Energy efficiency is accepted as one of the most potent solutions for addressing climate change. While technology plays a crucial role in optimization of energy, it is simply a means. Real execution only happens when people at the operating level are empowered. The story is an example for anyone interested in energy efficiency to understand how the value of social capital enhances the value of technological capital.
Power consumption in spinning mills is one of the major operational costs. Sowmiya Spinners (P) Ltd, based out of Coimbatore was determined to reduce costs by optimizing power without compromising on the quality of the spun material and the work atmosphere. Through a smart monitoring framework that measures power consumption, productivity and performance of each machine, the company is saving nearly 1/4th of its total consumption which is about 10,000 units/day!
While that sees easy to emulate, taking the entire team on this journey is what is striking about this initiative. Mr. K.M. Chinnadurai, the chairman and his son, Mr. K.C. Karthick shared the value of revving up the ‘bottom line’ through a ‘bottoms-up’ approach. This is an exceptional story of the power of ‘listening’ from the grassroots and sharing the win-win benefits with everyone.
Drivers of energy efficiency
Bottom line: If more than a third of the conversion cost is power, would it not be sensible to reduce the cost for any company? The usual questions that are asked are, how much power can be saved and what do you do or invest to get the return on investment for monitoring and measuring. Would it not impact the quality of the product / performance?
The spinning unit was consuming on an average 45000 units per day in 2017. The mill’s management realized that the inefficient energy use is the prime reason for such high energy usage, ensuing high operating costs. In the endeavor to improve the energy efficiency, new monitoring systems for optimizing energy consumption were put in place. Employee awareness programs were carried out with the involvement of the management team and every employee on the factory floor was empowered to actively participate in the energy conservation programs. These changes brought about a significant conservation of energy and improved performance. The energy consumption now has reduced to about 35000 units per day, saving about 10000 units per day for 35000 spindles. This energy efficient shift has led to an annual savings of INR 2.5 crore.
How were the savings achieved?
It’s quite apparent that one has to delve deeper in the subject in-order to bring in such significant savings. Some of the key measures include:
- Optimizing energy consumption through 24×7 monitoring systems.
- Teamwork – creating awareness and empowering operators and department heads.
- Benchmarking each department and spot correction of deviants.
- Continuous monitoring of power, productivity and performance of each machine.
Apart from energy conservation, the group also derives 75% of its energy requirement from its own renewable energy sources.
“Industry associations such as ITF, with its collaborative eco-system have enabled seamless sharing and adaptive benchmarking. Seamless sharing of best practices/ideas have enabled us to achieve a benchmark of 2.82 UKG for an average count of 35.30. Adaptive benchmarking helps create a healthy competition between the member mills and strive for better results”- K C Karthick, Executive Director
How many people need to get trained in this project, how will labor understand the nitty gritty of power saving. What Mr. Karthick mentioned with humility is that the golden test is to see “what would I do in the circumstance if I were in the place of the person operating the machine or labor? We are using shortcuts and that is the significant thing in human evolution. We only need to solve that problem. “The ‘influential listening skills’ are perhaps one of the most under-rated forms of communication especially in top-down hierarchical systems.
The power of sharing:
While the management has the capacity of listening through deep empathy and direct dialogue, they did not want to leave it at that. They have incentivized the power saving with the entire staff. So, while the company saves money the incentive is passed on to those who help in achieving it.
Binding the social and technology together:
The litmus test of “getting into someone else’s shoes” is a reflection of values that Karthick says has come from his mother and his own spiritual pursuit. It is a unique blend of technical prowess mixed with humanistic values that have helped this company achieve the power savings. Saving the use of power is a win-win case for cost savings, being competitive, saving your business the disengagement that comes with top-down systems and harnessing the power saved for forging human values of empathy.