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Darigold Develops Plant Energy Assessment Program

Through its participation in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Better Plants Challenge, Darigold set an ambitious goal to reduce energy intensity at its 12 manufacturing facilities by 25% over 10 years.  Like many other companies, Darigold has found that EnMSs, which establish mechanisms to keep plant and corporate staff focused on energy efficiency, are critical in helping the company meet its quantitative energy saving targets. Darigold went one step further and established an assessment and scoring system to ensure that each plant conforms to its energy management expectation and meets the objectives of the corporate energy policy. Specifically, the company’s Plant Energy Assessments Program is designed to evaluate each plant’s respective EnMS, track progress, and reward the highest performing plants.

Before establishing the Plant Energy Program assessments, Darigold sought buy-in from senior management. The corporate Energy Engineer understood that in order for the new Energy Program to be successful, it would require a structured and disciplined approach, similar to what is needed to conform with ISO 50001. While Darigold is not pursuing ISO certification at this time, many components of ISO 50001 are included in the EnMS the company’s plants are required to implement. The initial assessment criteria were developed between February and March 2013 and are summarized in an assessment guideline document that was provided to all Darigold manufacturing plants. Once the approval was obtained and the assessment criteria were established, Darigold’s Corporate Energy Engineer was able to roll the program out to all of the plants.

As an incentive, the plant with the highest annual score receives a “Green Light Award” trophy. The members of the winning Plant Energy Team receive an all-weather jacket that is customized to each individual’s wishes. Each plant employee gets a prize as well such as a lunch cooler, stainless-steel thermos, etc.

The Plant Energy Program assessments are an important element of the company’s strategy to develop a culture of continuous improvement toward energy efficiency. The program features assessment criteria—each with an associated point value based on its importance—that measure the activity and effectiveness of each plant’s Energy Team. Darigold provides each plant with the assessment criteria list in order to guide the plant’s energy-related activities. Then, during annual plant assessments, 2–4 team members from other Darigold facilities and invited guests from utility companies and other partners, visit each plant to evaluate and score the performance of the plant’s Energy Team on the criteria items. Team members’ individual evaluations are averaged to create criteria assessment scores, which are combined to form an overall score. The overall score can then be compared from plant-to-plant and also from year-to-year. Team members provide recommendations on how the plant can improve on each assessment line item. 

After each plant’s annual appraisal, the assessment team creates and releases a one-page plant assessment summary, which includes criteria descriptions, scores, and suggested improvements, which are provided to the plant and Darigold management. The plant can use this summary to conduct self-evaluations and correct the items that require improvements before the next annual assessment.

After all assessments have been completed, Darigold produces a Plant Energy Program Assessment Summary that includes assessment results from all 12 plants. It also includes a graph showing assessment results for each plant on a year-by-year basis (see Figure 1). The criteria listed in the summary are shown below, with possible point scores in parentheses (950 is the current combined maximum score, though this score changes every year as items are added or deleted):

Plant Energy Team Criteria

  • Cross Functional Energy Team (0-25): the plant has an Energy Team with a mix of skills and backgrounds and good understanding of the plant’s processes and equipment.
  • Team Charter (0-25): an updated and signed team charter is displayed on the Energy Team bulletin board.
  • Regular Plant Energy Team Meetings (0 or 100): the Plant Energy Team meets at least once a month (meeting minutes are required and have to be submitted to the corporate Energy Engineer).
  • Participation in Darigold Energy Team Conference Calls (0-125): at least one member of the Plant Energy Team represents the plant in every bi-weekly conference call.
  • Utilization of Energy Team Bulletin Board (0-50): a regularly updated bulletin board detailing Plant Energy Team activities is displayed in a high-traffic area.
  • Identify Energy Efficiency Opportunities (0-200): the Plant Energy Team identifies and lists energy savings opportunities, both capital projects and operational improvements, and respective action items.
  • Conduct an Energy Program self-assessment (0-25): A self-assessment has to be conducted at least 3 months prior to the actual assessment to allow for each plant to discover deficiencies and correct them in time.

Employee Awareness and Engagement Criteria

  • Employee Awareness (0-50): random employees are interviewed to gauge the Plant Energy Program awareness level.
  • Employee Suggestion Process (0-25): a process exists for non-verbal employee suggestions regarding specific energy savings or energy management improvements.
  • Visitor Suggestion Process (0-25): plant visitors – contractors, suppliers, and customers – are encouraged to make suggestions regarding specific energy savings or energy management improvements.
  • Awareness Campaign (0-25): employee energy awareness is increased through creative communications, including posters, banners, videos, and displays.
  • Energy Awareness Month Event (0-100): the plant hosts a special event for employees during National Energy Awareness Month (October), such as a barbeque or an Energy Fair.

Best Practice Guidelines

  • Continuous Air Leak Reduction (0-25): a continuous compressed air leak reduction program is implemented by the plant and total air leakage is quantified whenever possible.
  • Using No-Loss Drains (0-25): the plant uses no-loss condensate drains in lieu of timed moisture drains in its compressed air system.
  • Conducting annual steam trap audits (0-25): These audits had been performed in a few facilities but are now required for all plants.
  • Replace high-wattage lights in refrigerated areas (0-25): Since all lights produce heat, it is even more important to replace HID or other high-wattage lights in temperature controlled areas with energy efficient lighting in order to reduce the cooling load on the refrigeration system.
  • Ensure that compressed air point-of-use regulators are adjusted to the proper pressure (0-25): Regulators often get adjusted by production personnel to higher-than-required pressures. This will waste energy. Regulators should be labeled with their correct setting so it can be easily verified. Using tamper-proof devices is also suggested.
  • Implement automatic drum washing (0-25): Chemical drums need to be washed out before they are returned to the vendor. An automatic rinse fixture ensures that the drums are washed adequately, using the minimum amount of water. This is in lieu of manual washing where it depends on each operator how much water is being used or how adequately the drums are washed.

Energy Management

  • ISO 50001 Manual (0-25): the plant purchased a copy of the ISO 50001 standard and displays it in a binder in an accessible area.

The criteria list is being expanded every year in order to ensure continuous improvement of the EnMS.

Before allowing each assessment team to perform the assessments, Darigold provides training for all assessment team members. Training is performed through webinar conference calls that are held every two weeks. Training presentations on how to conduct the assessments and why they are important are covered in detail during these calls. Additionally, there are now quite a few employees who have participated in the assessments who can assist newcomers.

Darigold uses several tools as part of its Plant Energy Program assessments—an assessment criteria list, an assessment guideline document, a one-page assessment summary, and an annual Plant Energy Program Assessment Summary. These tools, described below, play critical roles in measuring the performance of each plant’s Energy Team and furthering progress toward the company’s Energy Program goals. 

  • Assessment criteria list – The set of metrics and key areas that all plants are measured against.  
  • Assessment guideline document – A summary of the assessment criteria.
  • Assessment agenda – An agenda outlining the typical assessment process. Click here to view a sample of the assessment agenda.
  • Two-page assessment Summary – A summary of each plant’s annual appraisal that includes criteria descriptions, scores, and suggested improvements. Click here to view a sample two-page assessment summary.  
  • Plant Energy Program Assessment Results– A summary of the assessment results from all 12 plants. It includes a graph showing assessment results for each plant on a year-by-year basis. Click here to view a sample Plant Energy Program Assessment Results.
  • Plant walkthrough checklist – Even though the assessments focus on how well the Energy Team is functioning, a plant walkthrough is conducted to look for obvious energy-saving opportunities. This also gives assessment participants a chance to view a process that may be unfamiliar to them (the plants vary from powder, butter, cheese, culture and fluid milk processes). During the walkthrough, the assessment team also looks for items that the Plant Energy Team is doing extremely well or for some unique ideas so that they can be included in best practice guidelines. Click here to view a sample Plant Walkthrough Checklist.

Scoring plants on individual assessment criteria enables easy measurement of each plant’s Energy Team performance. Darigold believes that high assessment scores can be correlated to improved energy performance because a well-functioning Energy Team and an effective EnMS can achieve great energy intensity reductions. Because assessments are conducted by plants’ colleagues and the results are distributed and discussed throughout the company, there is a built-in incentive to improve. Recommendations are also made to senior management on where improvements are required and how they can be implemented. Assessment scores can also be compared on an annual basis to ensure that each plant is improving.

The 2014 assessments showed an almost 23% improvement over the 2013 assessments. Most of Darigold’s remaining 11 manufacturing plants also raised their scores again in 2015, helping lead to an overall average 27% improvement in scores over the two years spanning 2013 to 2015 (see below for details; Medford was shut down in February 2015).  In addition, the 2015 assessment criteria was expanded and continues to provide numerous suggestions for how various Darigold plants can continue improving energy performance.

The correlation between a well-functioning Energy Team and good energy performance cannot be over emphasized.

The Medford plant achieved the highest energy intensity reduction in FY2013 and the highest Energy Program Assessment score in FY2014. At the time of the plant shut down, Medford had almost achieved its 10-year energy intensity reduction goal after only 3 years. Bozeman achieved the highest energy intensity reduction in FY2015 and came a very close second in the highest Energy Program Assessment score. Conversely, plants that are achieving low assessment scores are also lagging in their energy performance.

Darigold has also found that a large percentage of energy intensity improvements can be obtained without capital projects. Well-functioning energy teams focus on waste reduction and improving operational procedures before looking at capital projects.

Darigold Plant Energy Program Assessment Results Performance Scorecard

Darigold Plant Energy Program Assessment Results