The Sustainability Buzz

What is a Baseline Sustainability Assessment?

GraphOne of the tools iSpring uses to discover cost savings opportunities is a baseline sustainability assessment. What is it and why do we find it such a valuable tool? Let’s look at the second half of the question first.

Reason #1: We believe that a systems approach is the most effective approach to identifying sustainability practices that will reduce costs. Too often, improvements are adopted within functional silos, often causing unintended negative consequences to other parts of the enterprise. This is what we call the “whack-a-mole” approach to sustainability. One area finds a great fix, implements it and, lo and behold, creates a negative effect somewhere else in the system. By looking at the system holistically, we can envision the ripple effects of proposed improvements to make sure that the sustainability of the entire operation is enhanced.

Reason #2: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, OR if you don’t know where you are, you can’t tell if you’ve made any progress going somewhere else. A baseline assessment identifies the appropriate metrics by which we can calculate if we’ve made progress in the right direction. If you don’t understand how much water you’re using today and you don’t understand the real cost of that water, how can you tell if a proposed solution will improve the situation? Frankly, you can’t. But a baseline assessment will give you those yardsticks that you need.

A plant-wide baseline sustainability assessment covers the major plant processes: 1) energy, including electricity, refrigeration, compressed air, and steam; 2) water; 3) solid waste; 4) building environment, and 5) transportation and logistics. Different facilities may require different areas of emphasis, particularly if significant work has already been done in some areas. The assessment begins with an analysis of the existing facility, resulting in multiple systems and process maps. The maps also identify the cost of each element in each component of the process. By adding the element cost at each step to the system maps, the improvement targets most likely to provide maximum reward for reasonable cost can be identified. Once the baseline is established, opportunities for improvement are identified. The drawing illustrates the major components of the baseline assessment and a typical project flow.

Baseline Sustainability Assessment Project Flow

The most critical component of a systems approach to a baseline sustainability assessment is the analysis that takes place following creation of the assessment and prior to opportunity development. Here, all identified improvement solutions are analyzed in a whole-plant context. The resulting coordinated sustainability matrix identifies those opportunities that are cross-system solutions and reduces the chances of sub-optimization. The final list of recommendations provides a roadmap for creating a more sustainable manufacturing environment.

Want more information on how a baseline sustainability assessment will lead to cost reduction and a more sustainable footprint at your business? Give us a call.

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