When we last asked Reader Panelists about their sustainable (or “green”) efforts in 2009, responses were tepid and uncertain. While their reported actions at the time were actually more significant than some of them realized, their overall sustainable activity seemed to be limited. As seen in the following Q&A (edited for space), respondents now report that their operations are on board with the value and meaning of sustainability, and that the concept has become an important part of their organzations’ cultures.
Q: On a scale of 1 (poor) to 10 (exemplary), how do you rate your operation’s overall sustainability?
“A 9… This company is committed to protecting the environment, controlling our consumption of energy and raw materials, and it embraces diversity in the workplace.” … Reliability/maintenance engineer, South
“A 7… Our company has taken a strong look at sustainability and even appointed a corporate director to head up the effort and improve our perception as a ‘green’ company. Websites have been developed, newsletters and blogs initiated and training on various aspects of sustainability have been developed. All aspects of the business are being looked at for improvements.” … Plant engineer, South
“An 8… Our company has made great strides in redu-cing energy consumption in the last five years. Once energy became the focus, groups were formed to find ways to reduce and sustain energy consumption.” …Production support manager, Midwest
“An 8… Because we’re doing a lot to recycle, buy local-ly, use alternative fuels and minimize landfill wastes.” … Utility maintenance engineer, West
“An 8… We even have a sustainability expert on retainer to get us there.” … Corporate engineer, New England
Q: How would you say this rating has changed in the past five years?
“Our sustainability effort in the past two years has allowed sharing and implementation of best practices between sites and also allowed some leveraging on costs of recycling with national vendors. Our awareness and implementation is now monitored and, in some cases, rewarded.” … Plant engineer, South
“Our company has made a conscious effort to put energy consumption at the forefront of everyone’s daily work life along with safety. Our Intranet always has articles or ideas on ways to reduce energy consumption. It also asks for ideas from all employees.”… Production support manager, Midwest
“Our sustainability initiative began about five years ago, so in that time it’s gone from not being a consideration to being a very big consideration.”… Utility maintenance engineer, West
Q: What are some key sustainable actions your com-pany uses right now and how successful are they?
“We have a world-class recycling program and routinely exceed our targets. We’re an Energy Star Partner with our power provider. And our company is committed to localizing our supply chain to reduce costs associated with moving materials long distances.” … Reliability/maintenance engineer, South
“1) Multi-site metrics on various sustainability action items toward recycling of cardboard, light bulbs, computer equipment, etc.; use of high-efficiency motors and freon conversions have created a visible and measurable comparison for the initiative. 2) Assignment of a sustainability director at the corporate level to oversee and provide feedback assistance on programs. 3) Newsletters and blogs on sustainability successes. 4) Better support for
expenditures associated with sustainability efforts.” … Plant engineer, South
“Our company has created plant-level energy teams that consist of cross-functional members who are tasked with creating projects to save energy. When a project is verified through data of the saving, it’s implemented through all plants to get the best energy reductions.” … Production support manager, Midwest
“Over 90% of our very large fleet of mobile equipment uses alternative fuels such as biodiesel or CNG, or are gasoline/electric hybrids, and most used oils are recycled and reused. Our Fleet Services division is nationally recognized for this accomplishment. Also, all of our construction contracts require some consideration for sustainability by the contractor, such as recycling of waste products. Our specifications have been updated to make any new buildings or pumping processes as energy-efficient as possible.”… Utility maintenance engineer, West
Q: What sustainable initiatives have you personally participated in at your company?
“I’m serving as one of my facility’s ISO14001 environmental coordinators. I have also participated in several energy-consumption reduction surveys and focus groups.” … Reliability/maintenance engineer, South
“I am directly involved in all recycling and purchasing decisions on the efforts around recycling. Tracking cost savings or expenditures around initiatives are also communicated by me.” … Plant engineer, South
“I monitor pump performance in near-real time and make rebuild decisions that weigh the cost of rebuild against the cost of energy lost to inefficiency. I also review all new designs for maintainability, reliability and efficiency.” … Utility maintenance engineer, West
“All of them.” … Corporate engineer, New England
Q: Describe the role of the maintenance department in your company’s overall sustainability efforts. How does it compare with that of other company sectors?
“Maintenance at my facility plays a vital role in sustainability. Many of the power-consumption reduction ideas come from within the maintenance group. Maintenance can have a huge impact on environmental issues [here] because it often deals with large quantities of petroleum products during the course of routine maintenance activities.” … Reliability/maintenance engineer, South
“At our site, the maintenance/engineering department will initiate and implement all new efforts toward the sustainability initiative. As plant engineer, I’m the main contact for all corporate initiatives and, with the responsibility for the maintenance department, it makes implementation easier. If maintenance/engineering can lead by example and communicate initiatives, other areas will usually follow our lead to support the effort.” … Plant engineer, South
“Our maintenance department is the key to overseeing and implementing any sustainability efforts within our company. We are the department that has our hands in every part of the operation.” … Corporate production support manager, Midwest
“Maintenance is stronger [than other sectors]. They’re part of all the efforts.” … Corporate engineer, New England
Challenges to sustainability
Despite clear progress in sustainbility, some Panelists say gains could be in jeopardy. As a New England maintenance manager notes, “Our department’s role in sustainability efforts has always been strong. But we have a workforce with a median service experience of 25 years, and the company doesn’t recognize that we need to bring in younger people and train them so we can achieve our [sustainability] goals.” He worries about the impending departure of at least four senior people who have 30+ years of service and trying to replace them with experienced personnel given a departmental wage structure that hasn’t kept pace with other trades in the area. “Our leaders need to enlighten themselves,” he warns, “to the fact that skilled tradespeople are difficult to find and require a decent wage to stay in the business.” MT
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