In today’s hyper-competitive food world, getting an edge by whatever means necessary can be the difference between thriving and just getting by. More and more companies are finding that making their central kitchens, commissaries and other facilities more energy-efficient is not only good for the environment, but good for their bottom line.
Chad Ott, co-owner of Pewaukee, Wisconsin-based design firm Mehmert Store Services Inc., says selling clients on the need to invest in more energy-efficient lighting is usually “an easy one.”
It wasn’t always that way, Ott says. When LED lights first came out, many thought it was too expensive to make the switch. That mindset has since done a 180 — and not just because of energy efficiency.
“We work with them to help them understand that an investment in an LED changeout benefits them in two ways,” Ott says. “It reduces costs, and it lights your product better.”
Putting in a new lighting system for one client, for example — one with sensors, dimmers and timers to limit use to only when it was needed — produced a 22% energy savings, he says.
In addition to lighting systems, the choice of compressors used to run the facility can have a huge impact on energy efficiency and savings, Ott says.
With older compressor systems, they’re either all the way on or all the way off, Ott says. Newer frequency drive and digital scroll systems automatically “communicate” with the cases and other equipment they’re running to see how much energy they need at a particular time.
“If a case needs 10%, it can get 10%,” Ott says. “When you go from 100% to 10%, you start to see efficiencies pretty quickly.”
In 2018, Mehmert worked with a client that used 12 compressors to run its building. The solution was replacing those 12 with just four energy-efficient frequency drive compressors that brought the company’s energy bill down considerably.
The cases companies use to keep their foods at the right temperature also can vary wildly in how much energy they use, Ott says. That same client that cut its energy costs by 22% by putting in more energy-efficient lights saved another 22% by installing cases that kept the cold and hot in just as well without using as much electricity.
Making sure air is circulating properly through a building is another way to help companies save big on energy, Ott says. “You can, for instance, put in a system to mix the dry, hot air near the ceiling with the cool, damp air on the floor, which makes everything run better.”
Best practices from Jorge Izquierdo, vice president of market development, PMMI:
Factor energy efficiency into R.O.I. and T.C.O.
Not too long ago, discussions about efficiency and sustainability were siloed, but that way of thinking has given way to an understanding that the two can be mutually beneficial. By minimizing the energy consumption of equipment, processors save on utilities in the long run. It’s a purchasing strategy that requires decision makers to see the bigger picture, and importantly, to factor these savings when determining R.O.I. for a new purchase as well as total cost of ownership (T.C.O.).
In the OpX Leadership Network’s Total Cost of Ownership Packaging and Processing Machine Guidelines for C.P.G.s and O.E.M.s, utility and energy expenses factor into acquisition costs. The guidelines encourage end users to consider compressed air, electrical, gas, water and water treatment when calculating T.C.O. Neglecting to do so can paint an incomplete picture and prompt companies to spend more in the long run.
Implement solutions that boost operational efficiency
As equipment becomes more energy efficient, it is also becoming more agile, fostering operational efficiency. Food and beverage processors pursuing a greater diversity of products that require shorter runs, shorter changeover times and streamlined cleaning efforts call for solutions that ultimately minimize energy usage and waste.
Clean-in-place (C.I.P.) options, modular components and user-friendly human machine interface (H.M.I.) technologies invite greater operational efficiency and contribute to reductions in utility usage and expenses. Inspection and detection equipment help processors identify potential issues early on, minimizing fully costed waste — and the much larger and costlier expenditure and brand damage that can come with a recall.