Baking

Scavenger hunts save money and energy

As bakers scour IBIE for their next automation solution, they’re not only looking for what serves them now, but also what will help them later. How the equipment works with the company’s current and future energy efficiency goals should also be part of this consideration.

“You need to start thinking if something breaks down, should it be replaced with the same equipment or do we need to find an option with a lower energy and carbon footprint in case the regulatory climate changes in the next 5-10 years said Walt Tunnessen, National Program Manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Industrial Energy Star Program.

The Energy Star program strives to help consumers and businesses save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. One of the first steps bakeries can take when looking to reduce their carbon footprint is to conduct a “treasure hunt” through their facilities to find and fix energy inefficiencies.

Scavenger hunts are designed to help businesses save energy by identifying opportunities for low-cost or no-cost energy savings. As with any successful project, careful planning is essential.

“To do that, you’re going to have to take time and plan,” Mr Tunnessen said. “Which bakery should we look at? Who needs to be involved? When do we do it? When is the best time to do it?”

The Energy Star website (www.energystar.gov/industrial_plants) offers several resources for plant and energy managers, including an energy scavenger hunt guide and company profiles that share the savings they’ve discovered. Energy savings come in many forms. These hunts require good planning and require some expertise and teamwork, but bakeries can adjust and adapt them to their own needs.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic put a pause on scavenger hunts, especially in the baking industry, Mr. Tunnessen said, and forced companies that continued to do them to get creative. .

“During COVID, people have learned some cool new techniques for doing scavenger hunts that we’re going to see become normalized in the future,” he said. “Using what we’ve learned about virtual meetings and working remotely, you can expand your scavenger hunt team with certain layers of expertise that aren’t necessarily available locally that you can now bring virtually.”

This includes contacting equipment manufacturers – especially those of more complex equipment such as chillers and ovens – and company experts who can work off-site.

Finding energy efficiencies requires expertise. For small bakeries where managers can wear many hats, this can be daunting.

“One of the things I encountered was the number of people we had who understood what we were looking for was zero,” said Billy Delaney, the former environmental health and safety manager for New Horizons. Baking Co., Norwalk, Ohio, who recently retired.

In 2017, Delaney was tasked with reducing energy consumption and waste water by 20% at the company’s Norwalk plant. He started asking people for advice and directions. He consulted the Energy Star spreadsheet for the Energy Star challenge and began to calculate the energy consumption of gas and electricity in the factory.

“I got a metric to measure it against their recommendation, which was in units, and figured out how many units we needed for a basic package of a dozen muffins,” he said. he declares. “When we did that, the spreadsheet started giving us data results, so we had a base year.”

To pass the Energy Star challenge, bakeries must reduce their energy intensity by 10% within five years. The Norwalk plant’s baseline year was 2018, and by the end of 2019 and early 2020, the bakery had far exceeded the challenge, reducing energy by 34.4%.

Energy savings are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. They need to be tailored to each bakery’s site and corporate culture, Tunnessen said. For example, the Energy Treasure Hunt guide suggests using three teams in the hunt, taking three days to conduct it, and starting on a non-operational day, unless it is a 24-hour operation and 7 days a week.

But bakeries can adapt the plan to their own needs.

Energy Star has developed a treasure map, which can be viewed online, to direct manufacturers to the best places to save money.

“A lot of what you find in treasure hunts are operational types of things, like leaving equipment running during plant shutdowns or on weekends,” Tunnessen said. “With compressed air systems, there are always opportunities to find and repair leaks.”

Compressed air is used in all manufacturing plants, including the packaging area of ​​bakeries, and it is expensive to manufacture, which is one of the biggest “Aha” moments for many bakeries, said Mr. Tunnessen.

Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Georgia, has an incentive program for workers to identify compressed air leaks in its plants.

“If there was a leak on the line, anyone working on the line could tag the leak and write their name,” said Margaret Ann Marsh, vice president of sustainability and environment, Flowers Foods Inc. “Engineers would come and fix the leak and add the names in a drawing for the gift cards. It was just a way to build excitement and raise awareness about this important issue. He builds this idea of ​​ownership on something that may seem small for a leak, but can create a big collective impact across 46 bakeries.

Another area where bakeries can save money is equipment optimization.

“In the bakery industry, there are a lot of conveyor systems and motors. A scavenger hunt provides an opportunity to ask: how many of these engines do we really need? Was the system oversized? Maybe try unplugging a few and see what happens,” Mr Tunnessen said. “But to do that, you really have to involve people who know these systems as well as people who can observe what’s going on. All of this really involves getting people from the factory more involved.

At the New Horizons bakery, success was about reducing waste and improving efficiency by focusing on where and why the line would fail and eliminating bottlenecks.

The plant has also modernized some equipment.

“We changed a lot of our conveyors; we reduced the resistance of the motors and how many we had on the line,” Delaney said. “We have changed and configured the way we process a product. We got rid of pinch points. We had better efficiency in sanitary cleaning and we had less downtime. We produce more products in less time with less energy consumption. We had more training for employees; we had better material handling, better product packaging.

The key was to reduce the number of bad pastes at the factory, eliminating the need to make them twice.

Some improvements to Flowers Foods bakeries included the addition of LED lighting, compressed air upgrades, improved heat recovery for hot water and facility heating, and upgrades refrigeration,” said Marsh.

Once bakeries identify the best places to save money, implementation comes next, which is never easy.

“What the scavenger hunt will do is identify opportunities for an action plan for a site, but you still need to assign responsibility for implementing it,” Tunnessen said. “If you’re the plant manager, you have to keep up to date with ‘What are we going to do first? What is our schedule? How can we keep track of what we do? These are things that are easy to stumble upon, but really essential.

Doing a scavenger hunt is just the start for many bakeries. And as companies seek to reduce their carbon footprint, Mr Tunnessen expects more talk to focus on decarbonisation in the future. This means making factories as efficient as possible. He encourages bakeries to get more involved in the Energy Star program to help.

“We have bakery businesses that have joined, but there are many that could become more active,” he said. “We also have new tools focused on decarbonization that are not available for free on the website. You must become a partner to obtain these tools. Energy Star also provides a lot of coaching and sharing of best practices between companies both within sectors and across sectors so that there are opportunities to hear what others are doing.