Frito-Lay bakes environmental awareness into production processes

Green manufacturing proponents often argue that operating in a way that is friendly to the environment is also good for the corporate bottom line. Frito-Lay, the well known snack food maker, has found that adage to be true-sometimes in surprising ways.
By David Greenfield November 7, 2009

Green manufacturing proponents often argue that operating in a way that is friendly to the environment is also good for the corporate bottom line. Frito-Lay, the well known snack food maker, has found that adage to be true-sometimes in surprising ways.

For instance, the marketing team has gotten traction out of the solar concentrator operating at the company’s Modesto, Calif. Plant.

David Haft, group VP sustainabiity, productivity, Frito-Lay North America

David Haft, group VP, sustainability, productivity, Frito-Lay North America

This concentrator, believed to be the largest in the U.S., produces enough steam to support the manufacture of all the chips produced at the plant.
It just so happens that this plant makes Sun Chips, and being able to say they are produced completely by the energy of the sun is a marketers dream.
That is just one of the many benefits Frito-Lay has reaped since launching a corporate sustainability initiative nearly a decade ago.
David Haft, group VP sustainability and productivity for Frito-Lay North America, outlined the company’s sustainability program during the keynote address at the OpsManage 09 conference held in Anaheim, Calif., November 3-5. This event was annual conference for North American customers of Invensys Operations Management, a leading supplier of technology and services for automating manufacturing processes.
Haft’s address was in keeping with the conference’s overall theme: "Empowering Sustainable Success."
Before Haft spoke, Invensys Operations Management President and CEO Sudipta Bhattacharya said manufacturers no longer have a choice when it comes to incorporating environmental awareness into manufacturing processes.
He noted that an increased focus on ensuring that plants are energy efficient stems from the need to "compete globally by having a lower price point." That pressure, he said, has manufacturers "seeking to reduce the variability they face in fluctuating energy prices that can so dramatically affect their costs."
Bhattacharya also pointed out that many manufacturers are finding that, if they want to do business with certain companies, they have to know what their carbon footprint is and demonstrate how they’re managing it. Accordingly, he said, Invensys Operations Management is focused on helping its customers achieve "environmental excellence."
Frito-Lay is well on its way to achieving that status. In 2000, the company set for itself the seemingly outlandish goals (based on 1999 usage levels) of reducing:
• Water user by 50 percent;
• Natural gas use by 30 percent;
• Electricity use by 25 percent; and
• Fleet fuel use by 50 percent.
According to Haft, the company has, to date, reduced water use by 43 percent, natural gas by 35 percent and electricity use by 25 percent-representing $70 million in annual savings. He noted that Frito-Lay’s fleet fuel has not decreased dramatically, but the company is exploring myriad options to impact this significantly-including the purchase of new fuel-efficient trucks (with up to 20 percent better gas mileage) as well as the testing of electric-powered trucks.
Following are a few of the key sustainability initiatives Frito-Lay has undertaken in the past decade:
• Installed the largest solar concentrator in the U.S. at its Modesto, Calif. plant. This solar concentrator produces enough steam to manufacture all the Sun Chips produced at that plant.
• Thermal mapping is conducted regularly at plants to identify energy leaks. When the company started this program, it operated at 85 percent energy efficiency. According to Haft, that number is currently near 100 percent. He also pointed out that each incremental 1 percent gain in efficiency gains nets a plant about $1 million in cost savings.
• Capturing heat from tortilla ovens to heat oil used in the tortilla frying process. The company also captures heat from potato chip manufacturing and uses it to heat the building.
• Recovering potato starch from the potato chip manufacturing process at 100 percent efficiency. This starch is dried out using waste heat from the facility and then sold to chemical companies to use in the manufacture of other products. "Not only has this been a case of zero potato starch wastewater, but it has resulted in an additional $7 million in income for the company," Haft noted.
• A Frito-Lay plant in Killingly, Conn., now uses waste heat to power a boiler system that provides all steam power used in the plant. This project delivered a 60 percent reduction in NOx emissions.
Haft also highlighted that Frito-Lay is "rapidly becoming a zero landfill company, with a goal of having less than 1 percent of company waste being sent to landfills within five years." He noted that 10 of the company’s 30 North American plants have already met that goal and that another 10 are expected to achieve it in 2010. He expects the company to fully meet the goal in 2011.
Moving forward, Haft says Frito-Lay continues to set lofty goals for its sustainability programs. The new goals for 2020 (based on current usage levels) are to reduce:
• Water use by 75 percent;
• natural gas by 50 percent;
• electricity use by 45 percent; and
• Fleet fuel use by 50 percent.

Given its track record so far, it’s a safe bet Frito-Lay will reach these goals.