Surprising ways bakers save energy

by Charlotte Atchley
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The installation of solar panels at Bimbo Bakeries USA's plant in Escondido, CA, provides 30% of the electricity for the plant from a renewable energy source.
 

Energy — every bakery needs it to keep the lights on and mixers, ovens and freezers running, but the cost on the bottom line cannot be ignored. Not only does reducing energy usage provide financial savings, but it also can contribute to lessening a bakery’s impact on the environment and give the company a green halo that consumers find attractive.

“From an historical perspective, these are the ‘early days’ of energy reduction,” said Margaret Ann Marsh, director of sustainability, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, GA. “To stay competitive with rising energy costs, it’s essential that we continue to find innovative ways to reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency. Not only does energy reduction lower costs, but it also reduces the environmental impact on our communities.”

With financial and marketing incentives, it makes sense for bakeries to pursue ways to lower their energy consumption, whether that’s through equipment, operational strategies or finding all the hidden places where energy is seeping out of the plant and correcting them.

Some points of waste are obvious, such as excess lighting, the cost of start-up and shutdown, or the immense energy inefficient equipment takes. Others are less so, such as compressed air leaks. By taking a look at these areas of a bakery’s operations, bakers can curb energy waste and the costs associated with them.

Looking for savings

When trying to cut energy consumption of a plant, it’s all in where you look. There are some obvious choices, such as efficient lighting and equipment, but there can be some places where waste is happening that aren’t immediately clear. Finding those is a matter of knowing where to look. Programs such as the Energy Star program can help bakeries quantify lost energy and implement resources to trim losses and measure progress.

One of the most valuable resources to help identify areas to reduce energy costs is a bakery’s staff. “Given their close proximity to the production and distribution process and their hands-on experience, many years of baking experience, employees are often the source of some of the most creative solutions and successful ideas,” Ms. Marsh said of Flowers’ team members.

Baking companies with multiple locations can benefit from the sustainability experiences of its various plants. Larry Marcucci, president and CEO, Alpha Baking Co., Chicago, said the company has been able to adapt and apply sustainability initiatives from one plant to another. “Maybe one plant is using less than the others, and we dig into why, so we try to bring all those ideas that we can to all the plants,” he said.

Bimbo Bakeries USA, Horsham, PA, has made sustainability an integral part of its business model. “Having a global strategy focused on energy and fuel usage reduction, as well as having the correct resources working together is key,” said Ramon Rivera, senior vice-president of operations. “An internal team that is focused on identifying energy reduction initiatives is extremely important.”

Energy-saving strategies can also come from industry vendors; those that specialize in reducing waste can bring lessons from other plants to an installation, as older equipment can be a culprit in high energy costs. This can improve start-ups and shutdowns, which are major energy saps. “We implement new technologies to fine-tune operations and ensure plants have a smooth start-up and shutdown,” Mr. Rivera said. “We also develop new strategies such as alternative options to use less compressed air or replacing old technology for new, more efficient equipment.”

Mr. Marcucci had some advice for how to reduce or eliminate waste once an opportunity for savings has been identified. “First choice is don’t use energy if you don’t have to,” he said. Second, if the bakery needs the energy, negotiate long-term futures contracts with utility providers to lock in the best prices, he suggested. And third, if there is waste that cannot be avoided, find a way to divert it to be used elsewhere in the plant.

Continue reading to learn how to save money on lighting.

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