Business and Operations
Energy management in industrial baking
By Anatoli Naoumov
learn how something as simple as changing your lightbulbs can save your bakery big bucks.
By Anatoli Naoumov
Effective energy management in industrial baking revolves around two key areas: production and cost. In most cases, once the energy consumption involved in production is made efficient and free of inconsistencies, costs will decrease too.
Even a small difference in energy use can have a profound impact on production and quality. With that in mind, the ultimate goal of energy management is to maintain or increase production and quality, while reducing costs and energy waste.
Energy doesn’t just disappear during production process; it’s applied to your product. As a result, too much energy can be as bad as too little when it comes to production quality. Fluctuations in energy consumption not only signal a deviation in your equipment’s technological process, they often cause loss of quality and product itself.
As part of an energy project at Weston Bakery Sudbury, for example, we investigated production and gas consumption at oven level to determine what was triggering a gradual increase in energy use. Our analysis revealed that a simple maintenance procedure flaw was responsible for the following:
- deviation from the technological process,
- waste of natural gas, and
- compromise of product quality, leading to possible reputational damage
Following our findings, the oven’s faulty temperature sensor calibration procedure was fixed, and the bakery was rewarded with a 4 per cent savings of natural gas. Refrigeration systems are a perfect example of how energy optimization at the production level can lead to impressive cost cutting.
Optimizing refrigeration systems can cut electricity use by 30 per cent: Industrial refrigeration plants are commonly set to run at higher-than-necessary levels of condensing pressure. By working with an energy expert, however, operators can often reduce these set-points while supporting the same energy load.
In a pilot project at Sons Bakery in Brampton, energy use was cut by 13 per cent through a reduction in condensing pressure and operational changes alone. A roadmap was devised to reduce electricity consumption by another 25 per cent through the installation and proper setting of VFDs on condenser fans, brine pump, and circulation pump as well as further optimization of set-points. Optimization of the refrigeration system also released its cooling capacity, allowing the bakery to stick closer to its recipe.
Lighting retrofits are another energy management solution that can yield lucrative – and sometimes surprising – results. One industrial bakery manager stated that, energy costs aside, shortage of freezing capacity required them to use 3rd party freezer to meet demand for their product.
As it turned out, the bakery’s walk-in freezer housed 12 metal-halide light fixtures that were never turned off. The fixtures emitted 6.6kW of heat that had to be constantly evacuated. So, not only was the freezer generating a 42 per cent annual energy waste, its reduced capacity meant the bakery was forced to use a 3rd party holding freezer to store some of its product.
A retrofit to LED lighting increased production throughput, reduced product and energy waste, and eliminated need for 3rd party freezer and logistics. All in all, a $3,000 lighting retrofit saved the bakery a mind-boggling $413,400 a year.
Consider that the easiest way to increase your bakery’s profitability is to reduce your utility and energy costs. While energy savings can seem small and inconsequential, they’re the easiest costs to manage at plant level.
Cutting back on labour, or negotiating lower prices for raw materials, are far more challenging ways to reduce your expenses. One can mean dealing with unions, labour disputes, and lost productivity – the other is often at the mercy of market conditions. Every single dollar saved on energy directly bolsters profit. To add the same $1 to profit, a typical industrial bakery need to sell, produce, and ship $20 worth of product.
Some of the benefits of energy use analysis were made abundantly clear by the energy consumption data analysis we performed for Weston Bakery Sudbury. Through such analysis Weston Bakery was able to find operational inefficiencies, improve product costing, create more accurate gas budget for better procurement, and quantify various energy saving opportunities.
While energy in all its forms is what allows your bakery to do what it does, the smallest of differences in energy use can affect your production and costs in a very big way.
As a minimum, harvesting the low-hanging fruits of energy conservation will lead to a 10 per cent decrease in your utility (water, electricity, natural gas) costs, directly increasing your bakery’s gross profit margin. And all of that is achievable with next to no capital investment.
Managing your company’s electric, gas, or water-driven energy consumption shouldn’t add to your managerial burden. It should, in fact, make your life simpler. Partnering with an energy management consultant – and taking steps to measure and analyze your energy consumption data – can help your industrial bakery streamline throughput, sustain production quality, and ultimately cut costs.
Anatoli Naoumov is a managing director at GreenQ Partners, which helps identify, implement and report energy-saving projects. He has been named a Certified Measurement and Verification Professional (CMVP) by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) and the Efficiency Valuation Organization (EVO).