Exclusive interview with Andrew McIlwaine, HR/ISO and Sales Manager, Karob Plastics. He will address the upcoming African Utility Week on “Driving behaviour change to achieve energy efficiency: A case study of Karob Plastics”.

Let’s start with some background on Karob Plastics, your history, products etc.
Karob Plastics has been in business going on 11 years. We are a plastics converter manufacturing blow moulded containers (20 litre, 25 litre and 5 litres storage containers), as well as injection moulded 10 litre buckets. We mainly service the food, agricultural and chemical industries, across Gauteng, with some of our customers extending into Botswana. We are an SME that manufactures high density polyethylene plastic containers by means of injection and blow moulding machines.

What are you main challenges with regards to energy and energy efficiency?
Being a manufacturer converting a large amount of materials per month, our energy consumption is naturally very large, and something that we try to manage very carefully. Very often the challenges we experience in energy management are external factors beyond our control. The biggest challenge has been the steady increase in cable theft. Regular occurrences of cable theft often mean we are continuously starting up machines, which require a lot of time to warm up before a single product can be produced. This naturally results in wasted electricity.

Tell us more about the project you launched to drive energy efficiency?
During the 2012 IEE Energy Assessment, total energy savings were identified amounting to 83,924 kWh per annum, although some recommendations were implemented, for example the relocation of the compressors to a cooler position, there was no systematic approach to reducing energy consumption. Because of this, the Karob Plastics top management decided to pursue the systematic ISO/SANS 50001 implementation approach and signed up with the IEE project for EnMS implementation. We were approached by a close business colleague to work with the NCPC and IEE on implementing an energy management system, with the intention of eventually becoming ISO 50001 certified. We found that in terms of energy, electricity was our largest energy source.

Our significant energy uses are:
•         Blow moulding and the injection moulding machines
•         Granulators
•         Compressors
•         Lighting

The key aspect of this project was that capital expenditure was not to be applied, and we found that savings were achieved through purely behavioural and operational controls, and an aggressive communication campaign. It is a critical factor to have an EnMS in place to support the systematic implementation of the recommendations and the sustaining of such improvements.

The approach taken was to integrate the ISO/SANS 50001 requirements into the existing certificated ISO 9001 Management System.

Of significant benefit to the implementation was the Powerstar electricity management system that we have been utilizing since before 2012.

What are the long term benefits in your view to behavioural change etc.?
Following the success of the launch, energy management is top of mind for our employees. Our employees are recognised for contributions to energy management and for putting forward ideas, some of which have been implemented and have contributed to our savings. This momentum does need to be maintained, and we have successfully launched a “burst” campaign, which needs to be followed by “drip” and “pulse” interventions that need to be maintained.

How does your ISO certification impact on the drive towards increased energy efficiency?
We are certified under ISO 9001 and have integrated ISO 50001 requirements with our ISO 9001 management system. This requires regular reporting on energy management on a monthly basis, with stipulated objectives and measures, ensuring these are maintained at a management level.

You will address African Utility Week in May – what will be your message?
Communication and change management are vital when trying to engage employees to drive energy efficiency in a manufacturing environment. This presentation will discuss how Karob Plastics, a plastics manufacturer specialising in blow moulding and injection moulding, mobilised its workforce to drive energy efficiency, and achieve a substantial saving, without any capital expenditure.

Using infographics in a TED style format, the following will be unpacked:
•             Energy consumption at Karob Plastics and the importance of managing it
•             Challenges facing the manufacturing industry with regards to energy management
•             Employee buy-in as an essential element to driving energy efficiency
•             Change management and communication models applied to a South African manufacturing   environment to achieve energy savings.