GM: Saving $3m in energy costs through use of Smart IT

I recently came across a post written by Andrew Winston for the Harvard Business Review blogs which offered an insight into the role IT is playing in improving energy efficiency.

According to Winston, opportunities for improving energy efficiency and saving real money in the process are everywhere. Indeed, the proverbial low-hanging fruit is actually, in the words of energy guru Amory Lovins, fruit on the ground. So much so, that the carmaker GM recently announced that it is saving $3 million annually in energy costs across 10 plants by shutting down equipment when it’s not needed.

When Winston tried to find out more from GM, it put him in touch with Mike Durak, the Global Program Manager, IT.  As Winston says, “The fact that they suggested an IT exec, and not a plant (or environmental) manager, says a lot about this story.”

Essentially, GM is using GE software to automate the shutdown and restart of its equipment  GM set the lighting in one plant to synch up with the conveyor. When the manufacturing line stopped, for breaks or between shifts, the lighting would shut off. Then the managers added all energy-using systems to this automated network, from heating and cooling systems to pumps and compressed air units. The investment in connecting an entire plant paid back through energy savings alone in just 6 months.

As Winston says in his blog post, the new software/networking solution is a great step. The immediate energy savings are solid, but even more important will be the benefits that come from leveraging a completely networked factory, with the operational, financial, and environmental winnings only just beginning.