Efficiency Award For Colorado Brewery

By Suzanne Pletcher
From the September/October 2015 Issue

Leaders of the effort at MillerCoors Golden Brewery include (from left) Don Desfosses, chief plant operator at Golden Central Utilities; Phil Savastano, Golden Valley Operations vice president; Julie Smith, optimization engineer at the Golden Plant Technical Services; and Jeff Farr, senior process leader in Golden Central Utilities. (Photo: Southwest Energy Efficiency Project)

At the MillerCoors Golden Brewery in Golden, CO, employees found new ways to cut energy consumption per barrel of beer by 21%—and earned the brewery a 2015 award for energy efficiency from the Colorado Industrial Energy Challenge (CIEC). It’s the second such award in the last three years for the brewery located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

A voluntary peer networking program that brings together 30 of Colorado’s largest industrial companies to share expertise and progress, the Challenge is managed by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) in partnership with the State of Colorado. The award was presented to a group of employees at the brewery in August 2015.

“MillerCoors is a role model for breweries and manufacturing facilities in general. We’re fortunate to have their leadership in Colorado,” says Neil Kolwey, director of CIEC and senior associate at SWEEP.

Julie Smith is the brewery’s indefatigable energy engineer who is responsible for tracking down opportunities to save energy and water at the brewery. She recently shared five key reasons why the brewery continues to provide industrial leadership in energy savings and overall sustainability.

What is the most important key to MillerCoors Golden Brewery’s success in energy efficiency? Is it leadership?

Smith: Leadership support is absolutely huge, as is employee engagement and ownership. On the leadership front, we have several executives at the corporate level who are dedicated to energy reductions. That commitment rolls down to all of the breweries internationally, all of the departments within each brewery, the department teams, and finally to individual employees.

The main energy efficiency focus comes from South African Breweries Miller (SABMiller), one of our parent companies with breweries all over the world—including Africa, Europe, and North America. Africa has water-short regions, and European customers are very conscious of sustainability, so these factors influence our leadership. A brewery is an energy- and water-intensive industry, as most food industries are. Our leadership believes that, in order to be competitive going forward, we have to be sustainable. Our customers are aware of our consumption as they are of any large company, so there’s visibility like never before.

How do you translate leadership into action? Is that another key to your success in reducing energy and water consumption?

Smith: Absolutely. Right along with leadership comes what we call “scorecarding,” a reporting system of goals and metrics that lets everyone from corporate to individual employees know how we are performing in relation to our goals. Leadership sets goals for energy efficiency and pushes those goals out to each brewery throughout the corporation. In the U.S., the eight MillerCoors breweries are on a scorecard together. We are competing, but also working together. We see each other’s scorecard results every month, and the scorecard data goes back up the chain to corporate.

The strength of this system is its transparency and reporting. People need to see their results. They need to have a goal—the target that they are measuring against—and then see what their result looks like. All employees at the Golden Brewery see how their department did against goals on a monthly basis because I break out the energy usage each month for each department in our brewery—packaging, brewery, tech services, etc.

Our scorecard metrics are normalized to the volume of beer produced. We are using international units, so we convert our barrels to hectoliters, which also tells us how much water it takes us to make beer. We convert our energy use to the international unit of megajoules because we use both electricity and steam, and they each come in different units—kilowatts for electricity and million British Thermal Units (MMBTUs) for steam. We then express our energy intensity in megajoules per hectoliter of beer.

Each department has its own goals and metrics, which we roll up to the brewery metrics, and then the brewery metrics roll up to the corporate metrics. Each department gets their numbers every month and has them on their scorecards, which the employees get to see. We share our water and energy usage every day with every team member across the Golden Brewery.

At its Golden, CO brewery MillerCoors achieved the bulk of efficiency improvements by changing how it runs and sequences its steam-driven and electric compressors for the plant’s refrigeration and compressed air systems. The team that manages energy use there includes (from left) Dave Cook, Beau Davidson, and Jake Davis. (Photo: Southwest Energy Efficiency Project)

Leadership and scorecarding provide a solid structure for sustainability goals. What else is key to your ability to save energy?

Smith: Our culture—employee engagement and ownership—is key. We try to get people to think about sustainability, and we promote sustainability. We have a Green Team in each brewery. We do lunch ‘n learns to educate employees. We put up DOT flyers (“Do One Thing”) in places where people congregate. We give employees the information and give the idea a few months to sink in, and then switch to a new message.

Right now we are looking at how much of our carbon footprint as individuals is in our food, how much gets wasted, and how to reduce that carbon footprint.

We also have a bulletin board dedicated to energy and water and environmental metrics that is updated monthly. The hallway next to the fourth floor lunchroom is frequently visited; that is where we put the bulletin board.

We have a lot of passionate people who are active in sustainability. We have 900 employees at the MillerCoors Golden Brewery, and more than 200 of them are members of our Green Team.

With more than 20% of employees participating on MillerCoors Golden Brewery’s Green Team, is individual contribution also a key to your industrial energy efficiency?

Smith: Individual behavior is critical to our ability to reduce our energy and water use. We know that 60-80% of our energy savings comes from changes in how people do their jobs. In order to optimize that, three years ago we invested $3 million in meters that fill in information gaps so that we could understand by department and process area exactly where our energy was being spent. We call that Short Interval Control or SIC.

Now we can track the biggest energy users in real time—steam, electricity, refrigeration, water, and plant air. The rolling 24 hour graph shows how much energy the brewery is using, with a breakdown by department, and then further into process areas. That information is e-mailed to every Golden Brewery employee and provides a daily—even hourly—picture of our energy use.

We have some departments that use that information quite heavily and others that aren’t quite there yet. Our big effort now is to increase the visibility of real-time energy use. It’s much better for every team to look at those screens every day rather than figure out at the end of the month what was working or where they could have improved. SIC helps them be proactive rather than reactive. It was leadership backed up with corporate funding that drove this improvement.

What else is key to your energy savings?

Smith: We hire consultants to conduct audits of our processes and suggest what we can do to be world class in energy and water savings. We do this on an ongoing basis. In fact, we have a consultant here right now going through our water cleaning processes to find ways to reduce and reuse even further.

Also, we work closely with our electric utility, Xcel Energy, which helps us optimize our electricity use. We recently funded the installation of motion detector lights in our warehouses that stepped down our energy use there. Often we are able to take advantage of utility rebates to help offset the cost of energy efficiency improvements.

We got a huge boost when our utility operations team did a project in 2011 that required us to change how we ran and sequenced our compressors (electric- and steam-driven) for plant air and refrigeration. The plant normally tries to use as much steam as possible to take advantage of the site’s cogeneration system. We noticed during that project that our energy use went down if we used the electric rather than steam compressors during the summer. It took the team almost two years to develop and implement a new model for when to run the steam versus electric compressors, but it turned out to be a huge step forward in our energy savings.

We received the CIEC award this year primarily because of the energy savings realized in 2013, the first year the change in compressor operations was made permanent.

Network Of Breweries

MillerCoors operates eight major breweries across the United States—Albany, GA; Eden, NC; Elkton, VA; Fort Worth, TX; Golden, CO; Irwindale, CA; Milwaukee, WI; and Trenton, OH. In 2014, across these facilities, the company reported an average water-to-beer barrel ratio of 3.36:1.0, a 3.2% reduction compared with 2013. The Eden Brewery achieved the lowest average water-to-beer ratio in 2014 at 3.02:1.0. The Milwaukee site achieved the largest water use reduction, logging a 7.9% reduction compared with 2013.

In 2014, across its eight major breweries, the company consumed 121 megajoules of energy per hectoliter of beer brewed, a 1.7% reduction from 2013. Since 2008, MillerCoors has reduced its energy consumption by 800.6 million kilowatt hours. n

Pletcher is director of communications for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), a public interest organization promoting greater energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. SWEEP manages the energy award program discussed in this article.

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