Watson Inc. Takes Holistic Approach to Sustainability
For Watson Inc., running an environmentally friendly, sustainable business means continually assessing opportunities in their facilities, manufacturing operations and employee experiences. From on-site employee gardens, to efficient lighting to system and equipment upgrades, wide-reaching efforts prioritize energy efficiency and sustainable practices.
The third-generation family run company produces nutritional ingredients for the food, supplement, bakery and pet food industries and is always looking for new ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Watson Inc. executives knew there were areas in their facility and warehouse to cut energy consumption without jeopardizing the quality of their premium products. United Illuminating (UI), a subsidiary of AVANGRID, talked to Watson about energy incentive programs through the Energize Connecticut initiative, which would ultimately help them achieve roughly $181,840 in annual energy cost savings.
"We saw an opportunity to reduce our environmental impact a great deal and took this chance to do just that," said Gavin Watson, Vice President at Watson Inc. "From a financial point of view it can make you more competitive. From a human point of view, we all want to be part of organizations that are doing good things. Reducing energy usage is good for the planet and engages our employees. This project was a great way to share a meaningful experience, where our employees could use their strengths, learn new things and enjoy working collaboratively to reduce our environmental impact."
Watson explained that during an Energy Usage Assessment, it was determined that the air compressor system was responsible for nearly 25 percent of the overall electricity used in the facility. To reduce energy waste created by existing constricted air piping and the constant loading and unloading of the air compressor, a new 350 horsepower air compressor was installed, along with larger piping and a new variable frequency drive to help control motor speed and frequency. These changes reduced the air compressor's energy usage by about five percent and helped maintain better air pressure throughout the building, allowing for easier processes and more consistent performance from equipment.
Watson said this new equipment also allows them to "think outside the box" in terms of further energy efficiency and sustainable measures at both the facility and warehouse. The new air compressor can run at higher water temperatures than the previous one, meaning there is opportunity to capture the waste heat in the cooling water and utilize the heat elsewhere in the manufacturing process, i.e. using it with a heat exchanger to preheat cold air used in drying processes. These measures create opportunities for further energy savings and other sustainable operational practices.
Watson executives recently met with other business leaders to share ideas about energy savings, recycling, sustainability and employee and community engagement as part of the Business Sustainability Challenge (BSC) through the Energize Connecticut initiative. The BSC helps Connecticut companies learn about improving energy management practices and developing strategies to accomplish efficiency and sustainability goals to become more competitive and profitable in their industries. According to Watson when a company looks to take its sustainability strategy to the next level, engaging employees is crucial if it is to succeed.
"The BSC is a great program that allows us to showcase what we have done but also to visit other companies and see what they have done and what their approach is," said Watson. "Our larger customers send us surveys to see what we are doing to reduce our energy usage, they like to hear we're doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint."
Watson worked with consulting firm Leanovations through the Process Reengineering for Increased Manufacturing Efficiency (PRIME) program, which helps businesses evaluate and identify inefficiencies and waste in their operations. Together, they assembled a volunteer team consisting of eight administrative, maintenance and analytical lab employees from Watson who were trained to measure energy usage throughout the two buildings. As part of the Energy Usage Assessment, the team measured everything, from counting light fixtures to collecting motor efficiency data, HVAC efficiency and load data, and measuring compressed air leaks and the efficiency of the facility's air compressor. This type of specialized training is often limited to large businesses with the resources and budgets to invest in training, but with UI's support, the PRIME program makes lean training available to manufacturers of varying sizes across the state.
Most of the savings realized were from the upgrades made in the 90,000 square-foot manufacturing facility. The 50,000 square-foot warehouse in Orange participated in a lighting upgrade to LED's, which allowed the warehouse to reduce their electricity consumption by 40 percent.
"Watson Inc. is a great example of a company that is leading the way in energy efficiency and sustainable business practices," said Fred Shiavi, Lead Energy Engineer of UI. "They determined through multiple energy assessments where savings could be realized, implemented some of those changes using energy incentives available, and are continuing to look at more ways the company can continue improving in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way."