Odawa Casino Resort Biggest Loser in Entertainment Category


Petoskey’s Odawa Casino Resort is owned and operated by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. The resort website boasts of a nearly 300,000 sq. ft. facility that features slots and table games, hotel rooms, indoor pool, restaurants, retail and more.

Odawa Casino Resort’s dedication to energy conservation is reflected in the numerous awards it has won. This is the facility’s third year competing in the Battle of the Buildings Biggest Loser challenge, having previously won second place twice. The resort also was awarded the Governor’s Energy Excellence Award in 2015, which honors Michigan organizations and individuals for outstanding achievements in reducing energy waste. Additionally, the venue received Emmet County’s Recycler of the Year Award in 2016.

“The Tribe’s main goal is to protect Mother Earth by reducing our carbon footprint,” says Dave Heinz, lead electrician at Odawa Casino Resort. Heinz and his coworker, Ron Gatlin have been managing electrical services for eight years, and typically work with the resort’s vendors to set and achieve new energy efficiency goals.

While most of the big projects with lighting have been done, Heinz and his team keep up-to-date on new energy technologies that might be suitable for Odawa Casino Resort.  “The idea is to get everyone on board,” Heinz explains. Energy-saving ideas have come from a variety of staff members including the plumber.   The Odawa team also shares energy strategies with other area casinos.

Heinz attributed this year’s Battle of the Buildings’ repeat second-place victory to several energy-saving initiatives including temperature adjustments to the venue’s five 1 million BTU small boilers, as well as lamp conversions to LED technology. He also credits the resort’s IT department for reducing the heat load on and energy consumed by the organization’s core servers.

Pictured from left to right: Ron Galtin-Odawa Casino Resort, Cheri Holman-USGBC West Michigan, Dave Heinz-Odawa Casino.

Collectively, these efforts resulted in a 3.38 percent reduction in energy consumed over the 2016 calendar year. According to Heinz, Odawa Casino Resort has reduced its cost of operations by over $540,000 a year. Specifically, KWh reductions totaled $396,600, and MMBTU reduction contributed $143,400. The resort has received rebates from Great Lakes Energy and DTE totaling about $190,000. Noting that the facility’s return on investment with the rebates required only 4.44 months, Heinz poses a simple question: “Why isn’t everyone doing this?”

In Heinz’s eight years in energy management at Odawa Casino Resort, the venue has achieved savings of approximately $2 million. Heinz has plans for 2017 that include energy efficiency upgrades to more lights on the property.

Odawa Casino Resort is honored to be part of the Battle of the Buildings Biggest Loser challenge. In speaking of the facility’s repeated success, Heinz says “This gives us confirmation that what we are doing is working, and now we are sharing what we are doing with other companies.”

Published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal
Written by Brooke Parler of Third Wave Coffee

Barfly Ventures – Grand Rapids Brewing Company Biggest Loser in Entertainment Category


Major investments into energy efficient equipment or systems are not always necessary to reduce significant amounts of energy usage. BarFly Ventures is a prime example of that. The Grand Rapids-based restaurant/bar company manages 4 locations, including HopCat, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Stella’s and Waldron. Additionally, BarFly has opened eleven HopCat restaurants outside of the West Michigan area, with plans to open four more within the next year.

This is BarFly’s second year competing in the Michigan Battle of the Buildings, and this year Grand Rapids Brewing Company rose to the top in savings. Engaging the management team at each location to be cognizant of their restaurant’s energy and water usage, and find simple ways to reduce was key.

Pictured from left to right: Cheri Holman-USGBC West Michigan, Carrie Veldman-Barfly Ventures.

BarFly took a unique approach to reducing its energy usage by starting a conversation with its employees about being aware of the energy they use. Staff and management took actions to adjust temperature settings more efficiently, and to establish procedures for opening and closing the restaurants in order to ensure that lights and equipment were not used unnecessarily. These initiatives reduced Grand Rapids Brewing Company’s energy usage by 8.5 percent in the 2016 calendar year, with very little investment in energy-efficient equipment and systems.

The process, however, was not a cake walk. Restaurant lighting must be on most of the day, even for the cleaners at night. Furthermore, trying to efficiently monitor and adjust temperatures can be difficult, especially when considering the steady flow of restaurant guests in and out of each location.

Finding a system that works for Grand Rapids Brewing Company, its staff and its valued customers was a challenge, admits BarFly Sustainability Manager Autumn Sands. “Sustainability initiatives, as a whole, are rare in the restaurant industry,” she says.

BarFly is up for the challenge of breaking new ground when it comes to being green. Reducing energy waste is as important as investing in more energy-efficient equipment, and much less costly.

BarFly is looking to invest in bigger projects, including installing LED lighting in all heart of house areas, and installing Energy Star equipment. “We are really excited that our small changes have made an impact,” Sands acknowledges. “This sets the tone for the future, as energy use becomes a fundamental consideration within our business. There is still a lot of work to do.”

Published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal 
Written by Andrew Longcore of Business Law Group

Ford Field Stadium Home of Detroit Lions Biggest Loser in Mixed Use Category


Detroit’s Ford Field Stadium is in year three of a five-year energy reduction plan. Home to the Detroit Lions football team, the 1.8 million-square-foot stadium includes 420 thousand square feet of tenant office space and a 275 thousand-square-foot parking deck.

Ford Field Facility Director Fred Reddig attributes the facility’s 5.87 percent energy reduction and strong Michigan Battle of the Buildings showing to his hard-working facility maintenance team and the support of senior management. “We have a fantastic internal team that works very hard to implement these energy-saving projects,” he explains. “We typically consider a five-hear return on investment a viable project, and senior management has been great to work with.”

Reddig cites numerous projects completed in the past three years, including:

  • The replacement of 660 metal halide field lights with 260 LED fixtures that provide improved lighting;
  • The expansion of lighting schemes from 12 to 40, programmable at the individual breakers, to accommodate smaller events;
  • The conversion of concourse lighting from T5 lamps to LED hybrids;
  • The greater use of daylighting on the concourses;
  • The use of variable speed drivers on domestic water pumps, which reduced running them at 100 percent capacity down to 20 percent;
  • Replacement of the outside damper system over leased office to reduce unnecessary heating and cooling costs.

It is anticipated that the eventual replacement of the remaining air dampers and controls will result in an added 10 percent energy savings in the facility’s chiller plant alone.

Ford Field takes advantage of utility company incentives and works very closely with DTE Energy, its electricity provider. To date, the venue has received several rebates to help fund its energy projects.  The initiatives have reduced the use of electricity, natural gas, steam and water/sewer costs, saving Ford Field approximately 15 percent in utility costs. And there is more to come: “We are about 75 percent finished with retrofitting our lighting over to LED,” Reddig says.

The year 2016 marked the second time that Ford Field competed in the Michigan Battle of the Buildings energy reduction competition. Reddig presented the Ford Field story at the 2016 Battle of the Buildings Energy Summit, and this year his organization is a summit sponsor. “It is a great event that highlights the sustainability efforts of all different types of venues and buildings,” he says, “and as an organization, the Detroit Lions is committed to supporting sustainability.”

Pictured from left to right: Laurie Clayton-Detroit Lions, Jamie Bragenzer-Detroit Lions, Fred Reddig-Detroit Lions, Todd Argust-Detroit Lions.

A Green Team meets monthly to work on Ford Field’s sustainability efforts. Among other projects the team is presently considering is the feasibility of capturing rainwater for irrigating green spaces, and possibly toilets.

When asked about recent notable energy efficiency projects, Reddig mentions the 2015 installation of water softeners used in the towers at the facility’s chiller plant. The process enabled the total dissolved solids (TDS) to be increased from 1,000 to approximately 1,800, which resulted in less blowdown and less makeup water, for a savings of three million gallons of water in its first year of operation alone.

Based on the successes achieved in the first three years of its five-year plan, Ford Field is now looking ahead and planning future energy-efficiency initiatives.

Published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal
Written by Renae Hesselink of Nichols

Gordon Food Service – Clay Campus Biggest Loser in Mixed Use Category


Gordon Food Service is North America’s largest privately held and family-managed broadline foodservice distributor. The company operates in the Midwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwestern United States, and coast-to-coast in Canada. There are currently 170 Gordon Food Service Store locations.

Gordon Food Service placed second in the “mixed-use” category of the 2016 Michigan Battle of the Buildings, with a 5.29 percent reduction in energy usage at its Clay Campus. The complex’s four buildings total 584,128 square feet and include the Distribution Center on Clay, the Distribution Center on 50th Street, the Grand Rapids Fleet Maintenance Garage and the Gordon Food Service Store on Clay, all very diverse operations served by one utility meter.

“Refrigeration is a very large portion of the energy load in all of our distribution centers,” says National Engineering Manager Mark Grimes. “Understanding operational needs and equipment deficiencies in refrigeration systems helps us make significant strides toward reductions in energy use.”

Gordon Food Service performs audits annually at all 16 of its U.S. distribution centers. The audits generate a list of potential projects, which are then prioritized. “In general, we look for a minimum three-year return on investment, but we take a long view on energy conservation measures and are willing to make an investment for long term savings,” Grimes says.

In addition to the energy audits and refrigeration work, other projects that led the company to its Battle of the Buildings win included a lighting upgrade, adding energy-efficient motors to its conveyor system, and conducting leak detection studies to identify sources of compressed air leaks, which place increased demand on air compressors. Grimes admits that lighting upgrades are his favorite project because the return on investment calculations are easy and the payback is typically quick when compared to more complicated projects like refrigeration. Gordon Food Service also takes advantage of incentives offered by utilities. Both the compressed air audit and the lighting upgrade were eligible for financial incentives from Consumers Energy, a consideration that helped move the projects forward.

“We look at this (Battle of the Buildings) recognition as an affirmation of our long-term commitment to energy conservation,” Grimes acknowledges. “We have been at this awhile, and it’s really satisfying to see the trend line go down over the years.”

Pictured from left to right: Ron Luke-Gordon Food Service, Scott DeVos-Gordon Food Service.

Regarding other sustainability initiatives Gordon Food Service is committed to, Stewardship Specialist Jane Feenstra cites the construction of a wind farm in Huron County and the hosting of its own internal Battle of the Buildings. The wind farm project, completed in 2016, includes 14 wind turbines that generate energy equal to approximately 33 percent of the company’s demand at all U.S. locations. Gordon Food Service’s own 2017 Battle of the Buildings includes all 16 of its U.S. Distribution Centers, together totaling more than 6 million sq. ft., and features the roll-out of Midwest Energy’s Foresight Energy Management Dashboard. First- and second-place winners in each region will receive a financial incentive and company-wide recognition.

“We are committed to continuous improvement and being great stewards in our communities,” Feenstra says.

Published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal
Written by Renae Hesselink of Nichols

Comerica Banking Center Two Time Biggest Loser in Financial Institution Category


Comerica Incorporated is a financial services company strategically aligned by three business segments: The Business Bank, The Retail Bank, and Wealth Management. Comerica focuses on relationships, helping people and businesses achieve success.

Comerica has found a home with the Michigan Battle of the Buildings competition, building on its 2016 First Place finish in the office category by landing both the First and Second Place positions this year. Last year’s winner with a 21.3 percent reduction in energy usage, Comerica’s Stadium Pauline Banking Center in Ann Arbor again achieved the leading position, with additional reductions of 28.2 percent. Comerica’s Jackson Main Banking Center in Jackson secured second place, with a reduction of 22.3 percent.

“To win back-to-back awards with the same facility is a tremendous accomplishment,” admits Scott Beckerman, Senior Vice President and Comerica’s Director of Corporate Sustainability, “but to secure the second position in the face of a large and competitive field is even more rewarding.” Comerica attributes its success with both locations to a combination of employee engagement and the implementation of building management systems. “These systems have really allowed us to reduce unnecessary energy use while maintaining comfortable conditions for our colleagues and customers,” Beckerman notes. “We’ve also used EPA’s Battle of the Buildings materials to engage our colleagues through webinars and our company intranet site.”

Last year’s win and the significant energy reduction achieved at its Stadium Pauline office confirmed the positive impacts of better managing the company’s energy use. This led Comerica to move forward with a national program to install enhanced building control systems at over 300 of its sites in 2017. “Additionally, we will be moving more colleagues into a new flexible working space at our Stadium Pauline site later in 2017,” Beckerman says. “The collaborative workspace will help improve business productivity and collaboration, while further leveraging the efficiency of this building.”

Comerica has established a series of 2020 Environmental Sustainability Goals focused on reducing emissions, water, waste and paper usage. The company will publish updated data on its progress as part of its comprehensive corporate sustainability report later this year. Comerica believes that enhanced building controls and other initiatives should help it to meet and even exceed its 20 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal.

“Participating in the Battle of the Buildings is a great way to engage everyone around energy efficiency, which isn’t always easy to see or appreciate,” says Beckerman, “Battle of the Buildings provides great motivation and validation to our team of facility managers, building engineers and colleagues.”

Pictured from left to right: Scott Beckerman-Comerica Incorporated, Cathy Moretto-CBRE.

When it comes to learning and sharing best practices, Comerica likes to contribute to the energy efficiency conversation. “By sharing our story, we hope to help move energy efficiency and sustainability forward here in Michigan and across the country,” Beckerman says. “The events hosted by organizations like USGBC Chapters are great ways share and learn.” He says companies shouldn’t be afraid to start small, so long as they get started. “Focus on one thing at a time, and don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s okay to start with simple changes, but keep your long-term ambitions high.”

For Comerica, energy efficiency is just one of the ways the company is working to broadly address sustainability. “We recognize that to have thriving Michigan communities, we need to protect and preserve our environment,” Beckerman acknowledges. “When we reduce our energy use, everyone wins.”

Published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal
Written by Mark Zoeteman of Fishbeck Thompson Carr & Huber

Yacht Basin Marina Building 2 Biggest Loser in Warehouse & Distribution Category


Yacht Basin Marina in Holland originally was developed as Bay Haven Marina in the 1950s. It assumed its present name in 1990, when the marina passed to new ownership.

Yacht Basin is a full-service marina with 371 boat slips, 140 In/Out racks, a ship store, and winter outdoor and indoor heated boat storage. Winter storage is a particularly important part of the business, given the region’s relatively short summer season; heated buildings enable owners and staff to work on boats during the colder months.

2016 marks Yacht Basin’s first year competing in the Michigan Battle of the Buildings energy reduction competition. The marinas’ building 2 earned second place in the Warehouse & Distribution category, with a weather-normalized energy reduction of 9.15 percent.

Much of Yacht Basin’s decrease in energy use can be attributed to a series of small but important procedural changes, including scheduling regular heating equipment maintenance, as well as making sure large doors are opened less frequently and entry doors are not left propped open.

“We completed a lighting project thanks to an energy rebate offered by the Holland Board of Public Works,” says Yacht Basin General Manager Matt DenHerder. He estimates the marina will see a savings of approximately $1,200 from implementing its energy reduction projects.

Yacht Basin Marina’s single most important energy reduction measure involved the addition of a Building Management System (BMS), which enables staff to monitor and control the facility’s furnaces remotely. The new system makes it possible to manage energy usage more precisely than using simple thermostats.

Yacht Basin’s furnaces previously were set to one temperature 24 hours per day. The new BMS makes it possible to manage temperatures in relation to the weather outside, the calendar and varying daily needs. “Building temperatures might need to be higher when boats are being painted,” DenHerder explains, “and lower during holiday periods when no owners are present.

Yacht Basin is recognized as a Michigan Clean Marina, a voluntary state program that helps marina owners and customers reduce their impact on the environment. “We maintain as much green space as possible, and equipment purchases are always made with energy consumption in mind, DenHerder adds.

DenHerder and his staff continue to explore all possible forms of energy reduction. “Our business depends on an environment with clean water and air, so it makes sense for us to help in every way possible,” he acknowledges.

Yacht Basin Marina is already registered for, and looking forward to competing in, the 2017 Michigan Battle of the Buildings.

Published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal 
Written by Rebecca Holman of the USGBC West MI  Chapter

Coastal Container Biggest Loser in Manufacturing & Industrial Category


It’s not always easy to break the mold and deviate from the standard practices of an industry. Created within the framework of a culture deeply rooted in relationship-based service, honesty and respect, Coastal Container is striving to do just that.

Founded in 2007 and located in Holland, Coastal Container produces packaging solutions for the manufacturing industry. Its primary product is corrugated boxes; however, the company manufactures a variety of containers and packaging materials. Its facility spans 250,000 square feet and employs about 160 workers. Coastal Container has made sustainable and responsible practices an integral part of its production process, and that includes the building they call home.

As this was its first year competing in Battle of the Buildings, Coastal Container set a primary goal of reducing its energy consumption and improving efficiency. The company brought on Midwest Energy Group, a consulting firm specialized in energy management and efficiency, to provide professional guidance. The Midwest Energy team also coordinated with Coastal Container to help it earn energy efficiency rebates from its local utility company.

Pictured from left to right: Cheri Holman – USGBC West MI, Bill Baumgartner – Coastal Container.

Over the course of the 2016 calendar year, Coastal Container reduced its weather-normalized source building energy use by an impressive 19.3 percent. Contributing significantly to this reduction was an upgrade to the facility’s boiler system. The boiler heats the building by using post-consumer wood waste from Holland-area businesses. Previously, the system’s inefficient operation required the added purchase of natural gas to meet winter heating demand. The boiler system improvements have eliminated that need. “Our drive for continuous improvement is finally paying off,” says Coastal Container superintendent Curt Shosten.

A smaller, yet significant project involved the installation of variable frequency drives (VFDs), which control motor speeds by gradually increasing voltage, rather than using 100 percent voltage when the motor is turned on. Midwest Energy Group introduced Coastal Container to VFDs, the use of which does not affect production. Machine operators and maintenance crews responded positively to the training required for the new technology.

Coastal Container designs all its products with sustainability in mind, and recycles all plastic materials. The company also collects all scrap corrugated material and returns it to the paper mill for reprocessing. All Coastal Container corrugated materials are SFI Certified™, which signifies that these materials come from legal and responsible sources.

The company is now considering retrofitting its conventional lighting system with more energy-efficient LED lights.

In an industry that is widely known as being one of the least energy-efficient and sustainable, Coastal Container is taking great strides to change that.

Published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal
Written by Andrew Longcore of The Business Law Group

Gateway Village of Sturgis Biggest Loser in Multifamily Category


Hollander Development Corporation (HDC) is a leader in creating affordable, sustainable apartment communities for families and seniors throughout Michigan. Since its formation in 1979, HDC has developed more than 4,000 homes using innovative financing strategies including tax credits, specialty loans, government programs and private dollars.

This is Hollander Development Corporation’s second year competing in the Michigan Battle of the Buildings. In the 2015 competition, HDC’s Valley View III took first place in the “Multifamily” category, with a reduction of 8.44 percent. This year, HDC’s Gateway Village of Sturgis won second place in this category, with a reduction of 12.98 percent.

Pictured from left to right: Cheri Holman-USGBC West MI, Matthew Hollander-Hollander Development.

Gateway Village was a multimillion-dollar rehabilitation project of an existing, 1970s-era affordable housing complex. In addition to making many much-needed cosmetic and convenience updates, HDC teamed up with Inform Architecture and Wolverine Building Group taking a holistic approach to energy and water conservation. The project included a before-and-after Home Energy Rating System (HERS) analysis; full conversion to LED lighting; improvements to building envelope (insulation, windows, doors, etc.); upgrades to HVAC systems; new appliances; and resident education.

HDC is engaged in new construction, rehabilitation and ongoing operation of a variety of building types. For new construction projects the baseline is to achieve a minimum performance threshold of LEED Gold or equivalent, with the goal of adding LEED Platinum and Living Buildings to its portfolio.

HDC’s most recent rehabilitation projects have focused on aggressive energy conservation measures and onsite renewables, adhering to Enterprise Green Communities criteria.

The developer committed to certify Gateway Village to Enterprise Green Communities, targeting 30-plus additional points beyond the mandatory criteria. “Many of our “extra” points are focused on energy efficiency and we are conducting post-build HERS testing to validate our assumptions,” says HDC Principal Matthew Hollander.

The Energy Auditor General conducted Gateway’s pre-build HERS rating. HDC used the Green Home Institute as its Enterprise Green Communities consultant. “Establishing a baseline HERS rating before we started construction was extremely important,” Hollander notes, “because it allowed us the opportunity to change our scope of work in response to new issues.”

HDC takes a holistic approach to all energy related projects, balancing building envelope improvements with advanced technologies such as LEDs and high efficiency HVAC equipment. “This was in full effect at Gateway Village,” says Hollander.

Consulting engineers from Byce & Associates reduced the size of Gateway’s new boilers after considering improvements made to air sealing and insulation, enabling HDC to upgrade to much higher efficiency equipment at no additional cost.

HDC used Multifamily Green financing from Fannie Mae to borrow at better rates, based on its aggressive energy conservation measures.  Cinnaire Corporation, HDC’s financial partner, originated the loan and brought private Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity to the project.

“We’re proud of the work we’ve done and look forward to future competitions,” says Hollander. “The annual Energy Summit is a great time to reflect on past successes. We have our sights set on another award for 2017 and hope to see some fierce competition. The Battle of the Buildings is a great example of a competition where everyone benefits just by participating.”

Published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal 
Written by Rebecca Holman of the USGBS West MI Chapter 

Clark Retirement Community Biggest Loser in Multi-Family Category


Clark Retirement Community was founded in 1906 as a Christian-based nonprofit retirement community offering a continuum of care for independent, assisted living and skilled nursing residents.

Clark began its environmental journey in 2012 by benchmarking its 262,682-sq. ft. facility using the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. The building earned a score of 12 out of a possible 100 points, when compared to equivalent buildings in similar climate zones. After the initial shock passed, the Clark staff used this information as an opportunity, setting a goal of achieving 40 points within five years. Today, its EnergyStar score stands at 38 points.

Clark has participated yearly in the Michigan Battle of the Buildings since the competition launch in 2014. This year, it reached second place in the multi-family category, with energy reductions of 10.16 percent.

“We did this by practicing our “Energy Awareness” philosophy,” says Craig Courts, Chief Financial Officer at Clark Retirement Community. He cites changes and improvements both large and small, including adjusting the 40-plus Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) installed in 2013; tweaking the programming on Clark’s building management system; replacing and upgrading the pipe insulation of 1,000 linear feet of chilled water lines; replacing fluorescent lighting fixtures with new LED lay-in fixtures; and installing motion sensors in 500 feet of corridor space.

Clark seeks to involve its residents, their families and staff in responsible use of its, and the world’s, limited resources. Clark’s Green Team of residents and staff promote engagement in projects like Square-Foot Gardens, now entering its second season. Participants sign up for one-square-foot sections of raised garden beds, in which they grow their own herbs and vegetables. “It was a big hit last year, and folks are anxiously awaiting planting time this spring,” according to Amy Bromm, a member of the facility team. “It’s a great sustainability activity, as well as life-enriching for the residents who participate. Those who are not able to are still interested in watching the growth progress.”

In 2014, Clark hosted one of the first Michigan Battle of the Buildings program events, featuring Dr. Matthew Heun from Calvin College. Dr. Heun introduced the Green Revolving Fund concept, which involves using money saved on past projects’ utility costs to invest in more energy saving projects – essentially creating a revolving fund.

Pictured from left to right: Tim Hock-Clark Retirement Community, Joel Smith-Clark Retirement Community.

Clark Retirement Community has similarly leveraged financial incentives in sustainable ways by participating in rebate programs offered by Consumers Energy and DTE Energy. In 2013, Clark received rebates of approximately $150,000 for a chiller install. In 2014, the community participated in a multi-family program in which DTE Energy installed new programmable thermostats, CFL lighting, low-flow shower heads and low-flow sink aerators in residential apartments and townhomes. In 2016, Clark’s maintenance supervisor used available rebates to attend a building operator certification course hosted by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council, which provides training and certification for building engineers and maintenance personnel.

“Since we began this journey in 2012, we estimate that we have saved about $110,000 per year,” Court says. “Clark Retirement Community is proof that financial returns and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive.”

Published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal
Written by Rebecca Holman of the USGBC West MI Chapter 

 

Autodie, LLC Biggest Loser in Manufacturing & Industrial Category


Autodie, LLC has been producing large stamping dies in Grand Rapids for the automobile industry for over 30 years. With operations spanning 500,000 square feet in the North Monroe Business District, there is a lot of ground to cover in terms of energy inputs and the costs associated with them.

Setting energy-saving goals in the manufacturing industry is not easy. Decision-makers must ask themselves many questions: How can a large machine be more efficient without producing less? Do the cost savings outweigh the investment of becoming more energy efficient? More notably, how will employees respond to the changes?

In its second year competing in Michigan Battle of the Buildings, Autodie, LLC addressed these questions with enthusiasm, and set a goal of a 15 percent energy reduction for the 2016 calendar year. The company in fact surpassed its goal and saved nearly 17 percent in its energy input.


Pictured from left to right: Brian Doyle-Autodie LLC, Mary Nicholson-Autodie LLC, and Scott Cornell-FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles).

A lot of the credit goes to the hardworking employees of Autodie, LLC. As part of practicing world class manufacturing, the company established an “Energy Pillar Team” that works together to spread awareness and seek new opportunities to save energy. For example, employees went beyond simply turning off lights, by disconnecting 24 percent of existing lighting systems, with no appreciable effect on their work.

For hot summer days, Autodie, LLC installed a new building management system to monitor and control its 20 roof-top air conditioning units. An air leak management program proactively identifies and repairs compressed air leaks in the plant-wide pneumatic machine and tool systems, to further reduce energy use.

Autodie, LLC has taken further steps by installing individual meters at the machine level. The information gathered by metering has enabled the company to identify the most energy-efficient machines and prioritize which ones are used for specific projects.

Although Autodie, LLC exceeded its efficiency goals, a new production stamping line will require added effort to continue reducing its energy inputs and maximize savings. The company has plans to replace outdated air conditioning units and boiler systems in the near future. It will also continue updating facility lighting systems to meet its ongoing energy reduction goals.

Autodie, LLC’s efforts have achieved other notable benefits. Local utility Consumers Energy has provided rebates for reduced energy usage, and the company has earned ISO 50001 energy management system certification. Last but not least, Autodie, LLC has saved an impressive $150,000 in energy costs since 2015.

To be crowned a 2016 Biggest Loser, says Mary Nicholson, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, “is definitely an inspiration to the employees for their effort and hard work.”

Published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal 
Written by Andrew Longcore of Business Law Group

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