Operational Savings: Strategies for Food and Beverage Manufacturing

Food and beverage manufacturing, like all manufacturing plants, need to prioritize operational savings. Due diligence goes something like this: estimate projected energy use for the project, identify areas for energy reduction, and implement the best return on investment energy systems optimization measures. This three-tiered approach ensures substantial operational savings while maintaining the quantity and quality of the product produced.

But here’s the rub. Most food and beverage manufacturing plants produce a product that has a proprietary formula that requires specialized equipment. The specialized nature of food products can make it difficult to identify where to capture energy and energy cost savings. There are several obstacles that need to be overcome in terms of an energy efficiency strategy. First, any alteration to improve the efficiency of one portion of the plant can negatively affect the performance of the upstream and downstream equipment. Second, most manufacturing plants overhaul their facilities once every few decades, and incremental improvements do not tend to be adopted without resistance.

In the face of these complexities, a good way to measure energy performance is the key performance indicator (KPI): the cost of the energy required to produce one unit of the product, such as energy cost to produce one pound of coffee, or energy cost to produce one packet of cookies. This is far superior to measuring absolute energy use reduction, which is not the best performance indicator for food and beverage facilities. Comparing absolute energy use among facilities does not represent the complete picture: Each facility is so different and has such different technology that establishing a baseline for an energy performance and operational savings standard is too tricky to meaningfully attempt.

Many methodologies exist that can yield a reliable energy cost per product. What’s nice about the metric is it’s easy to understand how it relates to profitability. According to the article “Energy Efficiency May be Your Factory’s Golden Ticket,” the KPI also “allows comparison against the energy efficiency of other products within the same facility, against the energy performance of an existing facility and, if data is available, even against the energy performance of a competitor’s facility or a competing production technology.”

Many factors determine energy cost per product, and one of the most influential is the dreaded d-word—downtime. Regardless of whether it’s equipment malfunction or simply a machine changeover, downtime is detrimental to profits. When machines are not operating, money isn’t being made. Reducing downtime is an easy way to increase profitability. To do this, you need to have a thorough grasp of your equipment. Putting an equipment asset management strategy in place and embracing lean practices can lead to impressive improvements—most noticeably a drop in maintenance costs.

To sum up, identifying your energy cost per product brings with it a bevy of benefits. It tends to lead to energy cost savings, savvy energy performance targets for operations, USGBC’s LEED certification—and it can be used for some utility incentives as well.

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