The cleanest, cheapest, greenest gigajoule is the one that’s never used.

Simplot Australia produces and markets many iconic Australian food brands, such as Edgell, Birds Eye, Leggo’s, Chiko, and John West. The company is following the lead of its US parent, JR Simplot, and is committing to reduce its energy intensity by 25% over ten years.

To achieve this, Simplot Australia is using requirements outlined in the Commonwealth Government’s Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) program—these measures have helped to instil a culture of energy efficiency at Simplot’s processing plants and offices across the country.

Senior leadership vital

Senior management have been involved from the beginning of the company’s energy efficiency program. Bryant and his team met with the Supply Chain Team's senior managers, outlining the legislative requirements of the EEO program, and reconfirmed with senior management the benefits of pushing energy efficiency throughout the company.

'Working collaboratively with our parent company, JR Simplot, and sharing ideas and opportunities across the Pacific, also supports our energy efficiency journey and pursuits', Bryant said.

Bryant notes that the rapidly increasing cost of electricity primarily associated with escalating transmission and distribution costs, plus the Commonwealth’s carbon price, will provide further impetus to reduce Simplot Australia’s energy use.

Bryant highlights the importance of mobilising the workforce to foster a successful energy efficiency culture.

The company recently surveyed staff to assess their views on energy efficiency. Over 80% reported they are actively reducing energy use at home and supported energy efficiency across Simplot.

‘If people are interested in energy efficiency at home, then they’re going to bring those good habits, ideas and support to work’, Bryant maintains. ‘Having a positive culture towards energy efficiency, as we do, supports good strategy.'

Role of energy champions

At each of Simplot’s manufacturing facilities, an energy champion has been appointed to facilitate the company's energy efficiency initiatives. Bryant lists a number of qualities which he says are essential for energy champions including being passionate about energy efficiency, having the respect of colleagues across the site and having the time to commit to make the program work. The champions have backgrounds in engineering, processing operations and accountancy.

We have a history of utilising cross-functional continuous improvement teams because with the skills and the input from a wide range of business experience you are able to discuss and assess opportunities to the full. This has been the case with our site-based energy efficiency teams.

As a team-building event, and an opportunity to share learnings and discuss processes, Bryant recently brought a small team of Simplot’s energy champions for a two-day Energy Efficiency Opportunities session with RET staff in Canberra, which his company initiated.

‘To ensure a consistent approach and provide an opportunity to easily and quickly understand what each site is doing, we have a standardised energy management process across our sites. We have developed standard templates which are located on a corporate SharePoint site’, Bryant says.

‘Staff can share ideas and see what’s going on. They’re familiar with the format and I think that’s worked reasonably well for us. I think the other important thing is that we’ve got a good process there for any future verification. We are developing a culture where every project is now seen as an energy efficiency project.’

‘We have developed a guideline sheet to ensure that energy efficiency is considered in the early stages of a project's development as this is where the thinking needs to start. We have also established a capital projects energy efficiency sign-off sheet to attest that we’ve really thought hard about energy efficiency’.

Getting results

Simplot Australia’s EEO Public Report for 2010 highlights major energy reduction initiatives the company has successfully implemented, including:

  • the installation of variable-speed fan drives to reduce operating demands on a major refrigeration system; saving 4450 GJ per annum, with an attractive two-year payback
  • replacement of a tunnel freezer using new technology, which will bring savings of 7000 GJ per annum
  • an energy-metering program to provide site-specific energy usage data to more accurately assess the effects of comparative energy-saving procedures
  • the repurposing of a significant waste-water by-product to create biogas via anaerobic digestion. Early results indicate that at least 60,000 GJ of biogas could be produced via this method at the Ulverstone (Tas.) site alone.

Additionally, the company has taken steps to reduce the amount of polyethylene and cardboard packaging on many of its products. A 5% reduction in the gauge of tinplate used for steel-can ends has also had an impact.

Bryant expresses a deep commitment to ongoing energy efficiency improvements.

My vision, where practical, is to be able to monitor gigajoules per case or tonne of product being put through a line in real time, and knowing that we are using the correct amount of energy and also knowing when we are trending away from that usage so we can investigate, correct and improve. This then allows both maintenance and production teams to understand the consequences of their respective actions.

To see this and other practical company presentations from the 2011 EEO workshops see the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Program website.