Using Your EMS to Improve Energy Efficiency

Why an EMS Approach?

With increased pressure to address energy and climate change issues, many organizations are leveraging their environmental management system (EMS) as an important mechanism for implementing energy efficiency initiatives.  This phenomenon is not entirely new.  The EMS approach has frequently been used across a broad array of sectors to facilitate energy improvements.  But new drivers related to energy reduction and greenhouse gas management are causing an even stronger focus on energy efficiency in the context of an EMS.

When companies begin examining how to improve energy efficiency, they quickly realize that some energy solutions are technological or design-oriented, while others are related to behavioral or operational issues.  Fortunately, an EMS can be adapted to address both categories of energy solutions.  For example, consider the following EMS implementation elements and the connection to energy:

Aspects & Impacts Evaluation –
This evaluation represents the foundation of an EMS implementation effort.  During this step, the organization typically considers all interactions with the environment - including resource consumption such as energy.  If implemented properly, the aspects/impacts evaluation should include a detailed examination of energy trends across the entire organization.  A reasonable approach would be to gather and analyze a sufficient amount of data to allow for effective management of energy, much like what is done with air emissions, water discharges, and waste generation.

Objectives, Targets, Programs – During this EMS implementation step, the organization establishes goals and targets based on identifying the most significant environmental interactions.  This planning step includes developing environmental programs to meet the desired goals and targets.  At this stage, the organization can determine the necessary personnel and capital expenditure requirements associated with design and/or technological modifications necessary to improve energy efficiency.  Given the close connection between energy and GHG reduction, integrated planning during this part of EMS implementation is crucial.

Training & Awareness – This area of an EMS is intended to ensure that employees are capable of carrying out their environmental responsibilities.  It is once again important to note that environmental responsibilities extend beyond discharges and releases to resource consumption as well.  When organizations perform an energy audit, they often find that inefficiencies are the result of inadequate training on equipment operation and/or insufficient understanding of how to minimize energy use in the process.  The training needs analyses and resultant programs developed under an EMS should absolutely address energy efficiency.

Operational Controls – Under this area of an EMS, the organization establishes procedures deemed necessary to control important processes and activities related to its significant environmental aspects.  With proper consideration of energy consumption patterns and optimal operating parameters for minimizing energy use, an organization can develop a set of energy management procedures that will enhance energy efficiency.  Often this step is taken after the organization conducts an energy audit.

Monitoring & Measuring – During this EMS implementation step, the organization establishes performance metrics and identifies preventive maintenance activities.  As with any environmental goal, achievement of energy efficiency goals requires some reasonable metrics.  Also, energy inefficiencies with equipment are often the result of inadequate preventive maintenance programs.  Thus, comprehensive monitoring & measuring parameters can contribute to improved energy efficiency.

Management Review – Under this EMS element, the organization reviews how well the system is enabling it to improve performance and meet environmental goals.  Typically, this step involves examining internal assessment and/or audits, progress toward achieving objectives and targets, concerns raised by stakeholders, and new regulatory developments.  Since energy efficiency is closely tied to other strategic issues (emerging greenhouse gas regulations, and shareholder demands regarding climate change transparency), the Management Review process offers an excellent opportunity for discussing integrated solutions.  Management review of energy practices can spark discussion leading to the creation of new goals regarding energy efficiency and greenhouse gas mitigation.

Available Management System Tools

Newer management system tools – including Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma – allow for a structured approach to achieve energy efficiency improvements.  These methods can easily be implemented via an EMS.  Indeed, many companies have used these methods to reduce energy and costs.  For example:[  ]1

  • Eastman Kodak (New York) conducted energy kaizen events under a Lean program that significantly reduced energy consumption and resulted in overall savings of $15 million at the facility over a seven-year period.
  • General Electric (Ohio) achieved an annual cost savings of over $1 million due to reduced fuel consumption realized through Lean implementation.
  • Naugatuck Glass (Connecticut) used Lean methods to cut product lead time and improve quality, while also reducing energy use by about 20 percent.
  • Lasco Bathware (Washington) achieved process efficiency improvements through a Lean project that avoided the need for extra oven drying capacity, saving over 12 million ft3 of natural gas and nearly $100,000 annually.
  • Steelcase (California) used Lean methods to improve operational efficiency and reduce energy costs by about 90 percent.
  • Toyota, the innovator of Lean production processes, has reduced average facility energy consumption per vehicle by 30 percent over the past decade, with a corresponding GHG emissions reduction. In 2006 alone, Toyota used Lean methods to reduce per vehicle energy use by 7 percent while increasing production by 4 percent.
Integrating the Lean Approach for Energy Improvement

An EPA-sponsored industry work group has developed and published an approach for integrating Lean manufacturing and energy efficiency efforts (US EPA, October 2007. The Lean and Energy Toolkit).  The Toolkit lays out this approach in nine overall steps broken into two main phases: (1) energy assessment strategies, and (2) energy reduction tools and strategies.  The adjacent chart gives a brief description of each step and how it could fit easily into a well-designed EMS.

Getting Started

How does an organization get started?  It is critical to have detailed, accurate energy data that can be analyzed and tracked to ensure improved energy efficiency.  Thus, most organizations will need to begin with a comprehensive energy audit, which may require establishing a special energy program under the EMS.  Once the energy audit has been completed and improvement opportunities identified, the energy management programs can be implemented and maintained continuously via various elements of the EMS – especially updated aspects evaluations, improved training and awareness programs, comprehensive operational controls, performance metrics monitoring,  and management review.

Trinity recently held several webinars on this topic – including a Six Sigma approach to energy efficiency and energy efficiency auditing.  For more information on these topics, please contact Rich Pandullo at (919) 462-9693 or 

1 Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website