Thank you Xcel Energy!

Share

Share

Rethink Energy: Manufacturing for The Future

Effective Solutions for ManufacturingWritten by Amon O’Connor.

Minnesota’s manufacturing sector is arguably the backbone of the state’s economy, 14.7 percent in fact. According to Enterprise Minnesota, it represents the largest portion of the state’s $255 Billion GDP and makes up 13 percent of the workforce. Moreover, for every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, an additional $1.40 is added to the economy. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, this is the highest return factor of any economic sector.

 

Here in Minnesota, the combination of our location by the Great Lakes and a strong manufacturing economy provides incentive for innovation. Manufacturing has historically fallen behind the curve when it comes to sustainable energy, connectivity, and technology integration. In these times however, there is substantial evidence to suggest that manufacturers of any size should be making business decisions that connect, streamline, and improve your facility, leading to reduced energy cost and increased efficiency in production.

 

Solutions such as smart sensors, devices that make “dumb” work-horse manufacturing machinery into intelligent, adaptive devices along the entire value chain, are now being implemented in many industry sectors. This type of device-level energy management is an auspicious approach to revamping an outdated system that can add value to an already highly lucrative industry.

 

With sustainability in the limelight, the pressure in 2017 for modernization is high. If you are a manufacturer in Minnesota, the chances of there being profit from such changes is incredible designerfashionconsignments.com. Companies like Sustainable Energy Savings, Inc. are creating answers and multifold returns to the growing need for strategic energy solutions, bringing manufacturers in line with both shareholders and the environment.

Sustainable Energy Savings, Inc. is proud to be part of this thriving, robust Minnesota community.  Our commitment to game-changing innovation is backed with more than seven years of expertise, bringing energy solutions that impact your bottom line.

 

Share

Standards To Improve Sustainable Manufacturing

pumpjack-591934_1920

Anyone who’s ever covered a wall with sticky notes to clearly map all of the steps in a process knows how valuable that exercise can be. It can streamline workflow, increase efficiency and improve the overall quality of the end result. Now, a public-private team led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has created a new international standard that can “map” the critically important environmental aspects of manufacturing processes, leading to significant improvements in sustainability while keeping a product’s life cycle low cost and efficient.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, manufacturing accounts for one-fifth of the annual energy consumption in the United States–approximately 21 quintillion joules (20 quadrillion BTU) or equivalent to 3.6 billion barrels of crude oil. To reduce this staggering amount and improve sustainability, manufacturers need to accurately measure and evaluate consumption of energy and materials, as well as environmental impacts, at each step in the life cycles of their products.

However, making these assessments can be difficult, costly and time consuming, as many manufactured items are created in multiple and/or complex processes, and the environmental impacts of these processes can vary widely depending on how and where the manufacturing occurs. Additionally, the data collected are often unreliable, frequently not derived through scientific methods, and do not compare well with those from other types of manufacturing processes or from processes at different locations.

Graphic showing sustainability aspects for measuring and evaluating the performance of manufacturing processes. A new international standard created by a public-private team led by NIST guides manufacturers with a formal method for characterizing their processes to achieve environmental goals. Credit: NIST

 

These issues are beginning to be addressed through a recently approved ASTM International standard for characterizing the environmental aspects of manufacturing processes (ASTM E3012-16). The guide provides manufacturers with a science-based, systematic approach to capture and describe information about the environmental aspects for any production process or group of processes, and then use that data to make informed decisions on improvements. The standard is easily individualized for a company’s specific needs.

 

“It’s similar to using personal finance software at home where you have to gather income and expenditure data, ‘run the numbers’ and then use the results to make smart process changes–savings, cutbacks, streamlining, etc.–that will optimize your monthly budget,” said NIST systems engineer Kevin Lyons, who chaired the ASTM committee that developed the manufacturing sustainability standard, check sanmembers.

“We designed ASTM E3012-16 to let manufacturers virtually characterize their production processes as computer models, and then, using a standardized method, ‘plug and play’ the environmental data for each process step to visualize impacts and identify areas for improving overall sustainability of the system,” Lyons said.

For their next step, Lyons and his colleagues on the ASTM sustainability committee plan to define key performance indicators (KPIs)–metrics of success–for manufacturing sustainability that can be fed back into the E3012-16 standard to make it even more effective.

“In the long term, we’d also like to establish a repository of process models and case studies from different manufacturing sectors so that users of the standard can compare and contrast against their production methods,” Lyons said.

Through a collaboration with Oregon State University, NIST held regional industry roundtables in Boston, Chicago and Seattle to learn how best to introduce the benefits of the sustainability standard to U.S. manufacturers, especially small- and medium-size firms. A report about those meetings will be published later this year.


Story Source:

Materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Photo Credit: “Pumpjack” by Skeeze used with permission from C.C. by 2.0

Share

Like It Or Not, Sustainability Is Now Core to Your Business

int_brand_983_sa_grlwteacher_hr

 

 

What used to be considered green virtue has now morphed into a crucial competitive tool.

 

That business has a role to play in improving the environment and dealing with climate change is certain. What is much less so is how to do that, and for some, whether to try. After all, companies feel comfortable doing business as usual, and few want to threaten their competitiveness in favor of green virtue.

Our point is that this is not an either or question. A growing number of examples—from diverse industries—show that sustainable business practices can be good for business from the bottom-line up. For example, Unilever (UN -1.70%) has developed washing-up fluids that use less water—and sales are growing fast, particularly in water-scarce markets. And most everyone can name a favorite product or two whose brand is intimately associated with its green credentials. My point is that sustainability can be much more—that it has a role in any and all sectors.

Here are a few examples that McKinsey has been involved with that prove the point. (For confidentiality reasons, we cannot use the company names).

 

⦁ A major brewer identified some 150 possible improvements that could reduce GHG emissions—while saving $200 million over five years.

⦁ When a water utility benchmarked its performance against that of other utilities, it figured out where the biggest opportunities were—in this case energy and chemicals. After four years, the results were in: less leakage, fewer customer complaints—and $178 million in savings—a 25 percent reduction in operating costs.

⦁ A state-owned industrial company in China increased the energy yield of its coal significantly simply by tracking it better, making sure the first mined was the first used. That improved energy efficiency as well as carbon intensity, while reducing costs 13 percent.

The nitty-gritty of sustainability programs can get complicated. But the principles are actually pretty simple—and should be familiar to executives. First, and most important, is to acknowledge that sustainability is serious. The case is not that difficult to make. In a McKinsey survey of 340 executives, more than 90 percent said risk management—whether from consumers, regulators, or the market (for example, high resource prices)—was an important factor in pushing them toward sustainability initiatives, check  chiropractic techniques.
Once the decision is taken, define priorities, set measurable targets, evaluate costs and benefits, and create consistent incentives, including those related to executive compensation. For example, Nike (NKE -2.05%) tracks its suppliers on a range of metrics, including quality, timeliness, cost—and sustainability. Falter for long on any of these, and the consequence is fewer orders. Result: many more suppliers are hitting their sustainability mark. DuPont (DD -1.22%) has no trouble justifying its sustainability initiatives to shareholders: it is generating billions in revenue from products that reduce emissions. Intel (INTC -0.32%) has a dedicated finance analyst whose job is to calculate the value of its sustainability efforts. To reduce emissions and improve other environmental metrics in its food chain, Wal-Mart (WMT -1.48%) tracks not only GHG output, but also yield, water use, and other factors per ton of food produced. In addition to achieving environmental improvements, it cut the price of food and vegetables in the United States by $3.5 billion.

It is important to define targets that are both specific and achievable; it’s better to say “Eliminate X million pounds of packaging,” than the vague “Reduce the footprint of our packaging.” As of August 2014, though, a McKinsey analysis found that only one in five companies in the business marketing 500 had explicit, long-term sustainability goals, even though more than a third (36 percent) said sustainability was a top-three priority.

The larger point is this. Real sustainability efforts are core business efforts; because they are not always easy, they can help a company to raise its game and perform better in all kinds of ways. In mid-2014, McKinsey did a study that found a strong correlation between resource efficiency and financial performance; the companies with the most advanced sustainability strategies did best of all. In a study for the Harvard Business School that drew similar conclusions (higher return on equity and assets for higher-sustainability companies), the authors concluded, “developing a corporate culture of sustainability may be a source of competitive advantage in the long run.”

To think of sustainability as a niche gets it wrong. To do it right, companies need to be rigorous, goal-oriented, and accountable. The evidence is building not only that sustainability initiatives work, but that they are an important factor in creating long-term value.

 

Jeremy Oppenheim is a director of McKinsey & Company, based in London and a global leader in the Sustainability & Resource Productivity network. In 2014, he served as program director for the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. Martin Stuchtey is Director of the McKinsey Center for Business & Environment and is based in Munich.

Share

3BL for the People, Planet, & Profit

 

 

By Mary Stokes

Despite it’s catchy name, 3BL isn’t the newest craze in boy bands.  3BL , also known as The Triple Bottom Line, was a phrase first coined by John Elkington in his 1994 book, Cannibals With Forks.  He identified it as a method of reporting profit that considers a business’s impact on the environment and society, in addition to its regular bottom line.  Its foundation – sustainability of people, the planet, and profit – is just as applicable today as it was 22 years ago.

Clients and employees alike pay more attention to businesses if they are committed to people and the environment.  Utilization of 3BL positively affects a business’s publicity by creating accountability to the public concerning societal and ecological bottom lines.

Clients want to purchase products and services that come from responsible businesses; in fact, in the Cone Communications 2015 consumer study, “91% of global consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit but also operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues.”

Employees are more engaged when they feel their employing business has the same values they do.  3BL also encourages businesses to give back to their communities through charity, volunteering, and other means.  Implementing 3BL also has the benefit of both short-term and long-term profitability, just as other formats of sustainability do.

The key is that 3BL is more than just sustainable practices with regard to environmental impact; it’s about a balanced approach to business.  While actual measurements for 3BL can be tricky, it is vital to study the interactions of each bottom line and understand how they affect one another.  As a business begins to equalize each bottom line, profit does not decrease in importance. However, as each area becomes a focal point, the overall profit shifts from financial value alone to societal and ecologic value combined.

Some notables that have embraced 3BL are Patagonia, Southwest Airlines, and Seventh Generation.  While these companies are somewhat larger, there is a movement within smaller businesses to utilize 3BL as well.  Though they are not always as visible with regard to societal and ecological impact, there are similar benefits to implementing the practices of 3BL for smaller businesses, including “increased employee engagement, improved standing in the local community and the building of a sustainable business model.”

3BL is an invaluable system for evaluating your business’s profits on several levels.  As Mitch Tyson, Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Electron Beams puts it, 

“You can rationalize that the triple bottom line will make your company more successful, which it will, or you could pursue it because it reflects your values as a person. . . .  The triple bottom line and sustainability aren’t new management techniques.  They aren’t the latest management fads. They are concepts that challenge each of us to balance the way we successfully run our business and the world that our children’s children will inherit from us.  3BL is about creating a future for your business-a future in which it is financially, ecologically, and societally prosperous.”

 

Mary Stokes is a technical and creative writer based in Minneapolis, MN. Photo Credit: “Hands” by stokpic, licensed through C.C. by 2.0

 

Sponsored by SES, Inc.

SES image

 

 

 

 

Share

Take Credit for Your Business Part II; New Opportunities on the Horizon

 

In a 2011 blog Article, Take Credit for Your Business, we discussed how the R&D Tax credit provided potential sources of cash for manufacturers of all sizes that have incurred expenses in pursuit of new or improved process (e.g. Additive Manufacturing), products (e.g. new product engineering, or applications of AM throughout the product development lifecycle), performance, reliability, or quality. However, until 2016 the reality was that many small and mid-size companies and their tax advisors felt it was simply not viable to pursue this tax credit. The reasons included the complexity of the documentation, the cost of hiring experts to do documentation, and general confusion over what expenses qualified and which did not. In many other cases, the tax credits generated could not be used because of limitations created by current tax rules. So it’s not surprising that the majority of companies that have historically taken advantage of this benefit were big businesses. visit here milfster.org

We are pleased to report, that this situation has changed due to some late legislation that was passed in December 2015: the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015. That legislation, in addition to making the tax credit permanent for the first time in the credit’s 35-year history, significantly enhanced how small and mid-sized manufacturers (SMMs) can benefit from the research tax credits they can generate, utilizing the following significant provisions:

  • Eligible SMM’s may now claim the credit against the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) to offset AMT for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015.
  • Some start-up companies may offset payroll taxes with the credit: beginning in tax years beginning after December 31, 2015, certain start-up companies will be allowed to utilize the research credit to offset the employer’s payroll tax (i.e., FICA) liabilities.

How are these significant changes? In years past, a large number of eligible SMM’s (especially S Corporations and other flow-through entities) did not pursue the R&D Tax Credit because the AMT prevented them from using the R&D Tax Credits that they could generate. In addition, young companies typically don’t have a need for tax credits because their expenditures are higher than their sales, thus creating operating losses. Both of these new changes will allow a higher number of companies to immediately monetize the credits they can generate!

According to Scott Schmidt of Black Line Group, the definition of R&D under the law remains much broader than most people realize. For example, time and materials spent prototyping using AM technologies and equipment, costs to experiment with different designs and materials, the design/engineering of new parts and components, and periodically activities related to software development, can all potentially generate R&D Tax Credits.

Manufacturers of all kinds, including those that design and develop their own products, as well as contract manufacturers and job shops, can all take advantage of the R&D Tax Credit. Both the customer and vendor (job shop/contract manufacturer) of an R&D part can take the credit, since the customer will have qualified expenditures around the “PRODUCT” development/improvement activities of the part or component, while the vendor will have qualified expenditures associated with developing the “PROCESS” for making the part.

Schmidt encourages potential and first time users of the R&D tax credit to get ahead of the game and immediately start documenting their “qualified costs” in preparation to start pursuing the R&D Tax Credit in 2016. He notes that companies that make parts for their larger customers in particular (e.g. metal stampers and fabricators, precision machinists, mold builders and plastic injection molders, tool and die makers) should seriously begin to evaluate whether they are eligible for the credit.

Note:  the information contained in this article should not be interpreted as advice or as an endorsement of any product or service, and cannot be used by the reader for promoting, marketing, or recommending any matter or actions addressed in this article to other parties. Mr. Devereaux is not a tax expert and anyone who wishes to pursue this credit should consult a tax accountant for advice.

Share