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Management Side
Week of 25 May 2020: One more view on energy trends

Email Jim at jthompson@ipulpmedia.com

The theme this month has been if you are concerned about energy trends, the best way to deal with this is gather as much information about energy usage activities as possible to be within your own control and then act on it. You can't control the price of oil, natural gas or any other fuel you buy in a mass open market. You can control how much of the stuff you use.

I recently joined a couple of groups on Facebook whose members are primarily retired hourly workers from our industry. These are great groups of people, obviously hard workers and lovers of our industry.

I have been struck by one thing, however. When I compare listening to them to listening to salaried professionals (sadly, my normal, limited coterie) it is as if we are in two different industries. The perceptions, concerns and wishes of this hourly crowd is entirely different from what I hear when I talk to salaried folks.

It strikes me if this is the case on general subjects, it is reasonable to think it is the same for detailed subjects such as energy.

The audience reading here is largely the salaried crowd. I have a question for you--do you expend the effort to train your hourly workers on matters such as energy use to the same extent you do the salaried folks? Shame on you if you do not. For, most likely, the valves are turned, the pumps are turned on and off by your operators and their subordinates--the hourly crowd (whether they do it physically or on a screen).

What I have observed in the past is this. A manager comes out of some detailed meeting, walks to the control room and gives a simple, perfunctory order to the operator on duty. This is the end of the communications. Two minute distillation of a 2 hour meeting. There is no evidence that the shifts off at that time ever hear the order, unless it is on a sticky note on the operator's desk when they come in for their shift.

Training in all matters, and in this month we are talking about energy usage, needs to be as thorough on the bottom rung of the ladder as it is halfway up. How many, no matter how their pay is calculated, walk by a malfunctioning steam trap day after day? Is it because they don't care or because they don't know? I had my first steam trap training in 1972, and I have been excited about the savings realized when steam traps are properly functioning ever since. I am not saying I have always been in a position to do something about it, but at least I have been aware.

Energy is saved by the milliliter, not the liter or dekaliter. In order to do this, you must have everyone looking for the opportunities. When I was a kid, in my bank passbook it said, "Save your pennies and watch your dollars grow." That's how it is with much energy savings. That is why we need everyone on board with a solid, deep understanding of what this means to the facility. So do your job--communicate and train.

For safety this week, people looking for energy savings can look for safety hazards, too. Energy and safety go hand in hand, as we have said many times.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

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