Friday, November 17, 2006

Wanted: Amnesty for Yesterday's Energy Waste

A lot of people in industry are afraid to admit that they waste energy. Top managers, especially, have no practical choice but to say we are already as efficient as we can be. Think about it: if a facility manager says “Sure, we have a number of inefficiencies, and they’ve accumulated under my watch,” how long can he expect to stay employed? Managers have to consider the scrutiny imposed by boards of directors and shareholders. Admitting to energy waste is an embarrassment with potentially dire consequences.

A similar sentiment manifests on the plant floor, where that’s the way we’ve always done it is a common refrain. Energy is not wasted on purpose or by design—instead, it is the natural consequence of having too few people monitoring too many dynamic business forces.

Manufacturing leaders need to “declare amnesty” for plant personnel who are on the front lines of energy use. Individuals should not be reprimanded for organizational gaps in energy decision-making. The causes of energy waste are deep-rooted. These causes took time to manifest, and are never limited to one individual’s actions. Energy solutions will depend on cross-departmental communications that may be unprecedented in many facilities. Top managers must recognize and untangle the organizational barriers that prevent collaboration.

For example, it is common for equipment operators to never see the invoices for the fuel and power consumed by their department. Accounting staff may not fully understand how energy consumption is related to the invoices they review. Organizational disconnects like this allow industrial energy waste to go unchecked. There are many other examples.

This explains the call for amnesty within industrial facilities. U.S. industry cannot afford energy waste, nor can it afford to waste time by trying to avoid or assign blame for yesterday’s decisions.



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