Compressed Air Systems / Energy Management

How to win at energy management

In this Big Picture Interview, Joe Ghislain says sell people on it in terms they understand, and embed it into your operations.

Joe Ghislain is retiring in October as senior manager and North American regional manager for lean supplier optimization at Ford Motor Co. In his 31 years at Ford, Ghislain has managed energy efficiency programs worldwide. He currently chairs two committees for the not-for-profit Compressed Air Challenge and is the end-user representative on the training and education collaborative’s board of directors. (In September, CAC is launching an end-user training program; learn more at Ghislain talked to Plant Services about selling your plant on the value of energy management.

PS: At a Kaeser Compressors Pressure & Profit event this spring, you said that no one ever got fired for using too much energy. Given that, how can energy managers “sell” plant-floor personnel and upper management on the value of using compressed air more efficiently and keeping compressed air systems well-maintained?

JG: I reiterate to energy managers that I know how they feel, because production’s the main thing. That pays the bills. Everybody needs to be in line with that understanding. When somebody has to take production down because an air compressor goes down, you get all kinds of  attention.
When I say things like, “Nobody ever got fired for using too much energy,” it’s just to indicate that you need to do (energy management), but you also need to recognize as an energy manager that there are also plant priorities that need to be taken into consideration. When you go through and satisfy all of those and reduce energy at the same time, that’s a win-win for the company.

I firmly believe nobody goes into work to do a bad job or to do something that’s not right. When you talk about technicians and the maintenance people, uptime and availability and air quality are going to be a big deal for them, because you can’t let production go down. Having (them) understand what the costs (of wasted compressed air) are and how much actually is used when they’re blowing off dust and using it inappropriately is an important part.

It’s valuable to go through and relate to them the costs in terms they understand. Ford has monitors in all of the campus break rooms, and I’d put up slides that were meant to be thought-provoking. One of them I remember using was, if (our) air leaks were water, we’d full the plant halfway up in a day-and-a-half. I got comments back from people going, “Gosh!”

Plant leadership, they’re going to know dollars and cents. ... They know cost, quality, and safety. Compressed air systems touch all of those.

A PM program, if you do it right, can make a huge difference. When I took over (Ford Motor Co.’s) Chicago stamping (plant) powerhouse, they hadn’t done a lot of compressed air system maintenance, and we were running a lot of downtime – like 108, 109 hours of downtime a year. And that would take out production, and that’s a lot. So I put in a PM system and rebuilt the whole thing. We spent some money, but when I left, we had only one 30-minute downtime interruption in the year. I remember having the plant engineering manager tell me, “I’m spending all my damn budget in your maintenance and your powerhouse!” And I said, “Well, you can look at it that way, or we can shut the plant down and use rental compressors and spend three times as much.”

PS: You also said that to achieve lasting energy efficiency, you need to make it part of what you do. What does that look like?

JG: That can take many different forms. With a lot of energy management and energy monitoring programs, we look at them as projects. We go through something; we fix something; and then we move on. But energy- whether you talk about compressed air or really any type of energy, it’s really an ongoing process, and it needs to be maintained and managed. And so whether it’s part of ISO50001 or part of ISO14000 or you embed it into your lean manufacturing process, the real key is going through and making it part of your standard operating procedure. At Ford, it’s built in as part of our Ford Production System. We have an Energy Management Operating System which are the rules and guidelines we have for doing energy management in our facilities. The plant managers, when they get their performance reviews, it’s built into it.

PS: Where do good intentions fall flat when it comes to energy management? Where does the ball get dropped?

JG: That’s a good question. Part of where I’ve seen the ball drop is where it becomes personality-dependent as opposed to operational-dependent. You have a real enthusiastic plant manager or hourly team member or an energy manager who will go through and push and do things, and then they get promoted or go on to someplace else and then it just kind of falls off the pace, or other priorities hit. That’s a big one, because if you’re launching a new product or you’ve got all this other stuff to be done, the energy kind of becomes a secondary thing and falls by the wayside

It needs to be embedded in the way you do business and it needs to be embedded in things like purchasing new equipment and making sure you have it as part of your specs. That’s the other big one, because you’ll have a situation where someone’s trying to reduce the cost to put it in to begin with because they have to hit budget. A lot of the times the things that get taken out are the controls and things that can make you more energy-efficient to begin with. If you do that, you really lose it, because once it’s bought and put in place, now you’re managing it at a less-efficient level.

Joe Ghislain will be speaking at the Smart Industry event, Sep. 18-20 in Chicago! Register now and use code 'PS' to save $150.