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General Motors: Energy and Carbon Optimization Toolbox

The ECO toolbox was created to capture and organize this information and provide a central location (SharePoint website) where resources and tips can be accessed by local sites. The ECO toolbox includes a checklist that provides an overall view of plant energy and water usage and information related to best practices and shutdown performance. The toolbox covers foundries, as well as transmission, engine, stamping, and assembly plants.

When the ECO Toolbox is used and completed at a site, leadership discusses the information submitted by the plant. The report-out leads to the creation of an action plan list, which contains ideas that will be refined and presented to leadership after the virtual treasure hunt. Six sites have used the toolbox and developed action plans. This has led to the identification of energy and water savings of over $2 million annually.

GM has pledged to reduce operational energy and water intensity by 35% by 2035 against a 2010 baseline. The ECO toolbox and virtual treasure hunts enable GM to continue its progress towards these goals during periods of limited in-person travel.

GM began the development of the ECO toolbox by incorporating elements of two primary energy management practices used by the company: DOE’s 50001 Ready energy management program and the energy treasure hunt process. GM pulled together relevant tools and documents from the 50001 Ready program using DOE’s 50001 Ready Navigator. The 50001 Ready program is a self-paced, no-cost way for organizations to build a culture of structured energy improvement that leads to deeper and sustained savings without requiring external audits or certifications. GM adopted a similar approach to that of DOE’s 50001 Ready to share and track energy-related activities at sites and across the corporate portfolio. Additional tools from DOE’s 50001 Ready Navigator were also incorporated into the toolbox. Related to the treasure hunt process, GM pulled together a list of information that the company would use for an in-person treasure hunt and modified it to accommodate a virtual treasure hunt.

Development of the ECO toolbox took approximately six weeks. The toolbox establishes a common process to organize and evaluate a plant using GM’s existing energy reporting structure. The toolbox combines some of the tools and resources from 50001 Ready, along with GM’s Best Practice Reviews, Shut Down Reviews, and Water Practices into a central shared resource. The ECO toolbox also includes a task checklist that contains over twenty checklist items that, when populated, provide an overall view of each site as it relates to energy and water best practices.

The toolbox is hosted on an internal SharePoint site where plants can access the resources and share information with other sites. Using the ideas laid out in the toolbox, plants can generate a report that highlights specific findings, including priority Action Plan items, key performance indicators by business unit, sector Best Practices, and Shutdown information. When an ECO Toolbox is completed for a site, a series of conference calls are performed to review the information collected. This discussion leads to the development of an Action List, a document that showcases possible ideas that will be refined and presented to leadership after the virtual treasure hunt. The findings will serve as a basis for projects going forward.

All the information generated from the virtual treasure hunt is posted to GM’s internal website for use and sharing with other plants. This improves opportunities to learn and understand new Best Practices quickly and implement them globally across the organization. Progress and results are also stored in a dashboard. Because of the consistent methodology established by the toolbox, the data in the dashboard is stored in a common data format. The dashboard allows GM to quickly extract information about toolbox-related activities at the site-, department-, best practice-, energy saved-, and water saved-level. 

Figure 1: The ECO Toolbox Dashboard displays energy, water, and project-specific information

In addition to rolling out the ECO toolbox and virtual treasure hunt process at internal sites, GM amended the virtual treasure hunt process for multiple supplier sites. The process at supplier sites is similar to what GM does internally, with some customization due to tool availability at non-GM sites and different data reporting practices. 

DOE’s 50001 Ready Navigator - An online application GM uses to provides step-by-step guidance for implementing and maintaining an energy management system in conformance with the ISO 50001 Energy Management System Standard.

To date, six GM sites have used the ECO toolbox and developed action plans.  From the completed action plans, a total savings of over $2 million annually has been identified.  In addition, GM has facilitated the completion of four supplier virtual treasure hunts, resulting in an additional annual savings of approximately $0.5 million. As GM continues to roll the process out to other suppliers and sites, the company anticipates savings to grow rapidly.

The rollout of the ECO toolbox provides a consistent process for plants to evaluate and report their energy and water savings projects. A big advantage of the toolbox is that since it is virtual, several sites can conduct virtual treasure hunts simultaneously. This enables GM to achieve its goal of completing an ECO toolbox action plan at all sites and a virtual treasure hunt at every plant annually. Previously, GM conducted traditional treasure hunts every three years for each site. Completing a virtual treasure hunt annually keeps the company’s entire workforce focused on sustainability goals and activities. As sustainability focus areas change, GM can update the toolbox quickly.

Another advantage of the ECO Toolbox and virtual treasure hunt process is that it encourages improved communication within plants and between plants. The virtual meetings allow multiple plants to jointly participate in a treasure hunt and collaborate on ideas to reduce water and energy in their plants. Currently, the ECO Toolbox is being completed at thirty sites in North America and it has been rolled out in South America as well.