The Treasure Hunt:
• Orientation: Welcome the group and describe how the event will play out, including timeline, orientation of the buildings, which energy sources will be targeted, goals and methodology. "I went on to explain to the team that what we're really trying to do is reset our slope," said Paul Kearns, vice president of marketing at Exopack, which recently conducted a Treasure Hunt (see story). "Today, if we don't do anything and energy prices keep going up, our costs are just going to go up at the same rate as energy prices, because even the raw materials derive from oil." Don't assume people know everything. Explain the "5 Whys"-- Ask a lot of questions, and each question should be followed by at least four more to get to the root of the issue. Interview workers either on the team or onsite to understand the processes.
• Break out into teams: Maybe start with a tour of the facility to get behind the scenes and poke around places some haven't visited before. Make sure you walk through at each phase of operation: shut down, ramp up and full production. Don't forget the 5 Whys. Use your senses: Do you hear motors running when the facility is in shut-down mode?
• Create List of Project Ideas: Develop, brainstorm and refine your working list of ideas for process changes or new equipment. Quantify the return on investment for individual projects, as well as the annualized savings in terms of money, energy and emissions.
• Present Top Level Findings to Site Management: Present the findings and learnings to senior executives, including the top ideas, how much they will cost and how much they will save, in terms of energy, money and carbon emissions. Compile into a report that can be used as a tool to help guide your energy management program.
After the Hunt:
• Act: Examine which projects need a second look and additional research, which projects can be implemented right away, and which can be fed into existing processes for capital improvements or operating budgets.
• Communicate results: Keep momentum going and maintain interest by sharing the results from project implementations.
• Repeat: The Treasure Hunt shouldn't be a one-off endeavor. "What's interesting is you can find that 15 to 20 percent (savings) every time you do a Treasure Hunt every year or two years," Trask said. "You're always going to find things." Consider bringing in workers from other facilities if you operate multiple sites to replicate the process throughout the system.
• GE's ecomagination website offers several case studies from Treasure Hunts it conducted at different sites.
• An overview from E-Efficiency Partners that nicely synthesizes the steps in a Treasure Hunt while also adding tips and advice.
• EPA background on Kaizen events, which means continuous improvements, a philosophy espoused by Toyota.
• Look out for an upcoming checklist from EDF and GE on Treasure Hunts.
Miner photo from Shutterstock.