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Employees help pulp mill reduce $16 million annual energy bill

Image of the Canfor Taylor energy management team

Small but significant ideas help Canfor Taylor save $1.28 million a year

With an energy-intensive mechanical pulping process, it's no surprise that energy is the number one cost for Canadian Forest Products' pulp division in Taylor, B.C.

"Our hydro bill is about $16 million a year," says Craig Thomson, Canfor Taylor's energy and environmental supervisor. "So we work every possible angle to try to find energy savings, and that includes finding ways for employees to get involved in looking for ways to conserve."

The key: Convince employees that their ideas matter

Motivating employees to save energy can be tricky when many may feel it's hard to be noticed or to make a difference in a large corporation.

"Some people find it difficult to understand that their ideas and contributions are important, not only for us at the mill, but also to the larger Canfor community," says Thomson. "What works well here, what saves money — the ideas, the concepts and the successes — can be shared with other divisions and that's the power of true employee engagement."

Energy awareness event, newsletters get the word out

To encourage participation, Thomson and another member of the mill's energy management team, warehouse coordinator Sandra Jones, organized their first Energy Awareness Event in 2010.

And they were just getting started.

They followed up that first event with an energy newsletter they send out electronically and in print roughly every two months. And they used the newsletter to generate considerable buzz around their second energy awareness event, held in September 2012.

"We put a quiz in the newsletter and all people had to do was go through it to be entered into a draw for an energy-efficient, 42-inch LED TV," says Jones. "They didn't even have to get the answers right, although the majority did get them all."

A whopping 86.5 per cent of mill employees showed up for the second event.

"We put up posters, sent out emails and of course, had the draw for the TV and other prizes," says Jones. "I think we can safely say everyone knew about it and just about everybody got involved during the day in contests, displays like the compressor leak display BC Hydro brought along, etc. It was fabulous."

Employee ideas part of savings of $1.28 million a year

Those energy-saving projects — detailed in a Strategic Energy Management Plan developed with the help of BC Hydro — include major measures expected to reduce Canfor Taylor's overall energy costs by $1.28 million a year.

These include small but significant measures suggested by employees.

"It's really important that people see that we are taking their suggestions seriously," says Jones. "When they see their ideas go forward, when they see something physical happening, it catches on. It's contagious. And you can feel the culture change."

One employee idea, $18,000 in savings

Canfor Taylor is saving about $18,000 a year on energy and maintenance because "a guy standing in the smoke shack started to wonder why this motor is running all the time," says Thomson.

The employee handled the fix from start to finish, including designing a program to run the chip unloading conveyors and hydraulics only when required, while still making sure the equipment was available to operate when ambient temperatures were extremely cold.

The employee was recognized at the mill's first employee energy awareness event in 2010.

"People have a lot of time invested in this mill, and the more viable the company is, the better it is for all of us," says Thomson. "Yes, maybe people could just go to another job, but most want to do the right thing and help the company save where we can.

"It's good for the environment, too, to save energy as well as being good for the company's bottom line. We can make a difference here."

Hot tip for industrial energy managers

"Do not reinvent the wheel," says Jones. "We have a newsletter already set up — use it as a model. Whatever we have, we are happy to share."

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