General Motors: Energy and Water Project Roadmap Accelerates Innovation
General Motors (GM) needed a way for plants to collaborate on finding energy and water saving solutions. Energy Treasure Hunts were working at the plant level to generate significant savings and production improvements, but opportunities to share project ideas between plants were not being realized across the company. GM set out to build a tool to record potential and implemented projects, and to provide inspiration and guidance for other plants to follow. The Energy and Water Project Roadmap tracks key project information and allows this information to be shared to utility and plant managers within all of GM’s United States facilities for research and planning purposes.
By developing a tool that is live and accessible across plants, project teams are encouraged to share ideas and data continuously. Microsoft Power BI, a dashboard and data visualization and analytics software, was incorporated into the Roadmap to showcase ideas and illustrate specific metrics and savings from each project. This is especially important because the project team presents specific metrics to plant leadership for every Treasure Hunt idea orproposal for an energy and water savings opportunity. The Power BI dashboard provides a clear and concise display of this information using plots and graphs, which depict total cost savings, energy savings, and progress against plant targets. By adding the Power BI reports, GM’s Energy and Carbon Optimization teams can quickly produce clear and colorful illustrations to show savings by plant, project type, utilities, and more.
GM’s Sustainability Goals set specific targets for energy and water intensity across the company. Improved communication and idea sharing are increasingly necessary to realize greater energy and water efficiency. The Roadmap addresses this need by encouraging plants to interact and collaborate to drive innovation and showcase energy and water conservation success stories. It provides a standardized process for documenting efficiency projects as they are being developed and throughout their implementation.
The process to develop the Roadmap began with each plant’s 2019 Excel list of projects. The first step was to collect the files and categorize them according to equipment, system, or utility it was associated with. Each plant’s list contained information on projects with associated costs and savings. Additional fields were added, including which plant production mode would accrue savings (production, non-production, holiday shutdown, etc.), and the priority level that the plant set the project at (on a scale from 1 to 3). Categorizing the projects that were initially logged in 2019 proved to be a time-consuming first step, however, this classification provided a useful structure and standard to categorize projects going forward.
Next, the Roadmap was converted into a tool that could be updated with information from all plants in real time. Power BI was initially considered as a solution for storing the Roadmap, but the Cloud-based database did not comply with GM’s data privacy requirements. Instead, the team used data tables in Excel to gather all plant information into each plant’s Roadmap so it could remain on GM servers. This provides the collaboration function between plants and enables teams to view opportunities from other plants in their own Roadmap.
After creating the “live” Excel tool, Power BI software was used to create a template report for plants to share information to plant leadership and other energy managers. This further encourages partnership between plants and between various levels of management by offering transparent displays of data in a succinct report. The Roadmap has been made available for plant use and is accessible from a central SharePoint site that plant leadership and plant energy engineers can view. This helps to bring efficiency and conservation efforts into daily conversations and practices.
The Roadmap is currently being used in Energy Treasure Hunts and for plants to track opportunities. After releasing the first version of the Roadmap, feedback from energy managers was used to improve the tool. It now hosts several tabs for specific applications, such as tracking energy opportunities during Energy Treasure Hunts and producing simplified tables for plant leadership. GM is continuously improving the tool as feedback is received to make the project-tracking process as streamlined as possible.
Tools & Resources
GM’s Sustainability Report: https://www.gmsustainability.com/downloads.html
Sample Roadmap Template:
The Master Project Input Table is a form designed to document EE best practices/ideas from various type of assessments: the Sufficiency Plan Project classification, for example, is used to document implemented projects that count towards the plant’s energy management plan. As displayed in the graphic, the Roadmap asks users to document estimated and actual energy savings and cost savings, project funding, and other project details to help project tracking and to help other plants understand how the project was conducted. The screenshot below shows some of the qualitative information that is requested.
Another tab in the Roadmap, called the Best Practices Table, is the tool that compiles project data from all GM plants in the United States. It includes filters so plants can specify which projects they’d like to view and updates frequently to provide the most current project data.
This sample screenshot of the Power BI component highlights some of the critical functions of the tool. It not only summarizes all plant project information in a table, but compiles comparisons between estimated, actual, and target cost and energy savings in clear graphics. Filters enable plant energy managers to refine their search to relevant projects.
Before the Roadmap, ideas that did not form into actual projects were not regularly tracked and shared with other plants. Collaboration between plants now occurs as project opportunities are logged and viewed by plants across North America. This collaboration enables generation of new ideas and innovative practices for project planning. GM expects to see improved energy and water efficiency at sites that participate in the idea sharing process.
In addition to the exchange of ideas, plants use the Roadmap to share project savings and data in more useful ways. Power BI software is used to provide descriptive visualizations of the data collected from each Roadmap. To report status and expected outcomes of projects in development, Power BI uses the Roadmap file system to produce outputs that can be used in multi-level reporting. Corporate-level reporting provides GM leadership savings and target metrics to evaluate gaps to reduction targets for GM’s portfolio of plants. Site-level reporting shows energy managers how their energy savings compare to other GM sites, and how much energy savings could be generated from projects that are underway or were implemented in other plants. Savings and cost information is reported on the Power BI dashboard interface to help prioritize projects and prove out best practices.
Additionally, energy team leads can track their own portfolio of plants to help prioritize projects and make necessary changes to meet GM corporate targets. Project success is monitored by comparing incentives, utility cost savings, maintenance savings, and other metrics to costs that are logged in the tool. Because these ideas are constantly updated by plant energy managers and simultaneously shared across all Roadmaps, project ideas and tool features will be continuously refined and improved.
The Roadmap has not been implemented long enough to estimate resource or financial savings, but it will be instrumental in helping GM reach its sustainability goals. The tool is already impacting energy and water efficiency within GM by encouraging plant-to-plant collaboration, inspiring project idea generation, offering unique illustrations of presentable data, and standardizing the energy and water project tracking process.
The tool has been used in several Energy Treasure Hunts and the captured opportunities become quickly available for plant energy managers to view and evaluate for their own plants. While it has already been launched to sites across the United States and Canada, plans to release the tool to plants in China, Korea, and Mexico are already underway. GM would like to also collaborate with other auto-manufacturers to establish similar practices and will encourage adoption of the tool across other industries inside and outside the GM supply chain.
General Motors developed an Energy and Water Project Roadmap to track key project information and allow this information to be shared to utility and plant managers within all of the partner's U.S. facilities for research and planning purposes.
Low visibility across plants on energy and water savings efforts and no easy way to share information on projects
Build out and maintain the Energy and Water Project Roadmap to engage plant teams and enable reporting of key project information
Plant teams can share innovative ideas and view data on over 4,500 energy and water projects