Tire dealers and service shop operators would agree that energy costs are a major concern today, but how many would agree that reducing those costs is usually easier than they realize?
Before I proceed here, I need to emphasize something I've discussed in previous columns: Make employees responsible for their workplace. Their obligations should and must include managing energy consumption in reasonable ways. Back when gasoline was 35 cents per gallon, I learned firsthand that many workers think energy costs are the boss' problem, not theirs. For instance, whenever the electricity bill skyrocketed, managers (including me) caught the grief. After you begin holding workers accountable too, things usually change for the better.
What's more, most of the things that reduce energy costs are not nearly as complicated and/or costly as bosses assume they are. Usually, they are common-sense steps that require discipline and attention to detail. Recently, I saw an excellent summation of energy-reducing tips in Bridgestone Retail Operations' What's In Store publication (January/February 2010 issue). Here are some useful examples gleaned from that article.
First, keep service bay doors closed as much as practically possible during colder weather. Always close all unused exhaust ports in those doors. In summer weather, run cooling fans at the lowest speeds possible for the conditions.
Second, close the doors to heating/cooling vents for seldom-used interior rooms at the dealership or service shop. However, rooms with the combination of water pipes and exterior walls must be kept warm enough to prevent frozen pipes. Check the filters in heating/cooling systems often and replace as needed. Of course, the need varies from one facility and operating conditions to another.
Third, thoroughly inspect the entire facility for holes, gaps or openings that create heating/cooling losses. This includes the fit and “sealing” of all doors and windows. Check around exhaust stacks and vent tubes that exit through the roof. Look closely at areas where pipes and cables pass through exterior walls.
Fourth, keep thermostat settings throughout the facility at reasonable levels. Indeed, setting the 'stat usually requires some compromise on the part of some employees.
Fifth, turn off lights that really aren't needed—especially in rooms that aren't being used. Wherever possible, replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with more efficient products such as compact-fluorescent (CFL) or LED-type bulbs.
Sixth, use technology such as timers or photo cells to operate outdoor signage more effectively and efficiently.
Seventh, be sure the hot water heater is set no higher than the recommended setting of 120 F. Also, get in the habit of cleaning the coils on devices such as air compressors and refrigerators at least twice a year.
Eighth, save electricity by reducing the running time of the air compressor or compressors. Patiently locate and repair air leaks on the compressor itself, then along all air plumbing and lines throughout the facility. Consider upgrading to modern, more effective air couplers. Remember to shut off the compressor every night.
For that matter, evaluate every electrical device on the premises and decide which ones can be turned off every night. This includes components such as computer monitors and printers. Other than normal signage and emergency lighting, what other lights really need to stay on overnight?
Back when I was working in a shop, I found that the human element of this process may be the most challenging one. Some workers adapt to and embrace energy-conscious behavior more readily than others. It takes patience and persistence on the part of responsible managers to keep a team productive but not wasteful. Eventually, turning off the lights when you leave the room becomes just another work habit.
Lastly, update your employee manual with requirements for responsible, energy-wise employee conduct. Nowadays, every penny counts.
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