The jellyfish may seem like an odd choice for branding an energy conservation team, but as Mike Hawkins explains, the choice actually makes perfect sense. Hawkins is the Director of Operations at Associated Tube Group in Markham, Ontario. He leads “Team Jellyfish”, the team established at his stainless tube manufacturing plant to find water and energy cost savings.

“The jellyfish is one of the most energy-efficient creatures in the animal kingdom and one of the planet’s simplest life forms,” Hawkins notes. Achieving energy efficiency by keeping it simple is exactly what Hawkins and his team have done. Since last year, they have identified nearly $30,000 in water and energy savings in their operations. In 2019, the changes are estimated to save $335,000.  

Mike Hawkins has been with the Samuel, Son & Co. subsidiary firm for more than 30 years. He knows the Markham plant operations thoroughly. “The plant was built in the early 60’s, but you’re always busy with production, managing the output. What made us take a closer look at our energy and water use was the corporate challenge we were given through the 360 Energy Coach Program.”

Team Jellyfish has six members, drawn from diverse roles in the plant. Their motto is “Always Think Conservation” and they wanted to set corresponding goals. One of those goals was to learn, in detail, how water and energy are used in their plant, which has over 300 pieces of equipment. Along with the other Samuel-360 Energy Coach teams, they report their findings quarterly to President of Manufacturing, Rod Crawford, who has taken a personal interest in this initiative.

Mike Hawkins says his team has learned a lot from participating in the 360 Energy Coach program. For others who want to undertake energy management in their organization, he has a number of observations:

Set energy efficiency goals and measure against them. “Don’t be afraid to take chances and make a few mistakes along the way. That’s how you learn and get things done.”

There is a maintenance component to reducing energy and water use. “Bring maintenance people onto the team. Having both electrical and mechanical maintenance people involved makes it better for brainstorming solutions.” Maintenance gains an improved understanding of how the plant works and it ultimately makes their jobs easier.  

Sub-metering is a necessary tool for understanding where to find waste in the production process. “It’s like looking at your bank account in detail versus just looking at the total.”

Recruit energetic people – preferably more than one for the team. They create a team spirit and the commitment they bring is infectious.

Don’t make any assumptions. Hawkins and his team assumed that an upgrade to their air compressor system a few years earlier had fixed air leakage problems. The 360 Energy Coach program forced them to take a closer look. When they did, Team Jellyfish was surprised to learn that air leaks and wasted costs had reappeared. The classic problem of attending to production, without continually checking on the status of equipment, was costing them money.

Recognize people’s efforts. It has been particularly meaningful that President of Manufacturing, Rod Crawford, has taken such a personal interest in their efforts.

Mike Hawkins describes 360 Energy Coach as a continual improvement program that is compatible with the Lean Six Sigma approach. “Our team has their Green Belt certification and this has helped us immensely,” he said. “It really teaches you how to think in a way that helps you effectively identify and analyze potential areas of opportunity. It also encourages teamwork.”

Mike Hawkins’ approach is to manage people by agreeing on objectives and encouraging collaboration and new ideas. “It’s like any sports team, you can bring star players together, but that doesn’t guarantee that they will succeed. You have to let people take initiative, manage by objectives, and let them surprise you,” he said.

When they were initially asked to choose a name, the Markham plant Samuel 360 Energy Coach team picked the jellyfish somewhat in jest. Since then, Team Jellyfish has had fun meeting the challenge of energy management. By keeping a simple focus on energy and water conservation, they have achieved serious results.

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