By Maria T. Vargas, DOE on Apr 24, 2018

SWAP 4 is a showdown of manufacturing giants. L’Oréal USA’s North Little Rock plant and General Motor’s (GM) Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant are finely-tuned operations. At both locations, dedicated employees work alongside advanced robots (large and small) to create products we use every day.

Despite the imposing scale of both these operations, working with the teams in the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP always reminds me that the energy efficiency challenges we face are remarkably similar. Whether you’re operating a beauty manufacturing plant in Little Rock or auto assembly plant in Detroit – there’s a lot more in common than initially meets the eye!

So, when you watch Season 4 of SWAP, I encourage you to pay attention to how great it is when different organizations work together and find common themes and ideas that make a difference. After all, we can always be better. Studying how leading companies improve and operate is an easy way we can all improve.

As a partner in the Better Plants Challenge, not only is GM saving energy across all of their facilities, but they are sharing other things they are doing to invest in sustainability in new and collaborative ways. They harvest rainwater, share resources with neighboring plants, and are constantly trying to use energy-use insights to drive improvement (pardon the pun!). They’re also always on the hunt for new ways to improve, be they big or small, which is why they’re great at facility “treasure hunts” – a way of engaging employees to “hunt” for energy-saving opportunities. We can all learn from their ability to track down inefficiencies and correct them.  

Better Plants partner L’Oréal USA is focused on their 2020 goal to reduce water consumption, CO2 emission, and transportable waste by 60 percent. They have invested in a 1.2MW on-site solar array and composting program, and built a powerful culture of sustainability. Look out for all of the ways they celebrate their employees’ contributions to efficiency and how they empower them with the tools to lead more sustainable lives at home. We’ve seen the success of this sustainability culture across sectors and operation sizes, and even across seasons of SWAP. It might be hard to measure, but giving employees the opportunity to make a difference is a powerful X factor that every Better Buildings/Plants partner should strive to foster.

This is a rare chance to watch leaders at work. Take a look at their fundamentals, see how they tackle challenges, get inspired, and then get busy.

And have some fun too – those robots are cool.