Montana Company Wades in Energy Savings

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Based in Bozeman, Montana, Simms Fishing Products was started in 1980 by John Simms and produces high-quality products to keep its customers dry, comfortable and protected from the elements in any condition. Simms is also the only wader manufacturer in the U.S., and one of three worldwide licensed to make GORE-TEX waders. Its staff is largely comprised of committed anglers who understand the importance of quality, dependable shing gear and are dedicated to reducing Simms’ carbon footprint.

To further its commitment to sustainability, Simms joined NEEA’s first Montana Strategic Energy Management Cohort through their local utility, NorthWestern Energy. The Cohort is a group of Montana organizations that share information on managing and saving energy using Strategic Energy Management, or SEM.

SEM is a system that helps industrial facilities permanently integrate energy management into their business and manufacturing operations, leading to reduced costs and increased profitability.

Simms was particularly interested in learning how to track energy usage in its facilities. In fact, the only way Simms noticed energy usage was when a utility cost looked higher than usual or there was a big peak in energy usage that would then need investigation.

However, through the Cohort and working with Northwest Energy Ef ciency Alliance (NEEA) and NorthWestern Energy, Simms quickly learned how to effectively track their energy – with a 13 percent savings in energy.

NEEA provided strategy and technology support, utility coordination, and NEEA field advisors that worked with Cohort participants to embed energy management into industrial plans to support long-term savings.

NEEA’s field advisors taught Simms how to better read its energy bills and developed an energy tracking tool that lets employees track kilowatt hours usage to the quantity of products produced.

NEEA’s field advisors performed energy walkthroughs to give Donna Crask, senior production supervisor, and her team suggestions on places where they could improve operating instructions on machinery and doing so discovered opportunities to increase employee awareness on their impact on energy use. NEEA then interviewed staff to understand energy inputs and outputs, which machines required ramp up time, and availability of production data.

NorthWestern Energy also provided the Cohort with detailed information on its Efficiency Plus or E+, program that helps customers like Simms better manage energy consumption through a variety of programs, rebates, and other incentives.

“Both NEEA and NorthWestern Energy were also very helpful in facilitating meetings, providing key information and answers to the many questions we had,” said Crask.

“The attraction to join the Cohort is that we saw an opportunity to improve our energy usage, affect the bottom line and strive to be a more environmentally friendly company,” said Donna Crask, senior production supervisor at Simms. 

New Building and Improvements

Recently, Simms moved to a new location. Though they’ve only been at the building a few months and don’t yet have a benchmark of their energy usage, because of their participation in the Cohort program, they continue to search for ways to save energy at their new facility.

By applying Strategic Energy Management (SEM) and participating in the Cohort program, Simms was able to encompass all of its energy management strategies and continues to look for new ways to reduce energy usage. SEM helps companies such as Simms permanently integrate energy management into their business and manufacturing operations, leading to reduced costs and increased profitability.

Companies such as Simms that choose to implement SEM have persistent energy savings, a stronger bottom line, and position themselves for sustained success.

“We have to do what we can to create healthy sheries, clean water and a clean environment for everybody. The Cohort is a great program and we’re glad Simms was able to participate. It de nitely opened my eyes and a lot of other folks in what an impact these small changes can make,” said Crask.

Cohort Takeaways

As a result of their participation in the Montana Cohort, Simms:

  • has seen a 13 percent savings in energy;
  • has implemented energy saving strategies to manage and track energy;
  • received grants for energy-efficient materials and products. 

Savings Opportunities 

Much of Simms’ energy usage comes from the compressed air machinery used to dry wader products. When they joined the Cohort program, they didn’t have a compressed air leak program at the time, “if someone noticed a leak, a part was replaced but it wasn’t being monitored,” said Crask. “We’re currently looking at new machinery to dry our waders and are looking at different systems to dry the waders with less energy.”

Simms implemented larger energy strategies such as energy policies and the creation of milestones and benchmarks to track and report energy. Simms formed an energy team that held monthly meetings and educated employees on ways to save energy. In doing so, they have significantly reduced their energy usage per line items shipped.

They employed small, effective ways to save energy and promote the savings to employees. The energy team encouraged employees to turn off lights in the bathroom when leaving or turn off fans when going to lunch.

To raise employee awareness and pique their interest on simple ways to save energy at the office and at home, employees were offered rebates for a reduction in their home energy usage by unplugging cell phone chargers. 


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