McCain's production efficiency at Timaru

Most businesses can save serious money by improving energy efficiency
SUPPLIED/MCCAINS

Most businesses can save serious money by improving energy efficiency

Most businesses can save serious money by improving energy efficiency. The first wins can be easy – but then what comes next? One of McCain Foods' food processing plants found more than 100 energy opportunities by inviting staff to an 'energy blitz'.

McCain's french fry plant near Timaru operates 24/7, turning 146,000 tonnes of locally-grown potatoes into frozen chips every year.

Expectations for water and energy management are high. The plant has an Environmental Management System in place and is currently ISO14001:2015 certified.

An environmental team had early wins in water and energy management but its focus was on compliance rather than opportunity, and employee involvement was dropping off.

"We'd picked all the low-hanging fruit through previous work but we needed ideas to generate more energy and water saving opportunities," says Sonny Quilliam, production manager. "We knew they were there but we needed to shine a light on new possibilities."

McCain's french fry plant near Timaru operates 24/7, turning 146,000 tonnes of locally-grown potatoes into frozen chips ...
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McCain's french fry plant near Timaru operates 24/7, turning 146,000 tonnes of locally-grown potatoes into frozen chips every year

Quilliam and his team decided to run an Energy & Water Blitz – a short, sharp hunt for opportunities run over two days. Twenty people from all over the business were invited to take part, including management, maintenance, factory floor and administration staff. Having a cross-functional team of experts and non-experts was the key to making sure the right questions were asked. "They were all keen to be there. We made it clear there was no such thing as a silly question," says Quilliam.

On day one, the blitz team was split into four groups, each one with an energy management expert from McCain's or an external company such as DETA Consulting and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

Armed with a checklist to prompt team members to look for common energy-saving opportunities, the groups combed every area of the plant including the production plant, boiler house, cold store, potato storage, dry store, refrigeration and administration. The morning effort concentrated on energy loss, with water losses being the main focus in the afternoon.

One of McCain Foods' food processing plants found more than 100 energy opportunities by inviting staff to an 'energy blitz'
SUPPLIED/MCCAINS

One of McCain Foods' food processing plants found more than 100 energy opportunities by inviting staff to an 'energy blitz'

At the end of the day, the teams came back and every idea, big or small, was put on the table. The energy management experts then organised the opportunities in a spreadsheet - an impressive 113 in total.

On day two, the full blitz team went through a prioritisation process, ranking ideas against criteria such as implementation time, approximate cost and likely benefit. The top 20 were selected for immediate action and the remainder placed on the long list to be addressed in due course.

At the top of the list is a big project to optimise refrigeration systems that will save both heat and water. Other priority work includes recycling heated water instead of heating cold water from scratch, removing a pump that is no longer needed, fixing steam and water leaks and fitting flow nozzles to hoses used for washing down.

"I was delighted with what we achieved," says Quilliam. "Completing the prioritised projects will reduce energy and water use and save thousands of dollars a year. This frees up energy and water for the local community and allows us greater freedom to invest back in the business."

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Can your business benefit?

Businesses of any size can benefit from a hunt for wasted energy, says Paul Bull, EECA's business account director.

"An exercise like this helps to identify opportunities companies can act on immediately," he says. "The blitz worked well because it was well planned and had a clear scope. Also, the way staff were involved throughout the process gave them a strong sense of ownership."

For a checklist of simple ways to save money on energy bills in offices and on industrial sites, visit www.eecabusiness.govt.nz

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