The need to stay competitive is leading food manufacturers to look closely at controlling their bottom line | Save It Easy
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The need to stay competitive is leading food manufacturers to look closely at controlling their bottom line

Nicola Martin reports on how a Wakefield bakery is using energy efficiency as a way to manage rising energy.

In contrast to hiring freezes or redundancy, improving a plant’s energy efficiency has emerged as a positive way to reduce bottom line costs in tough times. Most businesses in the food industry are eager to demonstrate to stakeholders that they are making a commitment to sustainability – and getting rid of damaging energy drains within the plant is still the most cost-effective way to reduce a company’s carbon footprint.

At its two bakeries in Yorkshire, Speedibake, which makes muffins, doughnuts and specialty breads, produces about 900 tonnes of baked goods every week. For this reason, Speedibake’s facilities require extensive, high-quality illumination to ensure its staff output remains excellent. However, when looking to reduce energy costs, the company realised that it was wasting money through a lack of efficiency in its lighting.

Defra reports that the food industry accounts for around 14% of energy consumption by UK businesses – equivalent to seven million tonnes of carbon per year. The introduction of new legislative measures like the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) has added pressure for the industry to cut energy use wherever possible.

While the energy used in lighting is often overlooked, with focus on process heating as the big energy drain, in fact, lighting is a significant energy user, particularly if a large utility is filled with fluorescent lighting. Approximately 19% of global electricity generation is taken for lighting, and the biggest consumer is the fluorescent tube.

Speedibake chose to replace the old-style lamps at its Wakefield factory with new-generation, energy-efficient tubes. However, whenever it comes to undertaking renovation measures in a food processing plant, there are always understandable concerns about the impact on finances and productivity.

In the past, physical and technical differences between the old T8 and T12 lamps and the new, superior T5 Triphosphor high frequency lamps meant ripping out and replacing perfectly functional fittings, causing unnecessary waste and extra cost if a company wished to upgrade its lighting. However, innovation in light efficiency means that the existing fittings can now be retained, using a retrofit e-ballast like ‘Save It Easy®’ from Energys Ltd to ensure compatibility with the new energy-efficient lamps.

The higher efficiency of the low-energy lamps, plus the more efficient control gear or ‘ballast’ in the Save It Easy units, typically adds up to combined energy savings of between 37% and 65%, according to size of lamp being used. “We calculated that, in terms of electricity bills, we spent about £2,000 a year on twenty of the standard standard 8ft strip lights,” commented Speedibake Services Engineering Manager, Paul Catch. “Therefore, due to the energy savings provided by the energy-efficient lamps we knew we could save £1,000 a year by upgrading.”

Mr Catch continued, “As a test, we bought twenty of the Save It Easy units in order to install new, low-energy lamps. We worked out that, since they cost us around £400, it would give us an instant saving of £600 during the first year. Since the new lamps have a long lifespan – about five years – we should make savings of £1,000 each year for another four years.”

What’s more, Speedibake was able to remove every alternate light, because the energy-efficient lamps were bright enough to cope. This obviously added substantially to the energy savings. Speedibake was also able to minimise production downtime, since it was a simple job to upgrade the lighting. There was no need to shut down operations or bring in outside contractors.

As for the future, Speedibake plans to upgrade the rest of its old strip lighting – but not all at once. “Mr Catch said we plan to undertake a rolling programme of replacement over the next few years. This involves buying 20, 40, 60 Save It Easy units, as funds become available, and install new, energy-efficient lamps as the old ones begin to fail.”

For companies is the food industry, taking a ‘slowly-but-surely’ approach to achieving energy efficiency, and staggering the amount capital investment required, has emerged as a smart, sustainable way forward.