The core activities in energy-intensive industries – and all other industries – run on machines that are under the direct control and management of the Maintenance Department.
Indoor comfort in large commercial buildings and residential complexes are also controlled by the Maintenance Teams.
Since improving energy efficiency is a major worldwide concern, it makes sense that the activities of the maintenance department should be recognised as the linchpin in any energy efficiency drive. Find out the 5 ways to make your Maintenance Department more Energy Efficient.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there has been a slowdown in global energy intensity improvements since 2015. The agency further stated that demand for energy was pushed up by energy-intensive industries in countries like China and the United States increasing their share of industrial production. Again, the USA in particular recorded higher levels of energy demand related to building heating and cooling.
Based on the above findings, we can already begin to see how maintenance practices play a key role in energy efficiency.
Below we will be discussing how a Maintenance Department can become more energy-efficient. The goal is to simultaneously reduce energy consumption as well as money spent on energy bills.
1. Get maintenance staff buy-in
To get maintenance staff involved in energy-saving practices, start by educating them and letting them understand why this is necessary.
Rather than just telling them to change, the entire team needs to be convinced about the importance and benefits of this process, and how their actions impact the big picture.
Depending on the current work culture, introducing energy-conserving concepts could mean slight adjustments or major changes to current procedures. And as usual, change can be more challenging for some employees compared to others. So, it’s important that this new way of doing things is presented in a positive context with a focus on how savings in the energy budget can be diverted to other needs that will benefit them and the entire organisation.
2. Use energy tracking solutions
Another area that an organisation would need to look at is empowering the maintenance department with tools to identify the biggest energy-draining sources in the company.
In the same IEA report mentioned earlier, the agency identified the proven potential of digitalisation in modernising energy efficiency.
An important benefit of asset digitalisation is that it allows maintenance staff to use data-backed information to track and manage the energy consumption of assets under their supervision. There are numerous tools out there to manage this process usually starting with non-intrusive energy auditing – so as to understand the current state of things, then analysing and controlling the results.
These kinds of solutions will put a maintenance team in a better position to identify any gaps and optimise energy consumption in their facilities.
3. Upgrade to more energy-efficient resources
Organisations can invest in energy-efficient resources for their maintenance departments such as Energy Star certified power tools, devices, and work equipment. This indicates seriousness on the part of management.
Every time they handle one of those tools or use any of that inventory, they will subconsciously think about energy management. Actions like these can gradually help to create and sustain a more energy-efficient shift in the maintenance culture.
Added to that, the company may also decide to adopt a policy of using mostly spare parts and inventory that are energy saving. As the most basic example, an organisation may decide to keep at least 80% of its stock of spare light bulbs as LED rather than incandescent bulbs. LED lighting products are known to produce light approximately 90% more efficiently than incandescent bulbs.
4. Using proactive maintenance methods
A machine that is well maintained and running in optimal condition is more energy-efficient than one that is not. It’s therefore advisable that the organisation has a proactive maintenance program in place to guide the activities of the maintenance department. Although the process is largely automated these days by using a CMMS, creating and monitoring a PM program is one of the most important responsibilities of a facility manager or building manager.
Best practices for PM programs include regular checks of important assets with the aim of detecting problems and addressing them before the asset deteriorates to a point where it ceases to function efficiently. More advanced proactive maintenance strategies today go even further by delivering a maintenance program that is supported by real-time data coming from the asset. These kinds of strategies, e.g. predictive maintenance (PdM), enable a maintenance team to determine the most ideal time to maintain an asset and conserve energy.
5. Using lean management principles
There are several inefficient practices in a typical maintenance unit that often add up to make a considerable waste of energy. Since the fundamental objective of lean management is to eliminate all kinds of waste, introducing the department to lean principles can go a long way to boost energy efficiency.
For instance, one of the achievements of lean maintenance is just-in-time ordering; an efficient spare parts management model where the stock of spare parts and inventory items are kept to the ideal minimum without jeopardising the team’s workflow. A direct advantage of this is that there are fewer items in stock, less storage space to manage, and less space to keep lighted or cooled as the case may be.
Another example of applying lean principles is with the usage of lighting and HVAC systems. These systems don’t need to be left running all day, every day. Little changes like these can surprisingly translate into saving tens of thousands of dollars in energy bills annually, while reducing the building’s carbon footprint.
As we can see, the maintenance department of any organisation has a leading role to play in energy management. And the process of making maintenance more energy-efficient doesn’t have to be complicated considering the available technology today, and the numerous opportunities for improvements that exist.
What matters most is the commitment of all parties to get the process started and see it through.
Editor’s Note: This original guest article was published here with kind permission from the author, Bryan Christiansen.
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organise, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.