Following the introduction of measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus on 23 March, many Scottish manufacturing sites ceased production. Now with the easing of those measures, factories will be making plans to restart operations as part of Phase 2 detailed in the Government’s ‘Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis’.
Our energy efficiency advisors have been thinking about what this might mean for businesses and how, during their preparation for resuming operations, manufacturers can explore opportunities to improve their energy efficiency and cut costs.
If your site has been in total lockdown, this is an ideal time to check your baseload consumption. Obtain energy data from your supplier, energy bills or meters to check what your baseload energy consumption has been. If this is higher than expected, investigate the cause – you may have equipment failures that are wasting energy and costing you money.
Since the lockdown began, the clocks have changed. So, unless you have a modern heating system with a clock that automatically updates, don’t forget to change the timers to British Summer Time. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting energy – and your hard-earned profits – to needlessly heat your premises when your staff aren’t even there.
If you are planning to introduce staggered starts or changes to shift times, then you should update heating (and lighting) control settings as appropriate. If there are areas of a building that are not going to be used, then consider leaving them unheated or setting the controls to provide frost protection only.
If compressed air systems have been unused for a period of time they should be serviced before they are pressurised again. The biggest cause of wasted energy in compressed air pipework is leaks. So, while your building is quiet and the system is pressurised, walk around and listen for leaks. Better still, get your hands on an ultrasonic leak detector.
Now might be an ideal time to fit variable speed drives (VSDs) to appropriate electric motors. As well as controlling the speed of a motor, VSDs can reduce energy consumption, improve process control, reduce wear on mechanical components (such as belts and bearings) and improve power factor.
Motors tend to have a long service life, so many are older types that may be inefficient are still being used. Should a motor fail when you restart your processes, consider replacing it with a high-efficiency model rather than getting it rewound. The extra cost of a high-efficiency motor will soon be repaid through reduced running costs.
In preparation for staff returning to work, no doubt you will be putting up a lot of new signs giving advice about social distancing, sanitising stations, seating arrangements in offices and so on. While you are doing this, why not think about labelling banks of light switches so staff know which switch controls which light? In this way, people only need to switch on (or off) the light for the area they are working in rather than switching the whole lot on in one go. Use our free template to label your light switches.
Some or all of your refrigeration plant may have been switched off at the start of lockdown. Before switching it back on, you should check condensers and evaporators – carefully removing dust, cobwebs, insects, etc; and carry out any regular maintenance recommended by the manufacturer. When refrigeration plant is switched back on, make sure that expected temperatures are reached and maintained.
If you cancelled routine maintenance visits during lockdown, then now might be a good time to reschedule them so that your equipment is ready to go when production resumes. Furthermore, consider using the time before restarting the plant to bring forward planned maintenance or upgrades. This will minimise problems on restart and avoid the costs and disruption of shutting down plant later in the year.
Finally, it’s always worth checking your energy tariff on a regular basis to see if you can get a better deal. If you haven’t done this for a while, why not make it part of your plans to re-open your site? Furthermore, you might be able to get a good deal on a renewable energy tariff.
If you would like more detailed recommendations on specific things your business could do to save energy and money, remember that Zero Waste Scotland’s team of Energy Efficiency Business Advisors is here to help. We provide free support to Scottish small and medium-sized businesses and access to interest-free loans to fund the implementation of energy saving projects
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Our free support to business is funded by the Scottish Government and by the European Regional Development Fund through the £73 million Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Accelerator Programme.