Managing the Change

In the past, companies that wanted to go green or conserve energy usually took a piecemeal approach, putting in better windows, adding insulation or switching out the types of lights that they use. But moving toward real sustainability requires something more.

“We believe that the key is using some type of organized management system,” says Gromacki. “The companies that are successful are using a systematic approach; they have a good platform, and they aren’t doing it as one-off projects.”

Companies could adapt an existing total quality management system or follow a process for earning a certification like ISO 50001 – energy management. Dixie uses the International Sustainability Rating System from DNV GL, a global quality assurance and risk management company.

At Dixie, quality, safety and sustainability are all integrated into the way the company conducts its business. “It’s how we make decisions on everything from what containers we select to what mode of shipment we use,” Gromacki says. Yearly audits of Dixie’s management system by DNV GL help the company focus on deficiencies or weaknesses so it knows where to make improvements.

“We look at all of our usage costs throughout the entire facility on a continual basis,” says Nick Brunson, Dixie Chemical’s director of loss control and sustainability. “If there’s a chance for us to upgrade any of our manufacturing operations with a more energy-efficient system, we are looking at that.”

The company evaluates its progress through monthly reviews of key performance indicators like energy and water efficiency and solid waste generation. After a new program or process is developed and introduced, managers follow the metrics to see if it is effective.

Through this systematic approach, Dixie found that it could eliminate filtration waste in one process by changing a material and improve production by moving to water-efficient processing in batches. The company also switched from wood structural supports to composite structural supports for its cooling towers, so it no longer has to replace them every five to seven years. It’s also using composites for the structural infill for the towers. “Instead of wood rotting away, we have something that will last a very long time,” says Brunson.

Even companies that don’t have full-scale management systems can find ways to make improvements like these. “A good place to start is with a benchmark assessment of where you are. Then identify where your strongest opportunities are and look at the investment of either time and/or money that will be necessary to implement that plan over a multi-year period,” Gromacki says. “Nobody expects to do it all in one year or in one period of time. So you organize and build a plan to steadily address the issues that give you the best return at the time.”