Pet Supply Manufacturer Puts Leash On Energy Usage

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West Paw Design manufactures pet products sustainably made in the USA. Using recycled, organic and recyclable materials in many of its products, West Paw Design also continually incorporates eco-friendly strategies into its manufacturing process. Over the past 15 years, the Bozeman, Montana-based company has gained a strong and loyal following by offering products that are pet, people, and planet-friendly.

To better align with their sustainable strategies, lower their carbon footprint and better manage their energy usage, West Paw Design was interested in learning more on how to track its energy. Through their local utility, NorthWestern Energy, they discovered and joined NEEA’s first Montana Strategic Energy Management Cohort (the Cohort) – 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. 

The company was already tracking energy through information gleaned from their bills for budgeting purposes. Before joining the Cohort they tracked – or tried to track – basic information off of their energy bill such as costs and kilowatt hours used.

By joining the Cohort, they quickly learned about the benefits of tracking not only energy consumption and production, but understanding other factors that impact their energy cost, such as heating and cooling or when equipment was ramped up or down. By understanding energy inputs and outputs, West Paw Design reduced their bottom line, offered more profit sharing for employees and kept costs down for customers.

By implementing SEM, West Paw Design was also able to have persistent and reliable energy savings, bolster their bottom line, and stay more competitive. They did this through various strategies.

Through NorthWestern Energy, and as a result of their participation in the Cohort, the company received more than $2,000 in rebates for products and supplies such as energy-efficient computing systems.

The company also developed simple and inexpensive ways to communicate to employees how to save energy around the office and at home by adding signage to remind employees to turn off lights when not in use.

“They’ve turned into habits now. Lights get turned off more and we’re able to save energy,” said Stacey Scott, West Paw Design’s accounting and business analyst. 

“Working with the Cohort and implementing SEM has made us look at the performance of some of our lighting equipment. We’ve done ROI, we know what the costs and benefits will be, and when we have available cash to fund that project, the analysis has already been done,” said Stacey Scott, West Paw Design’s accounting and business analyst. 

“Your network of peers is one of the greatest rewards of joining something like a cohort. We now have an energy team. We never had something like that before. It’s really exciting,” added Scott.

Savings Opportunities

West Paw Design is currently measuring and tracking their energy usage and continues to employ small but powerful ways to save energy including executive-signed energy commitments with an energy goal, creation of an energy team, and engaging employees to actively participate in energy awareness.

One SEM approach the Cohort covered was energy intensity key performance indicators, enabling West Paw Design to see their energy costs remain at while their hours and production increased. They met their savings goal by changing operating hours and increasing employee output, while energy use held steady.

“Our shift was 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and employees might stay until 5:30 p.m. Now we operate 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Despite those extended hours and extended time for energy used, we’ve actually been able to maintain energy costs similar to where we had been before while increasing output. And our sales have increased by about 20 percent this year,” says Scott.

Continuous Improvement

West Paw Design plans to roll out more strategic energy management approaches including utilizing the project prioritization plan, managing energy purchasing policy to meet sustainability goals, and engaging employees through training and awareness. One employee awareness strategy is to have NorthWestern Energy conduct training to help them better understand their personal energy bills and how it relates to their workplace.

Cohort Takeaways

As a result of their participation in the Montana Cohort, West Paw Design:

  • now measures and tracks all of their energy usage;
  • will roll out more energy-saving measures;
  • claims persistent and reliable energy savings through SEM.

NEEA’s Role

NEEA provided strategy and technical support, utility coordination efforts, and included NEEA eld advisors to work with the West Paw team to embed SEM throughout the company. “We don’t have to be experts in energy systems and language – NEEA was able to bring it down to an understandable level. We have our daily jobs and don’t always have a lot of time to spend on that type of activity,” said Scott.

NEEA’s  field advisors also facilitated quarterly meetings where each Cohort member shared ideas, toured each other’s facilities and saw other participating company’s energy practices in action. “That was extraordinarily helpful. We wouldn’t have done exactly what someone else had done, but it allowed for us to put our own spin on an activity and gave us more insight on how we use energy,” said Scott.

West Paw Design, as part of the Cohort, toured other participating companies, one of which was using timers and other technology to gauge energy usage. Through this, they were inspired to add timers on their forklift battery charger to ensure it was charging at a time-off peak load.

They also hosted a tour of their own facilities and received valuable feedback about their machinery. “We use a mixer to mix our plastic pellets with a colorant. One of our injection moldings personnel was giving a tour and mentioned we usually mix it for 60 minutes. Somebody on the tour asked, ‘Do you have to mix it for 60 minutes?’ It’s these kinds of simple observations with an external pair of eyes that made us really think about how we’re using energy,” said Scott.

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