Lighting a Candle for Energy Sustainability

There was a great teaching moment this week. As we were walking around the shop floor at the end of the day, the shift ended and people began streaming out of the factory. Soon the lights began to shut off. We were left alone, in the dark silence – but not quite.

In fact we noticed after few moments that there were quite many small sources of light across the 100,000 square feet of factory. Some of this light was from computer monitors, assembly station lighting that was left on and indicators or LEDs on equipment. None of this should not have been left on. The only reason we noticed this is because we were in the dark. Our gemba walk became an unintentional energy audit.
There was just enough light for us to allow us to keep walking around the shop floor. We used this as an opportunity to do a quick exercise to kaizen energy sustainability. In addition to rogue lights, there was also waste we could hear: humming sounds indicating motors running, fans blowing on idle machines, and most alarmingly the sharp hissing of the thin blue snakes coiled about the automation – leaking compressed air.

The safer way to do this type of energy audit is with a small team of people prepared to record and tag these wastes for quick repair and logging for root cause analysis. Other than a notepad, pen and some tape to add the tags, the only tool you need for this exercise is a candle. It is cheap, provides light, and will help you identify the source of the leak also. As you approach the hissing the flame will quickly dance when the air hits it. A flashlight and feather work just as well.

So the next time you can spare a moment at the end of the day, grab a few colleagues and light a candle to energy sustainability by walking around the quiet, dark workplace to turn off the visible and audible sources of your money going to waste.

1 Comment

  1. Robert

    March 9, 2009 - 1:27 am

    Great example! Maybe it is because we always look for big problems and forget the small and obvious ones (“low hanging fruits”).
    … hm…, if i think about it, the explanation could be, that you can’t be a “problem solving champion” in the organisation with computer monitors left on stand-by…