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Blue Chip Firms Benefit From Cleaner, Safer And Energy-Efficient Manufacturing

Milwaukee, WI -- Rockwell Automation has released a new white paper that explores how world-class brands, The Boeing Company, Coca-Cola and General Mills, use sustainable production practices to help ...

April 1, 2009 | By MRO Magazine

Milwaukee, WI — Rockwell Automation has released a new white paper that explores how world-class brands, The Boeing Company, Coca-Cola and General Mills, use sustainable production practices to help manage today’s economic challenges.

The paper, Perspectives on Sustainable Production: Delivering Economic Value and Serving Greater Good, features viewpoints from sustainability executives at Rockwell Automation and its customers, all of whom consider sustainable production practices a necessity during the current economic downturn.

“Sustainability is just good business. Energy efficiency, improvement in recycling, and eliminating waste are things we’ve been doing since the 1990s,” Coca- Cola’s Mark Lee, director, Commercial Products Supply Engineering/ELSP, says in the paper. “We’ve been doing these things for the past 10 years and we will work on them for the next 10. It’s part of a continuous improvement culture and the relentless pursuit of waste elimination, whether it’s labour, inventory, energy or water. I think it’s a part of what you have to do to be a successful manufacturing entity.”

Rockwell Automation defines sustainable production as cleaner, safer and more energy-efficient operations:


• Production is cleaner when it reduces waste, minimizes emissions and consumes fewer natural resources.

• Production is safer when it protects workers from job injuries, the community from harm, processes and equipment from downtime, and when it helps ensure product safety and quality.

• Production is more energy efficient when companies produce goods with less energy.

“Rising prices and shortages of resources, whether of talent, dollars, energy or materials, have rewritten the economics of manufacturing,” comments Bob Ruff, senior vice-president, Control Products and Solutions, Rockwell Automation. “Sustainable production practices deliver economic value. They provide a long-term solution to volatile energy, scarce raw materials, costly workers’ compensation, lost worker productivity, and product liability costs.”

“In times of economic trouble, sustainable companies become survivable companies because they’ve driven inefficiencies out of their system,” adds Boeing’s James W. Fonda, advanced technologist, Networked Systems. “Any responsible company will continue to try to drive [its] bottom line home, so [it becomes] survivable in times when oil becomes more expensive and other economic problems bubble to the surface and cause havoc.”

All three of the Rockwell Automation customers agree that regardless of the type of project – energy conservation, water treatment or materials substitution, for example – priorities and success depend on being able to show how sustainable production supports a particular business objective.

“Which project is most important really depends on the business justifications for improvement, and that will vary by region and country. We have to make sure there is a business reason to improve and post gains against those metrics,” explains General Mills’ Jim Schulz, director, Controls and Information Systems.

In the white paper, Schulz cites General Mills’ waste treatment facility at its Covington, GA, plant as an example of how a project executed for typical business reasons also benefits the community and environment. The facility, operated with Rockwell Automation control technologies, recovers and treats the plant’s food-processing wastewater for reuse in non-food applications. While planning began years before, it went online in the summer of 2006 during the Atlanta drought. The facility has reduced the plant’s water consumption by an average of 46%, or about 5.3 million gallons per month, which is enough to supply about 1,000 homes. Schulz also notes the facility saves General Mills approximately $840,000 per year.

“Showing the benefits is clearly the single most critical success factor,” Schulz says. “The difficult part of that is sometimes those benefits are hard to see. That’s where information and their systems are so critical. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

“We’ve done a pretty sound job of driving energy improvements and efficiencies. Now we are looking at that next level where opportunities are harder to find and harder to justify,” explains Lee from Coca-Cola. “The next cut of granularity requires better data. That’s one of the areas where we partner with Rockwell Automation to deploy energy-monitoring solutions, which allow us to find those hidden opportunities.”

At Boeing, a pilot program includes wireless sensors attached to electric motors that monitor the operations and health of plant and facilities equipment, such as heating and cooling systems. By incorporating predictive-modelling technologies, these sensors can also recommend repair or replacement before problems occur.

“We’re modelling our processes to try to improve them. It’s one way we can look at how we can reduce waste and change processes before we make investments in those changes,” Boeing’s Fonda describes in the paper.

Ruff makes the point that today’s integrated control and information systems provide access to real-time data that helps lower costs and improve efficiencies.

“We need that kind of visibility so we can record and prove that we can make a difference in our factories,” adds Fonda.

The paper also includes a section that provides perspectives on future sustain-ability innovations. For a copy of this white paper, visit


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