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Briggs & Stratton Instills Energy Efficiency within its Corporate Culture

Briggs & Stratton’s Continuous Improvement Program, similar to many manufacturing companies, focuses on analyzing elements that map value streams throughout the company. The new Energy Manager persuaded the head of the Continuous Improvement Program to formally integrate energy efficiency into the program, giving the company’s energy management effort greater structure, accountability, and credibility. For example, the program involves examining and scoring the energy consumed per engine produced at each plant on a monthly basis. This helps each plant’s energy team get back on track.

The company’s goal was to increase energy awareness, education, and accountability organization-wide, with an eye on the Better Plants Challenge goal of reducing energy intensity at each plant location by an average of 2.5% per year.

Adding Energy Management as one of the elements of the Continuous Improvement (CI) Program led to:

  1. Re-establishing energy teams at each plant location
  2. Assigning an Energy Champion for each team
  3. Scheduling meetings to review the status of ongoing energy projects and energy-team activities
  4. Engaging a key member of the Corporate CI team to help set goals and benchmarks for the plants

Energy teams at each plant typically consist of 6-8 plant employees that are led by the location’s designated Champion, the facility manager or energy coordinator. The Champion interacts with operations managers and oversees systems like chilled water, boiler systems, vacuum systems, and substations. Additional team members can include staff from accounting, procurement, distribution, and production control.

With energy management integrated into the Briggs & Stratton corporate CI program, energy champions at each plant are better able to engage with the Energy Manager to identify, fund, and drive more energy projects. For example, Briggs & Stratton is using a phased approach to implementing a ventilation project at its Burleigh facility in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.  The project improves thermal efficiency by installing new direct fired makeup air units, improving unit controls and upgrading the existing building automation system (BAS) with new controls that allow staff to schedule equipment operation over Wi-Fi and achieve energy savings by reducing the runtime of equipment.

Phase 1    Verify Wi-Fi strength throughout the plant and install new transmitters where they were needed to ensure signal strength.

Phase 2    Install controllers on existing equipment and near the locations of new equipment.

Phase 3    Install new MAU's

Phase 4    Tie in all controls to existing BAS.

Briggs & Stratton is also implementing variable-frequency drive (VFD) projects in several plants to reduce the electrical pumping costs for both hot and chilled water systems, budgeting several upgrades each fiscal year.   

The company relied on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and ENERGY STAR® materials, including ENERGY STAR’s “Facility Guidelines for Energy Management,” for guidance. The Briggs & Stratton energy team also engaged with DOE and ENERGY STAR organizations to leverage their extensive knowledge base and share best practices. The company’s staff found new avenues of technical expertise and assistance through Better Plants In-Plant Trainings. ENERGY STAR provided value through energy treasure hunts and helping with identifying root causes of energy waste.  Rockwell Automation software and hardware were also used to measure key energy sources in the plants.

Briggs & Stratton worked hard to win employee buy-in at the plant level. The corporate energy leadership regularly engaged employees and facility energy team leaders through group conference calls and personal visits to the plant locations. The plant energy teams also began holding monthly meetings to discuss new energy initiatives, progress on existing energy projects, and education and awareness efforts.

As of fiscal year 2014, Briggs & Stratton has reduced corporate energy intensity by 16.8%, or $70 million in energy cost savings since 2009. This progress has spurred interest in further energy reduction efforts company-wide, with greater support for energy management from company leadership.

As Briggs & Stratton has solidified its energy management program, next steps for the company include developing a more rigorous approach to tracking the energy efficiency improvements it is making. Measuring energy intensity in BTU per engine produced at a corporate level can be difficult due to the diversity of the products. The company is exploring measuring the same metric (BTU/engine) at each individual plant through the CI teams. As part of the Continuous Improvement Program, the company plans to conduct detailed assessments and reporting at the plant level going forward.