energy for the Detroit automaker. “The beautiful part is that the money I save is pure profit, but I don’t have to do a trade-off. What makes this fun is that I can help the business and help the environment.”

The voluntary Energy Star program has helped focus the GM effort on both energy use reduction and the corresponding drop in costs. GM has saved more than $90 million in energy costs, more than four times the annual budget for energy management within GM’s U.S. operation.

It’s a cooperative, coordinated effort that includes GM’s manufacturing facilities around the world, as well as benchmarking with other global automakers to see what best practices are in place.

The effort to better manage energy costs at GM has been underway over the past 20 years. Now GM manages energy as it does other business units within the organization. “We manage safe, quality, and materials costs. That’s all part of our business plan. Now we include energy in that,” said Hildreth. “It’s not just a one-time event. It’s really a continuous process. We’re now able to measure energy produced per vehicle manufactured.”

For a company that annually spends $1 billion on energy to run its facilities and make cars, a reduction in energy spending that doesn’t impact production is a significant profit generator. The company has attacked many basic areas—improving lighting controls, managing HVAC systems to handle peak loads, and repairing and improving compressed air usage. Now GM wants to attack process energy to continue the cost reduction.

“Our paint shop is a major energy user,” Hildreth said. “Some of our paint systems are newer, some are legacy systems. As we start to do upgrades and retrofits, we’re seeing significant savings in these areas.”

Another area that GM has addressed is the move toward more renewable energy and less dependence on carbon-based fuels. Hildreth said GM is the leading user of solar energy among U.S. automakers, and it will eliminate coal as a fuel to make steam by 2015.

There is a significant change in the way energy is treated in a manufacturing plant. The days of blindly paying invoices for gas, electricity, and steam generation are over. Energy is now seen as a raw material that can be measured, managed— and wasted. While Energy Star recognitions are nice, the realization that wasted energy is wasted money is driving energy improvements in manufacturing today.

And as Hildreth knows, it takes a commitment from management to provide the support to make those changes. “It does take a commitment from management,” he said. “We’re pretty fortunate. I get a $20 million budget to spend on energy efficiency. We run it as a business—we get a budget, we spend the budget, and we get good results.”

“The job is always to always keep on top of things,” Hildreth added. “We’re continuously monitoring the processes. It is a continuous process.”



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
Detecting security breaches: Forensic invenstigations depend on knowing your networks inside and out; Wireless workers; Opening robotic control; Product exclusive: Robust encoders
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide
 

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.