Improvements to GM buildings worldwide are helping us reduce energy use and save money.
We are always looking for new ways to reduce the energy and water required to build our vehicles and the waste produced as a result. When we operate more efficiently, we not only lessen our environmental impact—we realize significant cost savings.
GM uses a variety of Energy Star initiatives as a framework for charting our progress. Energy Star’s Building Portfolio Manager (BPM) allows us to benchmark our progress and make continuous improvements. BPM integrates with our utility bill management system, sending an automated monthly analysis of building scores to evaluate building performance.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings SWAP initiative challenged General Motors and L’Oréal to find energy-efficiency opportunities in each other’s facilities. See what we learned when we switched places in this video series:
ENERGY STAR building certifications recognize buildings that are top performers in terms of energy efficiency. In 2017, we earned certification for 17 buildings and three assembly plants, including our Fairfax, Kansas, plant for the first time. The distinction is not easy for plants to attain; the Fairfax facility is the only manufacturing plant in Kansas to earn the certification in nearly a decade. The achievement came through adopting a new paint process that uses 40 percent less energy per vehicle, automatically shutting down equipment that is not in use and replacing existing lights with LEDs. GM also enrolled all of our global manufacturing facilities in the Energy Star Challenge for Industry, which calls for industrial sites to reduce energy intensity by 10 percent over five years. A total of 133 facilities met the challenge in 2017, more than any other participating company.
An important way we find ongoing energy-saving opportunities is through “energy treasure hunts,” another Energy Star concept that relies on the insight of those who know our operations best: our manufacturing employees. During energy treasure hunts, a team of participants methodically visits different areas of a facility during periods of operation and shutdown, then proposes potential areas for improvement.
GM has been performing energy treasure hunts for 11 years at global sites and conducted 10 treasure hunts in 2017 in India, Korea, North America and Thailand. The treasure hunt at our Bupyeong facility in Korea was particularly successful. The team focused on ways to improve the paint process and use of compressed air, identifying 41 opportunities for improvement. Of these recommendations, 27 were implemented—leading to US$5 million in annual savings.
In-person treasure hunts are now getting a boost from Energy OnStar (EoS), GM’s proprietary system for tracking facility energy use. EoS monitors 41 GM facilities in North and South America and is being used to develop virtual treasure hunt maps that highlight areas for investigation, including HVAC operations, equipment shutdown, space and discharge temperatures, sensor issues, leaky valves and faulty damper positions.
GM also uncovers energy savings with the help of university students and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)’s Climate Corps. In 2017, a team of two EDF fellows found energy-saving opportunities at a new replacement paint shop that delivered $383,000 in annual savings. The opportunities included installing motion-sensing light switches in areas with low foot traffic, creating a checklist for operators to follow at the end of each shift and putting equipment into maintenance mode, which uses less power, when not in use.