How do you get your employees engaged in the act of sustainable thinking in three days? Tap into their problem solving skills. A method developed by Toyota and recently refined by GE, the Energy Treasure Hunt builds off of the practice of kaizen, or continuous improvement, to find energy efficiency opportunities throughout a company. The idea is for employees to find small changes that can have an impact on the environment, which add up to large scale energy savings and big impact reductions in carbon emissions.
How it works at GE: teams are trained to identify energy-hogging power sources in large scale facilities, such as lights that may be left on, equipment operating, or motors running. The teams perform their work on Sunday afternoons, when the facility is on, but not actually operating, and encouraged to go and see what’s happening by walking around. Team members are trained to understand how wasted energy is translated into costs, and how to reduce these costs by making changes to operations or technology.
By Monday morning, teams perform the crucial step of interviewing facility workers about the opportunities identified for energy saving, which is necessary to get buy-in. By Tuesday afternoon, each team has a list of at least 10 ideas for energy savings, quantified by cost and energy emissions, and focused on projects on average have a simple payback of less than two years.
What are the results of these efforts? With over 3,500 employees trained to conduct the Energy Treasure Hunts, over 5,000 projects have been identified with the opportunity to eliminate 700,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, $111 million in operational cost. GE shows how lean thinking connects to green thinking for everyone’s benefit.