Energy efficiency: 5 tips for manufacturers

UK manufacturers could cut their energy use by a fifth by implementing relatively simple measures

A forklift in a warehouse

As the economy struggles to recover from the effects of Covid, many manufacturers are missing a huge opportunity to cut costs: improving their energy efficiency. Government research suggests that on average, UK manufacturers could cut their energy use by a fifth by implementing relatively simple measures. Here are five ways to make your manufacturing business more energy efficient.

1. Measure everything

Getting a clear picture of your current energy use is the first step to reducing it. Gather as much data as possible so that it can be broken down by site, process and time of day. Installing separate meters for different sites and even individual machinery will help here. Specialist data analysis software can help you bring together the information from all these different sources and make sense of it.

The goal is to identify areas of heavy use which represent energy saving opportunities. This usually means company-wide changes, but your energy audit may also flag up anomalies (such as one site using a disproportionate amount of energy) which are going against company practice and can be fixed individually.

2. Don’t run it if you’re not using it

Does your business have defined processes in place for powering down machinery that is not in use? What about switching off lights? With machinery, you can save a significant amount of energy as well as wear and tear by ensuring that they’re switched off when they’re not being used. (The same goes for computers used by office staff.)

Lights are a different matter if you have employees moving around the site. The most practical solution is to have automated lighting that can sense when a room is occupied and there isn’t sufficient daylight. Motion-sensitive lighting is another possibility, but only if your workers don’t tend to stay in the same place for too long without moving. Test it in one area first to ensure it doesn’t plunge workers into darkness and present a potential safety risk.

3. Clean and maintain equipment

Good cleaning and maintenance will help to avoid multiple sources of potential energy waste. For example, inadequate maintenance of industrial compressed air systems can increase energy consumption in three ways: poor compression efficiency, leaking air or variable pressure. Having good maintenance systems in place will also slow down the deterioration of equipment and make for a safer working environment.

4. Rethink heating and cooling

Most factories will need to use some form of artificial heating and cooling, but there are many possible ways to reduce the energy demand of these systems. For example:

  • Use timer controls to heat or cool areas only when workers are actually in them.
  • Regularly check fridge door seals, condensers and the insulation on refrigerant pipes.
  • If your site has automatic doors leading to chilled areas or the outside, find out if it is possible to shorten the time that these remain open after use. A few seconds saved per use adds up to a lot of saved energy in a year.
  • Consider changing site temperatures to be cooler in winter and warmer in summer, provided that you are still following the HSE Code of Practice on workplace temperatures and considering the comfort of your employees. People may actually welcome less of a dramatic contrast between inside and outside, especially in summer.
  • Maximising natural ventilation won’t just reduce the need for air-conditioning; it also reduces the risk of airborne virus transmission.

Don’t forget materials

When we think about energy efficiency, it’s easy to forget about materials, but these are a significant source of energy use and energy waste. Could your factory improve its material efficiency by changing any aspect of what it produces, or the materials used? Could you use recycled materials, or reduce your use of packaging?

5. Get an energy health check

We’ve explained that the starting point for becoming more energy efficient is to get a clear idea of your existing energy use. Good Energy offers a free service called the Energy Health Check, which is a quick and easy way to get an assessment of how your business is using energy and advice on how to do better. You can get started straight away by filling in our online questionnaire, and you don’t even need to be a Good Energy customer.

Get an energy health check now

Beyond energy efficiency

If your business has already taken all reasonable energy efficiency measures, there may still be ways to reduce your carbon footprint and cut costs. Switching to a renewable supplier like Good Energy is the quickest way to decarbonise the energy use of your business and support green generators.

Some businesses may also consider becoming generators themselves by installing on-site renewable generation. You may do this simply to reduce energy costs, but some businesses may also choose to sell energy to suppliers, backed by the Smart Export Guarantee.

But before you embark on a renewables project, make sure you carry out the more straightforward energy efficiency measures first. Making your manufacturing business more energy efficient will cut costs and reduce your carbon footprint, as well as prepare you for a future where legislation and public attitudes will put energy-wasting companies at a disadvantage. Doing the groundwork now will future-proof your competitiveness.

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