Sustainability: Lessons learned and the next 10 years

by Darryl Wernimont, director of marketing, POWER Engineers
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POWER Engineers

Green or sustainable design and construction remains one of the fastest growing initiatives associated with new construction, renovations and optimization of existing operations within the industrial manufacturing market. Ten years ago, one out of 100 food manufacturers asked about green or sustainable initiatives; today, everyone is discussing it at some level.

The growth has been unprecedented and correlates directly with the growing awareness of the impact buildings and operations have on the environment, costs, market image, employees and the communities where they’re located. Though the primary focus has been on new construction and major renovations, it has been the application of sustainable technologies and the projected results associated with existing operations that have continued to draw interest.

So what is next? Ten years ago, few firms servicing the baking and snack industry, and the food industry in general, had experience with sustainability. It was definitely a market differentiator for a small group of companies that were ahead of the curve and had a résumé to support the effort. Today, green or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is no longer a unique differentiator; those capabilities are now expected, much like safety and security.

The next wave or next generation of sustainability will involve a more focused challenge for existing facilities and operations; in many cases, this means taking advantage of the lessons learned from LEED-certified facilities and the products and technologies that have evolved. It is estimated that up to 60% of energy delivered to a food manufacturing plant ends up as wasted energy, with as little as 40% effectively being used.

A detailed understanding of the operational and energy performance of an existing facility will set the baseline for companies to employ sustainable technologies and improve operational costs going forward.

At the heart of this will be an increased focus on energy audits, which will identify useful and wasted energy in existing operations. With this knowledge in hand, a facility can take actions to achieve measurable sustainability. The actions taken will drive the implementation of programmable logic controllers (PLCs), PCs, software, instrumentation and alternative energy to achieve the sustainable objectives.

An energy audit does the following:

  • Maps existing energy distribution and use
  • Identifies areas of use (both efficient and inefficient)
  • Allows you to isolate specifics
  • Provides the ability to identify issues and drives options (monitoring, control, regeneration, alternative energy, etc.)
  • Provides details to apply hardware, software and instrumentation to control and monitor
  • Provides a baseline for comparison with viable alternatives
  • Creates a blueprint for other facilities.

Making predictions as to the direction of any trend or initiative can be tricky; however, the food and beverage industry is committed to sustainability. POWER Engineers expects that the following factors will drive the markets over the next 10 years:

  • Sustainability will be expected from:
    • Food manufacturers
    • Consumers
    • Communities
    • Government.
  • LEED will remain a primary driver
    • Certification will be a goal for some and a blueprint for others
    • Incentives and government programs will grow and drive programs
    • Lessons learned will be leveraged.
  • Food and beverage manufacturers will focus on:
    • Water
    • Energy
    • Waste.
  • Food and beverage manufacturers’ employees will focus on societal commitment
  • Recycling will garner greater focus
  • Optimization of energy use will be scrutinized (with an audit, monitor, control system)
  • Alternative energies will make gradual inroads.

This story is sponsored by POWER Engineers, which has one of the most comprehensive teams of engineers and specialists serving the baking and snack industry. As an extension of its clients' engineering teams, the company provides program management, integrated solutions and full facility design for the baking and snack industry. Learn more at www.powereng.com/food.

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