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motoring: BMW SA Cuts Overall Energy Costs By R18 Million Per Year


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The company's EfficientDynamics engineering philosophy, put into practice in a production environment, has resulted in an overall energy saving of R29.3 million since 2006.

BMW South Africa has managed to dramatically reduce its total energy consumption since 2006, reducing both electricity and gas consumption by 30% and 36,5% respectively. At the same time, maximum electricity demand -- which is the company's peak electricity usage -- is down by 7.3%. Even more significantly, electricity consumption during non-production time or idle time has been reduced by 40%. The net result is an energy overhead saving of approximately R18 million per year and a total saving of R29,3 million since the project began.

The project follows the same philosophical route as the BMW Group's EfficientDynamics strategy -- which aims to increase vehicle performance whilst reducing fuel consumption -- and was implemented to maximise production efficiency at the company's Rosslyn manufacturing plant and Midrand head office whilst minimising energy consumption. Significantly, the project pre-dates the energy crisis which hit South Africa early last year. The reduction in electricity consumption to date is three times the 10% requested by Government of large consumers since the country's electricity crisis unfolded.

"We realised some time ago that BMW needs to keep a firm hand on its consumption of energy, as well as the impact that consumption has on the environment, specifically in light of the company's strategic objectives to be the most sustainable vehicle manufacturer in the world," explains Knudt Flor, Director of Technical and Logistics at BMW South Africa.

"Thankfully, our efforts to be more environmentally conscious in this regard, both in terms of the cars we produce and the way in which we produce them, have significant cost and financial benefits as well. Thanks to these two different examples of BMW EfficientDynamics in action, customers benefit in terms of fuel consumption and BMW South Africa benefits in terms of energy costs," he continues.

The vast majority of electricity consumption at BMW South Africa can be attributed to the production of 3 Series vehicles for both the local and export markets at Plant Rosslyn. The production process is particularly energy intensive with regard to the conveyance of the cars from one area of the production line to another. Heating, ventilation, cooling and lighting of production areas within the Plant are obviously major factors as well.
"Importantly, saving energy is not as simple as turning off a few lights that aren't being used," explains Flor. "As a premium manufacturer with stringent quality and productivity targets, not to mention even more rigorous worker safety standards, we had to come up with clever solutions to reduce lighting capacity, as an example, without negating the importance of health and safety issues."

To this end, light sensors were used to contribute towards the energy savings in non-critical areas of the Plant and head office buildings. Similarly lighting in production areas has been linked directly to the production schedule. In other words, lights are not turned on, on non-production days. The same applies outside of office hours at the company's Midrand head office.

In addition, solar water heaters were fitted to the boilers in the paint-shop at Plant Rosslyn. These heaters are also utilised to heat ablution water for the 400 employees working in this area of the plant. Meanwhile, other unutilised areas of the plant have been completely mothballed, instead of standing empty with the lights on.

Gas is also quite critical in a vehicle production environment as it is used to fire ovens in the paint process, but here too dramatic changes were made. Thanks to advancements in technology, a new type of body sealant that doesn't require oven curing was introduced. This means that the particular oven used for this process could be mothballed, saving a tremendous amount of gas every day. Previously, each car was cured for between 35 and 45 minutes in this oven alone.

"Our Facilities and Energy department sends a fortnightly report to all plant employees on BMW's expected power usage for the next 14 days. At the same time, the report gives feedback with regard to where the greatest energy losses are and offers recommendations of the actions required to meet the monthly targets," Flor continues.

Significantly, whilst smart technology and new systems have been instrumental in reducing overall energy usage, BMW South Africa Associates have played a pivotal role in changing individual attitudes towards energy saving and implementing the energy saving processes, particularly within the Plant Rosslyn environment.

"As far as possible, we try and instil in our staff a general culture of environmental friendliness. Importantly, this change in attitude towards overall energy consumption also benefits our employees in their own homes," concludes Flor. "Most importantly, we need all of our Associates to be marching to the same tune in terms of energy saving because the combined effect of all the small issues, can result in a significant reduction and saving. Or not, as the case may be.

"We take the exact same approach to designing cars that deliver on BMW's EfficientDynamics philosophy of 'less fuel, more performance'. No stone is left unturned in the quest for energy efficiency. Even the smallest saving shows benefit not only to the company and our customers, but to the environment as well."

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