Teamwork by Volvo Trucks Employees Yields Impressive Energy Efficiency Opportunities

By Better Buildings Beat Team on Oct 31, 2017

A collaborative approach towards energy efficiency can often yield better results than individuals working alone. This month, employees from two Volvo Group plants participated in a DOE Energy Treasure Exchange through the Better Plants program to uncover energy efficiency opportunities in their respective facilities. The first phase involved employees from Volvo’s Mack Trucks Macungie, Pennsylvania, plant, corporate HSE, Volvo Group Trucks Operations, Volvo Construction Equipment Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, plant, Prevost Bus and the Volvo Trucks New River Valley (Dublin, Virginia) plant performing an energy treasure hunt in the New River Valley (NRV) truck assembly plant. In the second phase, many of the same personnel conducted an energy treasure hunt the following week at the Macungie plant, which assembles Mack trucks. In both cases, at least one employee from both sites received specialized instruction so that they could serve as facilitators and perform internal energy treasure hunts in the future.

In both plants, cross-functional teams of employees evaluated each plant to uncover energy-saving opportunities. The teams were divided into three functional areas of each plant: Lighting and electronics, plant utilities (including HVAC), and processes. Before embarking on the mission, a briefing was held to go over previous energy efficiency efforts to understand what was implemented at each plant in the past. In most energy treasure hunts the focus is on finding operational actions that can be implemented quickly at little to no cost to achieve quick energy efficiency gains. Because Volvo has a strong track record with respect to energy efficiency, the teams at both plants approached each event with a broader scope. They started by seeking operational measures, but they had the acumen to identify more sophisticated energy-saving projects and were able to do so once they had exhausted the more straightforward opportunities.

As with all energy treasure hunts both the NRV and Macungie events started on Sunday at each plant. This was important in order to understand energy consumption patterns when no production is occurring.  Often, treasure hunt teams can identify equipment that may be on unnecessarily by comparing energy consumption the following day when production starts back up. In the case of the two Volvo Group plants many energy-using applications were not in use on the Sunday of each treasure hunt. However, teams in both plants were able to find a few lights and fans that had been left on, as well as a hissing sound from some pneumatic tools that indicated compressed air leaks.

Another reason for conducting energy treasure hunts is to challenge previously held assumptions of needed energy consumption. At the NRV plant the process team identified some large fans and pumps that were on, but were not seemingly serving any productive uses. Also, several inefficient pneumatic agitators were operating in a room that also had some explosion-proof electronic units doing the same work. At the Macungie plant the process team identified opportunities related to the paint shops such as reducing and maintaining final touch-up paint booth setpoint temperature to 70 degree F instead of 100 F and reducing old chassis paint booth supply and exhaust fan usage. The other two teams identified opportunities related to the compressed air system, lighting, electronics and HVAC. One opportunity involved reconnecting the plant’s Building Automation System to the roof fan louver motors to close them automatically during non-production hours.  

At the end of each event, both teams presented their findings to respective plant management. At the NRV plant, the three teams had identified total potential annual energy cost savings of $538,000 across building envelope, cross-cutting systems, e.g. compressed air, and process equipment. For the Macungie plant the three teams had identified total energy cost savings of over $134,000 which included more than 60% opportunities with paybacks of less than one year. Volvo Group’s energy management network is planning to conduct similar events at all their manufacturing sites on a regular basis. According to Bert Hill, Volvo’s Health, Safety & Environmental Manager and internal treasure hunt facilitator, going forward, “There is always low-hanging fruit; and the fruit tends to grow back every year or two. And, there are some bigger opportunities too, that require investment, although they have relatively short payback periods. So we've found a combination. The focus for the treasure hunt was really to identify operational and behavioral opportunities.” Prevost’s energy management team is also planning to start similar events starting in January 2018.  

Treasure Hunt Team NRV

Treasure Hunt Team Macungie

For more details on Volvo Trucks’ energy efficiency achievements, please click here.