How Travis Perkins is exploiting big data to maximise energy savings

Off the back of another successful year of energy reduction, British builders' merchant Travis Perkins is placing an extra focus on data analysis in order to take its energy management strategy onto the next level, the group's energy manager has said.

Speaking exclusively to edie ahead of his session at the Energy Management Conference in February, Adam Garbutt noted that he is looking to overcome some technological challenges managing data for the company which is structured around four divisions and 21 businesses, including DIY retailer Wickes and online trade tool supplier Toolstation.

The FTSE 250 firm is exploring the possibility of additional energy reductions through breakthrough technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and energy storage, and is “actively looking” at the opportunities provided by demand response, Garbutt said. 

“It is like having to work for four different companies at once, because Travis Perkins is separated into four different divisions,” Garbutt explained. “Everybody has their own requirements, so you might find yourself having to do something for one company that will take away time from another company – so there is always that balancing act. But that’s part of the job and that’s what we’re trying to deal with.

“Collecting the data is not too much of a problem, it is pushing out the data that becomes more complicated and in-depth, and we need to work harder at it.”

Right behaviours

As the UK’s largest distributor of building materials, Travis Perkins recognises the role it must play in reducing CO2 emissions in a notoriously carbon-intensive construction industry. Enhanced by a series of successful knowledge-sharing schemes and behaviour change programmes, the ISO14001-accredited firm has been able to reduce energy consumption across the business. 

According to the group’s latest environmental report, Travis Perkins reduced emissions from 206,587tCO2e in 2014 to 204,490tCO2e in 2015, including one notable achievement of an 11% reduction in emissions from electricity use.

One standout success story for Garbutt and his team has been the the Constant Energy Conversation challenge, launched in 2014 to encourage Wickes store managers and their colleagues to think more actively about conserving energy by switching lights and computers off when not in use. Each store manager, deputy and key holder undertakes an energy management e-learning course, leading to an energy management qualification from the Energy Managers Association. During 2015, 57 members of staff completed the course, and were then encouraged to join the Wickes online energy community, to continue the ‘Constant Energy Conversation’ with their colleagues throughout Wickes and the Travis Perkins Group.

This behaviour change drive was supported by a number of on-site solutions. Over 90 new stores were opened in 2015, all of which were fitted with LED lighting. Meanwhile, solar panels, provided by one of the Group’s own businesses, Solfex, were installed to Ryehill House in Northampton in 2015, making it the first Travis Perkins office able to produce its own energy. 

As a former energy manager for supermarket group Morrisons, Garbutt believes that “smoother, slicker” data will help to further improve Travis Perkins’ energy reductions in the long-term. But until that is fully achieved, investment in behaviour change provides the organisation with a solid foundation upon which it can continue to drive efficiencies.

“[Behaviour change] is the first step along the road to making sure the people on the ground are aware of what they need to do and are empowered to do it,” Garbutt added. “We’re going to look at getting behavioural campaigns rolled out across more brands.”

‘Next big thing’

Travis Perkins currently lacks the capability to deal with vast amounts of real-time data, Garbutt noted, but the the emergence of smart technological phenomena and green innovations such as IoT and energy storage could help to solve some technological issues. “We’re always looking for the next big thing,” he said. “We’re trying to understand how energy storage fits in, and trying to find if we can get the IoT into the stores that will actually benefit from it, so we’re always looking into the future and trying to find something new.

“We talk all the time about the IoT and whether or not we can get live energy information from sites, and actually being able to use a lot more energy data in real-time across the business.”

The company is also now considering the benefits of demand response measures, Garbutt said, but a balance is required to ensure that lighting and heating is provided for customers during peak hours.

“We’re looking at whether or not there is something we can do with HVAC systems, or other things such as forklift truck charging – we’re just trying to see if we can make relatively small tweaks and get a relatively large result from the back of that. Semand response is something we are looking into actively.”

Adam Garbutt at edie’s Energy Management Conference

Travis Perkins’ group energy manager Adam Garbutt will be speaking at edie’s Energy Management Conference at the Birmingham City Centre Holiday Inn on 28 February. Garbutt will be discussing the role of data in effective energy management strategies, explaining to delegates how businesses can maximise the potential of energy through successful data analysis.

The sixth annual edie Energy Management Conference is an essential one-day event for professionals who want to find innovative ways to reduce energy consumption, increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Find out more about the Conference and register to attend here.

George Ogleby

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