Finding The Gold In Green

Sustainability initiatives in the food industry's warehousing and transportation operations equate to bottom-line performance.


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Energy Mitigation

The commitment to build a LEED-certified building doesn't end once the building is completed. Sustainable responsibility continues. "We help companies operate and maintain their facilities to their specific design-performance levels," says Ellsworth at Infor. "Our continuous commissioning process, built into our software application, ensures the facility and its assets operate at optimal energy efficiency."

Ellsworth talked to over 120 companies around the world in the last year to discover concerns and initiatives in this arena. "Since energy is the single largest operating and maintenance cost, comprising 60 percent to 70 percent of a company's cost structure, these companies want to mitigate their energy consumption."

Infor helps companies maintain optimal energy performance of everything within the four walls of the facility by monitoring every energy-consuming asset. "We make sure they meet their production and throughput requirements for the least energy cost," Ellsworth explains. In fact, benchmarks have been established by the Department of Energy, Texas A&M University and others that report companies can expect to reduce energy consumption by six percent to 20 percent per monitored asset.

Every asset's energy consumption is metered. Infor's software applications factor in energy efficiencies of every system, maintaining the systems accordingly. "Understanding the actual energy consumption, we know the associated carbon emissions related to generating a kilowatt hour of energy to run a motor, for instance," explains Ellsworth.

Knowing how a motor was designed to run and what its peak operating performance is helps control its energy consumption. "If it starts consuming more energy than it was designed to consume, we automatically send out an alert or work order for the maintenance technician to fix the problem and bring it back into design spec," explains Ellsworth.

Infor also helps facilitate the replacement of equipment if more energy-efficient alternatives are available. "For example, knowing how much energy each individual motor is consuming on a conveyor line helps us determine if assets could be replaced in order to reduce a company's carbon emissions."

Ellsworth reports an ROI of three or four months is about average, after which the initial software cost pays for itself. He adds that companies might expect to save over 20 percent of their energy costs.

The Business Perspective

Lawson Software's entry into sustainability is a response to its customers' interest, which led the company to co-sponsor a study by AMR Research of manufacturing and services companies in the U.S. and Western Europe. They found that the leading sustainability initiatives were reduced energy consumption, emissions, water consumption, and solid waste.

"What we do is capture how much of these resources are being consumed in the facility," explains Jeff Frank, vice president of marketing and CSR (compliance and sustainability-related) guru at the St. Paul, MN-based company. The information enters Lawson's ERP software via the manufacturing process or through interfaces from metering systems provided by a third party.

Prior to the availability of these kinds of software programs, there was no way for decision-makers to have information they needed to make strategic business decisions to drive down costs, improve profitability, or reduce environmental impact, notes Frank. "Having this information in real time allows managers to see what their actual results are and if they are tracking to their targets."

Beyond managing and monitoring processes to assure optimal efficiencies, companies are also measuring. "Successful companies set goals for what they want to accomplish and they measure their progress over the course of time because you can't manage what you don't measure," notes Frank.

In addition to these best practices, Frank says the next level of sustainability will be designing products and manufacturing processes in line with environmentally friendly initiatives to reduce resources consumption.

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