Friday, November 03, 2006

The Little Company that Could (...control energy costs)

I visited a manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania this week that wants to do something about high and volatile energy expenses. They are learning quickly about the "medicine" for energy cost control. Many companies rely exclusively on capital projects to solve energy challenges. That approach may or may not work. The odds of success are better if behavior and procedures evolve before new hardware is acquired. However, "change" is a tall order for the staff of many facilities. You can see why, especially when rosters are trimmed to the bone and people accumulate multiple responsibilities. This situation is all too common in U.S. manufacturing today. Over-stretched workers crave routine-- it is relief from the "fire drills" that sometimes characterize today's lean-and-mean production environments.

During my visit to this Pennsylvania plant, I got a pretty good feeling that the people there can adapt. A positive, can-do attitude was pervasive during my walk-through. Staff people greeted me with smiles. The facility was clean and well-lit. The common areas and rest rooms were obviously well cared-for. Glass cases in the lobby proudly displayed their products as well as trophies from the little league teams that the plant sponsors. In short, there is evidence of a quality covenant between management and the facility staff-- a relationship of mutual respect and concern for their facility and its current and future viability.

There is certainly plenty of work to do there to get an energy management discipline in place. But at least these early observations assure me that this facility has the intangibles needed to be successful.



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