Efficiency is power

Energy efficiency is a thing to behold at Toyota

The Toyota Production System (TPS) in action is a thing to behold. While touring Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Inc. www.toyotageorgetown.com to research the cover story, “How power metering empowers Toyota” (p. 18), I had the opportunity to witness the assembly of a Toyota vehicle, from steel coil to the lights-on, horn-beeped, systems-checked finished product. An entire car is assembled in 20 hours. Two vehicles roll off the lines every operational minute.

Team members building a car resemble graceful dancers in a choreographed, synchronized ballet. Every movement is flowing, every reach an efficient one. As anyone familiar with the automaker’s process knows, this is no coincidence. This is the result of decades of deliberate process rehearsals designed to obviate waste in movement, materials, and energy.

While an editor of several other manufacturing publications, I have long heard expressions of admiration—and outright awe—from manufacturers who embraced TPS (also called lean manufacturing and a multitude of iterations). They have marveled at the time and cost savings they’ve realized once they embarked on their “lean journeys.”

At the core of TPS is waste elimination, and a component of that is energy waste elimination and energy efficiency. The automaker’s energy reduction initiatives cut in half the energy required to produce a car.

That is power.

Differentiating the Ares and Are-nots

Mastering energy efficiency is becoming the pivotal differentiator separating successful manufacturers from those that are not. As some regions of the world become more industrialized, and formerly abundant and easily accessible fossil fuels become less so, global demands on energy are increasing, creating a perfect storm of spiking energy demand and costs.

While efficiency improvements made by U.S. industry have significantly reduced electricity consumption, demand continues to increase. According to the U.S. DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), consumer demand for electricity is projected to grow at an average rate of 1.5 percent per year and by 45 percent overall by 2030.

Energy rates are rising with demand, and there appears to be no end in sight.

A careful examination of where the energy is being expended in industry reveals that nearly 85 percent of the direct energy (not including boilers) consumed in plants is in the process (“Process energy management nets best ROI,” p, 28).

Equally surprising may be the large amount of energy that manufacturers save when they save water, as revealed in “How 5 manufacturers reduced water use,” p. 32. “Saving water saves energy,” relayed Leon Marineau, of another eco-progressive manufacturer, Cascades Tissue Group (also our Gold Award winner of the Green Manufacturer Product Innovation Awards competition, p. 38).

Energy efficiency is the major feature of all of the electricity-pinching high-bay lighting showcased in “LIGHTFAIR® Spotlight on High-bay” (p. 44).

Energy Environmentalism

In its North American Environmental Report, Toyota Kentucky’s parent company, Toyota Motor Co., said that protecting the environment is a cornerstone of its business and describes the link between energy efficiency and environmentalism this way.

“Most of the electricity consumed in North America is generated from fossil fuels … These resources are non-renewable. Burning fossil fuels to generate power can lead to air emissions, impact water bodies, produce waste …

“These impacts, combined with the rising cost of energy, make energy efficiency a high priority for companies in all industry sectors.”

I’d add that energy efficiency is not only a priority; it is a paradigm for 21st-century manufacturing.

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