Taking Stock and Moving Forward
February 01, 2009
While recessionary times are quite painful for many, they are a very useful part of a business cycle. It is during these periods we step back and look at the fundamentals of our business. This look at the fundamentals positions business for the economic recovery and the inevitable growth that accompanies it. For the manufacturing sector, processors play catch-up during this time on work that couldn’t be done while running 6½ days a week. It is also a time to invest for the future. During recessionary times, belts must certainly be tightened, costs reduced and efficiencies improved. Let’s look at what plants can do to cut expenses and, in doing so, make conservation a value-added activity.
Conservation presents an opportunity to reduce costs and contribute to sustainability efforts. One of the first steps in conservation is to develop baseline data with regard to utility and material usage. Tracking usage enables a plant to differentiate between baseline facility usage and production usage, and it allows processors to monitor utilities during cleaning and sanitation activities. Concurrent with developing baseline data, plant personnel must take observational tours through the bakery on down days and during sanitation and production.
REDUCE WASTE. During these tours, look for leaking faucets, hoses and fittings; hoses and faucets without flow restrictors and aerators; or steam traps blowing through. Make a repair kit containing the various parts such as washers and gaskets that are needed for fixing these problems.
Cooling systems for compressors, chilled water, condensers or heat exchangers using potable water should be converted to closed-loop systems that employ air-cooled heat exchangers in place of water.
Proofers, ovens, coolers, cooling systems and compressors that are not shut down in a timely manner, or at all, can be unnecessary power drains. Consider installing process monitors and/or timers that minimize utility usage while assuring the line is ready when needed. A production line start-up checklist is an integral part of any plant, but facilities should also create one for shutdowns.
Minimize boiler blow-downs, optimize your chemical treatment program and use a conductivity monitor to minimize the frequency and length of blow-downs. Check the efficiency of the boiler. Low efficiency points to tube fouling or burner tuning issues.
Check outside lighting. Set timers and/or sensors properly so that they go on at dusk and off at daybreak.
REVIEW EMPLOYEE PRACTICES. Reinforce good employee practices and improve poor ones. Look at process usage. Does the water used in production approximate the required amount for the daily production run? If so, keep it up; if not, identify the difference and track down the usage.
Scrape out mixing bowls, bins and tubs rather than washing ingredients down the drain. Here, the benefit is multifold — manufacturers improve yield, reduce water usage and reduce solid waste.
Are hoses and faucets left running when unattended and not in use? Are water mixing valves left unattended with the bypass open to minimize the time it takes to reach operating temperature? If so, consider installing circulating loops on the water lines and make sure that piping is well insulated.
Are employees encouraged to recycle? Separate film, bags, paperboard and corrugated board to maximize their value to the recyclers. Put systems in place that make recycling everyone’s responsibility, and provide the tools to make the task easy.
INVEST IN THE FUTURE. Install energy-efficient lighting. Before turning away from fluorescent lights because of their historically poor return, look into T-8 amalgam bulbs, which are excellent in high temperatures and rated to provide a stable light output for 12,500 hours.
Install motion sensors with delay shutoff timers in areas with intermittent use such as warehouse space, storerooms and bathrooms.
Collect condensate return and use it for boiler feedwater or other heat exchange applications.
Ask associations such as the American Society of Baking and BEMA for help with these cost-saving activities. Also, involve suppliers for support in these areas.
This article can also be found in the digital edition of Baking & Snack, Feb. 1, 2009, starting on Page 14. Click here to search that archive.