Case Study: Marc Beaumont of medical supplies firm Smith & Nephew explains how to cut energy usage and reduce environmental impact

Smith & Nephew was founded in 1856 and has grown to become a market leader in the endoscopy, orthopaedics and advanced wound management sectors. It now operates in 32 countries, employs over 7000 people and generates annual sales of £1.2 billion.

The Hull site is the global headquarters for the Advanced Wound Management division and is the location of our largest manufacturing facility. The site occupies an area of 50 hectares and has over 1000 employees.

The need
During the last decade of the 20th Century de-regulation in the controls placed on the supply of gas and electricity resulted in an extended period of time when energy costs were reducing. There had been no incentive to spend time and make capital investment to manage the use of energy.

Conditions changed as the 21st Century approached. It was identified in 2003 that there was an increasing need to manage the site's energy usage and make reductions.

The two principal reasons for this were:

  • the increasing cost - the site had an annual energy spend of around £1.8 million for electric, gas and water services that was forecast to increase.
  • the need to consider reducing the environmental impact of the activities carried out on site to:
    reflect the philosophy of the Company's Sustainability Policy and
    comply with new legislation

    Energy reduction - new technology
    The most successful reduction in energy use through the use of new technology occurred through the replacement of a large absorption chiller with a number of vapour compression units. The absorption chiller had been in operation for a number of years and had been running on live steam for some time.

    Replacing the absorption chiller with the modern vapour compressor unit's lead to savings of over £150,000 per year in raw utility costs alone.

    Further advantages have included:

  • greater flexibility to run only the amount of chilling required
  • greater redundancy with standby capacity and;
  • a reduction in the quantity of CO2 emitted from site

    Energy reduction - smart use of existing technology
    A project that also involved modifying and improving a cooling system was started late in 2004. Four chillers were being used to cool separate floors of a manufacturing building. Initial plans for some refurbishment of the factory had included the installation of an additional chiller.

    On investigation it was found that the existing chiller capacity was sufficient to service the area to be refurbished without the need for an additional chiller. Further investigation discovered that due to the over-sizing of the chillers during initial installation many of them were often running either off load or on low load. This was resulting in the chillers operating inefficiently and causing excessive wear on the components that also gave higher maintenance costs.

    The four chillers were linked by a cooled water ring main that has resulted in only one chiller running during the winter when previously all would have been running on part load. This will be the first summer in use but initial signs show the system is working as planned, the different sizes of the chillers enabling the appropriate amount of plant to run to meet the required load.

    Energy reduction - Carbon Trust Partnership
    Working in partnership with the Carbon Trust an energy survey was conducted on site. This led to a number of smaller projects being put into action. Many savings were achieved with only minimal cost.

    A good example of smarter use of existing technology is how we provide compressed air.

    With the development of the site over a substantial period of time the need for compressed air increased. This increase in demand was matched by the installation of more air compressors.

    Recent changes to the nature of the manufacturing on site have resulted in reduced air demand at the same time as a compressed air ring main was completed. As part of the energy survey a record was made of compressors run time and time on load. From this it was possible to estimate the site demand for air. As a result it was found to be possible to turn off half of the compressors located around the site. This has not only saved almost half the cost but has generated further benefits from efficient running of plant and reduced maintenance.

    Site Communications

    Late in 2003 an 'Energy Project' team was established to help deliver cost savings and increase awareness of energy throughout the site.

    Communication was a very important part of the project, letting people know what we were doing and that they could actively get involved with the process.

    The most successful event during 2004 was The Energy Open Day where a large number of suppliers and relevant organisations such as the EST and local agenda 21 were invited to exhibit on site. The aim of the day was not just to make people aware of what the project had been doing and the savings that we were making, but to show them what they could do to make changes both at home and within the workplace. The day was very successful, personnel were given time out of their working day to visit the event, many people stated that prior to this they were not aware that the site used so much energy.

    The Energy Open Day was the start of getting people from across the site involved with the project, without people 'on the floor' it can often be hard to make some of the easiest changes.

    Funding from the Carbon Trust has enabled us to give energy awareness training to all of our operators on site. Following on from this we have done a number of smaller sessions with specific areas talking about energy and environment issues featuring a video and a question/discussion session that has had positive feedback. We hope to continue these throughout the office areas in the future.

    Although hard to quantify the savings that can be generated from people based in both the office and production areas turning off equipment over the course of a year, it can be noted over short periods.

    Over the year we conducted a number of spot surveys at weekends or on bank holidays, in both the office and production areas. By looking at the half hourly electric consumptions we could calculate savings made by ourselves turning equipment off compared to an average weekend.

    A trend was then established to show improvements as later surveys were conducted. Posters were generated to show what percentage of equipment had been turned off, and this proved of interest to the majority of departments. A pleasing aspect has been the steady decline over time of equipment and machines being left on during these surveys.

    The 'Energy Project' has now evolved into the 'Environment Project' spreading its reach further with the hope of delivering more benefits in more areas.

    Senior management support
    We are fortunate at Smith & Nephew to have management support. Without this we would not have been able to implement as many of the changes we have made to date. The most important thing is to maintain the momentum, projects deliver the savings and when these are realised this gives support for further projects. Maintaining interest is one of the hardest, showing people how they can save at home and at work will hopefully generate the culture change that is needed to result in an ongoing process of improvement were people expect to find things turned off and leave them in that state.

    Marc Beaumont
    Energy & Environmental Engineer Smith & Nephew
    Smith & Nephew
    http://www.smith-nephew.com


  • Tags

    case study | CO2 | Communications | gas | manufacturing | refurbishment | training

    Topics

    Energy efficiency & low-carbon
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