Keep Learning!

Published on Tuesday, 4 February 2014 08:07:29    Written by Marc
I like to learn.  I am always trying to read a book, an article or discuss with someone about a new or better way to do something.  I take real joy when I put down an article or a book and say to myself how much a learned by reading it.  There is a sense of 'rassasier' which in French means you are full or completely satisfied (like after a great big long meal).

keep learningI read a lot about our industries of course, but I also take great pleasure in reading about other things not related to our fields of expertise.  The internet is such a great place for this since you can read a blog, an article, find a book, or just about anything in a few seconds.  However, learning should not be restricted to your fields of expertise.  First, because you might change your field one day, and second, because if you are knowledgeable only in one field, would that not get somewhat boring?

The same applies when trying to improve energy efficiency in buildings.  We found that the best way to learn is to simply go out there and not only learn specifically on that subject, but also get information, tips and ideas on fields in other spheres, like real estate and capital planning.  It is not by chance that our first three modules in our business productivity suite are about real estate, capital expenditures and real estate.  These fields are very closely related.  If you only see the energy part of the equation, you might miss a bigger picture.

In my previous life, I was responsible for all three fields, energy, some capital expenditures, and real estate (in addition to procurement and other items I must add).  Whenever we were looking into energy saving projects we were asking ourselves many questions outside of the natural circle of questions like what is the project, what is the payback and so on.  We were also asking ourselves if we were going to keep the building long, enough to justify the energy retrofit project (real estate question).

After all, if you do an energy saving project with a five-year payback and end up selling your building within two years, you might want to be certain that whatever money you put towards the energy saving project will help increase the value of the building and not only be something that reduces the energy consumption for your specific operations, because once your operations stops (if you sell the building for another usage), the building buyer might not see any energy reduction and obviously not want to pay extra for the measures you installed. You could end up on the losing end.  We also looked to see if the energy saving project could be part of a larger capital expense (capex question).  This is because your company might need to do a building expansion at the same time as your energy saving project.  Therefore, it is better to coordinate the overall work to be done and perhaps have a look at what systems will be installed in the building expansion so that they are energy efficient and that they will work hand in hand with the systems you are installing or modifying with your energy saving project.

In promoting a culture of energy saving within a company, I found out that the best people to really promote energy savings and get projects done were those that managed to do the leap from simply learning about energy savings to learning about how energy saving is related to other fields.  By having a bigger picture on things, they were more proactive and managed to get themselves involved in other projects that initially did not even have energy saving as a component.  For example, when selecting production equipment, energy saving and efficiency is not something that comes natural to the minds of the operations people.  They tend to be more focused on productivity and quality.  Introducing the concept of equipment selection with energy saving in mind can only be done if the people doing the suggestions about the energy efficiency have credibility towards the production people (which in itself come with challenges).  Nevertheless, if they can influence the operations team to keep the energy saving and efficiency on the radar, it can open up new areas of opportunities for the companies.  These people, which managed to understand the needs of production but introduce energy efficiency awareness into the process often, became key parts of other fields and made their work (and their job) indispensable.

I remember one project which consisted in replacing a number of production equipment and one of the energy saving champions (what we called technicians dedicated to find energy savings in the company) got wind of the project and casually asked information about the equipment that were going to be purchased.  Then, before the company went ahead to purchase the equipment, they had managed to find solutions for replacing some components of the equipment (motors and other components) by more energy efficient ones.  It also shows the management team that his suggestions would not change the equipment selection at all (no specs would be altered), but they would significantly reduce the energy consumption.

In addition to this, he had gone to both the provincial government and the utility provider in order to secure substantial grants for the changes he was proposing.  The company went ahead with all his suggestions and following this, the production team was more than happy to have him take a look at all future equipment purchases they would be contemplating.  This was a win for the company but also for the individual.

Bottom line:  Do not stop learning!  Information is virtually free these days, and learning will not only make you a better asset, it will actually make you happier, and that we can always take.