Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Manage Energy Like Quality

Corporate energy managers should apply lessons from the Quality Movement to drive organization-wide energy efficiency improvements.   Tools like Plan-Do-Check-Act and others are integral to continuous improvements in quality and are aptly applied to energy management.

Dr. Edward Deming, the Toyota Production Systems (TPS) and others sparked a radical change in thinking and approach for manufacturing in the early 1970s.  These approaches like Plan-Do-Check-Act that has been incorporated in the ENERGY STAR Guidelines for Energy Management and ISO 50001.

The Quality Movement emphasizes senior management commitment, broad employee involvement, performance metrics, and continuous improvement.   Here are some points from Deming's famous 14-point philosophy that are directly applicable to energy management:
  • Create constant purpose toward improvement
  • Adopt new philosophy [energy as a variable and not a fixed cost] and embrace throughout the organization
  • Stop depending on inspections
  • Improve constantly and forever
  • Use training on the job
  • Implement leadership
  • Break down barriers between departments [especially operations, maintenance, energy, sustainability, and finance]
  • Get rid of unclear objectives
  • Remove barriers to pride of ownership
Early in the Quality movement, some companies established large Quality Departments lead by a VP. This approach has been widely abandoned for a more inclusive and integrated approach that emphasizes that quality is the responsibility of all employees not just the quality team.  A quality leader (often a director-level role) acts as a coach and educator in concert with the CEO to drive quality awareness and ownership throughout the organization.  Corporate energy managers should adopt a similar approach.

Corporate energy leaders can also emulate how quality teams successfully presented a business case to senior management to justify a company-wide quality effort.  Like energy management today, quality programs were initially greeted with skepticism by senior management.

While the corporate energy management is a nascent but growing process in many organizations, there is no reason to have to invent tactics for success.   Learning from your quality peers will improve the success of your energy management program.

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