ABA members become 'energy stars'
by Dan Malovany
For many years, the American Bakers Association’s Energy and Environment Committee talked about establishing benchmarks for sustainability, but the challenge has always been how to collect and share that data. In 2012, the committee met with Walt Tunnessen, national manager for Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star for Industry program, and heard how biscuit and cracker producers worked with the agency to develop Energy Performance Indicators (EPIs) for their industry.
The committee reviewed those EPIs and decided that it would be good to have similar indicators for the commercial bread industry. Participation in the Energy Star Challenge for Industry program is voluntary and designed to create specific tools for the baking industry, which help improve operational efficiencies and provide a benchmark to measure efficiency against industry peers.
Although the industry’s program is still in its infancy, several bakeries have already seen significant savings and improvements in their operations. In this report, Anthony Turano, director, of administration, Turano Baking Co., Berwyn, IL, and J.K. Evicks, environmental manager, The Bama Cos., Inc., Tulsa, OK, share their experiences and how the program put their bakeries on the path for continuous improvement.
Dan Malovany: Why did you decide to sign up for the EPA’s Energy Star Challenge for Industry program for the baking industry?
Anthony Turano: The Energy Star Challenge is a great opportunity to accomplish a number of goals. First and foremost, it provides a recognizable name — EPA Energy Star — that we can leverage in communicating our achievements to customers, employees and other interests. Second, it gives our people a clear goal to shoot for with that recognition available once the goal is achieved. Third, it helps us push energy savings initiatives by pointing back to the challenge as a driver for that investment. Last, it helps our ownership understand “sustainability” a little easier by focusing on goals and recognition.
J.K. Evicks: Bama signed up for the Challenge for Industry to sustain momentum for our company’s energy-efficiency efforts, and we wanted to set a good example within the baking industry.
What energy-saving programs did your bakery have in place prior to signing up for the challenge?
Mr. Turano: Previously, we started to implement lighting retrofits in our facilities, and we’ve identified the need in each of our facilities.
We also have a good history of tracking utility usage, so this helped us put that history into graphic displays that speak volumes about where we’ve been and where we need to go.
Mr. Evicks: We have been improving energy performance at Bama for several years, with formal metrics in place since 2009. Some of the programs included setting equipment standards, holding kaizen improvement events and tracking our utility information.
How did the Energy Star Challenge change the way your bakery now operates?
Mr. Turano: It hasn’t changed the way we operate as much as it helps everyone focus on energy reduction and savings. We still bake the high-quality bread we’re known for, but now we have a little more to the story we can tell our customers.
Mr. Evicks: Our facilities have seen the positive impact of identifying metrics and setting goals — we have realized more than 20% reduction in energy intensity over the past four years. While we have just started the Energy Star Challenge, I know it will encourage our teams to continually improve.
What were the easiest parts — and the most difficult parts — of the program for your bakery?
Mr. Evicks: The easiest part was signing up for the program — EPA and ABA have teamed up to make that process very straightforward. There’s no obstacle to getting started. The most difficult — but rewarding — part of the process is actually doing the work.
Mr. Turano: The hardest part is joining. Participating in an “EPA program” can sound like a dangerous proposition to some people, but once you realize and communicate that we’re just tracking energy and it’s going to recognize our achievement once we reduce our usage, it’s an easy sell. The easiest part is collecting the data; everyone has old utility bills or can retrieve them easily from the utilities themselves. It’s what you do with that data to achieve the challenge that is most important.
How did ABA assist your bakery in achieving its goals for the program?
Mr. Evicks: ABA not only coordinated with EPA to set up the partnership, but it also gave us the tools we needed for improvement. The energy guide is a perfect example of the many tools now available to bakers. Both ABA and EPA should be commended on their efforts. (ABA Energy and Environmental Committee has made available the “Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Savings Opportunities for the Baking Industry — An Energy Star Guide for Plant and Energy Managers.”) This guide is designed to help the commercial baking industry reduce energy and water consumption in a cost-effective manner while maintaining the quality of its manufactured products. ABA continues to develop new resources to assist and educate.
Mr. Turano: ABA helps us learn about new ideas and different technologies that are out there. ABA’s Environment and Energy Committee does a great job of sharing best practices, so we are happy to take advantage of all ABA offers.
Where have you seen the most significant savings in the short and long run?
Mr. Turano: The best savings have come in our electricity and gas bills, and that surely goes for the short- and long-runs. Reducing energy usage is great from an environmental standpoint, and it makes all the more sense when you put a dollar to it.
Mr. Evicks: Bama has seen slight improvements in the short run, but we’ve only formally been in the challenge for a few months. We will continue to track and validate our results.
How has the challenge made your company more competitive?
Mr. Evicks: The challenge serves to formalize the energy performance efforts we’ve had in place for a while at Bama. It’s provided good motivation for our team internally — the plant teams do strive to meet their goals, which may include doing better than their counterparts. We know that as we continue the program we’ll see greater savings and improved efficiencies that will make us even more competitive in the industry.
Mr. Turano: We feel that it has by addressing our costs. As previously mentioned, reducing energy keeps costs down in the long-run, so every effort to get usage to a bare minimum keeps us competitive.
Why should more bakers be involved in the industrywide program?
Mr. Turano: Sustainability and energy reduction is not a thing of the future; it’s a thing of the present. Customers around the world ask daily what we’re doing with sustainability, so why not be recognized for it by EPA? We are going to work toward reducing energy, and this helps everyone realize that the efforts are seen by others.
Mr. Evicks: Every company has different drivers, but this is a great program to help motivate your company, save energy and money and show stakeholders that your company means business.