Change Minds, Not Equipment - Improving Energy Efficiency in China

Barry Piper
Improving energy efficiency has become a priority for many Chinese companies, particularly those in the intensive power-consuming sectors such as steel, ceramics, textiles, high technology and hospitality.

Energy is typically one of the biggest expenses, so improving energy efficiency really can improve a company's bottom line. Achieving this is undoubtedly challenging to begin with, but brings significant rewards in the end.

Many companies assume that energy savings mean capital expenditure, new equipment and expensive solutions. In fact it’s often more important to change the mind-set of their operations and their facilities management people. Companies also lack meaningful understanding of the way in which their facility use and occupation consume energy, because they only measure it superficially.

Energy is typically one of the biggest expenses, so improving energy efficiency really can improve a company's bottom line.

The good news is that some of our clients in China are now making impressive progress and are benefitting from our expertise in implementing energy efficiency improvements. These improvements lower costs, increase their profits and raise their greener public image. However, the journey typically begins with challenging situations, especially around changing mindsets.

As a first step, our energy and operational excellence specialists carry out energy and asset productivity audits and this often brings the first challenge: a lack of people responsible for tracking energy, together with lack of awareness of the way operations and energy consumption combine to affect the profits. This inattention to energy is not unusual in China as energy costs are often only noticed by the general manager or finance director when bills are paid, rather than those who directly impact the energy consumed at the operational level.

...some of our clients in China are now making impressive progress and are benefitting from our expertise in implementing energy efficiency improvements.

As our team starts to work closely with operations and facilities managers to gather data and identify opportunities for improvements, another challenge can appear.  Operations and facilities managers tend to believe that their energy efficiency is good. They may think that little or no improvement is possible without capital spending on new costly equipment, cutting-edge innovation to realise energy savings.

This complacency then turns to insecurity if the audit produces data to prove that improvement is achievable. Less cooperation may be the result. But eventually we get them on our side, through active engagement and constructive communications. Firstly we help them to benchmark their company’s performance relative to other companies - and the reality may not be good news. Secondly, the general manager or finance director starts to recognise that to benefit from our energy efficiency opportunities requires their leadership, and they send a positive message through the wider organisation.

...our energy specialists held regular performance discussions with one of our clients, providing a forum to drive continual improvement and determine the focus on equipment and behaviour.

Operations and facility managers then feel more positive and are more receptive to the benefits, not only to their company but to their personal professional standing. For example, our energy specialists held regular performance discussions with one of our clients, providing a forum to drive continual improvement and determine the focus on equipment and behaviour. This is helping everyone to contribute to the company’s energy goals. To date, we have identified a potential 35 per cent improvement for some of our clients and we expect to exceed this within 12 months.

To help ensure sustainable improvements, we implement rigorous data gathering and performance management systems, using our remote energy monitoring and metering infrastructure alongside any operational and facility changes.

So by changing minds rather than equipment, our clients now see energy efficiency. This really is about changing minds rather than equipment. Our clients now have a better understanding of energy efficiency and the ways it can help financial and operational performance.