They say you never want to see a sausage get made. But after a major upgrade of its Kaiapoi plant, the Hellers factory is a completely different story.
It takes a lot of sizzle to sell the sausage and Hellers, which produces up to 350 tonnes of sausages every week (as well as a whole heap of bacon, ham and various deli meats), was churning through the energy. Not surprisingly, keeping their pounds of flesh cool and generating hot water were major costs to the business, so, back in 2014, it embarked on a project with Active Refrigeration to improve its energy systems.
A cutting edge hot water heat pump system replaced the traditional LPG fired steam boilers and it also installed a refrigeration heat recovery system. The factory is now a thing of energy efficient beauty, and that has led to some truly meaty savings, both in terms of money and carbon emissions.
Hellers is the number one brand by both volume and value in the New Zealand meat processing industry and its quest for productivity through energy efficiency is having a trickle down effect.
The proof, as they say, is in the (black) pudding and, since the upgrade, there has been an 84 percent reduction in hot water generation costs and a 90 percent reduction in hot water CO2 emissions. All up, it has resulted in savings of $148,000 year, which has freed up capital for maintenance and upgrades of other parts of the plant. And it’s also allowed the company to retain its quality and processes and provide adequate chilling and hot water to keep up with the company’s increased growth.
The most successful businesses understand that technology drives productivity and profitability. And these progressive companies have inspired other businesses to explore the long-term cost-saving potential of smarter, more efficient buildings, factories and systems. As Craig Duff, the founding director of Active Refrigeration says, the Hellers story has provided a good helping of local inspiration.
Hellers' new boiler (top) and machine room are one part of a major factory upgrade that has saved Hellers $148,000 a year.
"It’s important from a Hellers point-of-view because they’re looked upon as a major provider in the food sector,” he says. “And they’re looking to suppliers to see they are doing things as efficiently as possible.”
Thinking about innovation and energy efficiency as a way to drive productivity is contagious and once you start on this process of improvement, that attitude does spread quickly. Duff says one of the most exciting results of the project was the increase in staff productivity and the desire to improve other aspects of the business.
An example of Hellers' cutting-edge refrigeration technology in action.
“There’s a mindset change because people see innovation and they see us leading the industry and they want to be part of it. Staff want to look at other ways to further improve not only that site [Kaiapoi] but all the rest. Staff become more engaged when they see the potential and how we’ve developed products to meet the needs of industry.”
As a result of its upgrade, Hellers was named the winner of the high-profile Innovation Award at the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Awards earlier this year.
“Refrigeration in New Zealand is a major energy-user and it’s important that we try and be as sustainable as possible and with the environment in mind,” Duff says. “We have learnt a lot and are continuously evolving and improving the process as well.”
Mmmmmm, energy efficient steak.
ANZCO Foods, another large meat producer, also embarked on a mission to cut energy costs. In 2012 a $3.9 million capital works programme was implemented to upgrade hot water systems, improve refrigeration and replace the old plant with state-of-the-art, energy-efficient technology. Christchurch company DETA Consulting worked with ANZCO to set up energy-management committees at each of its nine sites. That might seem like a big investment and a lot of effort, but it’s already well and truly paid off: ANZCO Foods has reduced its energy use 17 percent, saved $2.6 million a year in fuel bills and its greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of meat are now down by 14 percent. Projects focused on reducing hot water usage also saved on total water volumes, at a rate of 37,000m3 each year. That’s about the same amount the Waikato River pumps into Auckland’s water supply network each day.
Working with DETA and EECA, ANZCO reduced its energy consumption by 17 percent, for huge savings of $2.6 million a year.
The programme was so successful the five-year target of 36 gigawatt hours in annual savings was reached two years ahead of schedule at the end of 2015 and, like Hellers, its efforts resulted in an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Award, with ANZCO taking out the Energy Management category. Continuing to work with EECA as a partner, ANZCO has now set new, much bolder targets for 2017.
ANZCO's savings on energy have allowed it to invest capital into other, more productive areas.
“Engineering improvements at various sites has meant productivity gains there, mainly to do with hot water,” says ANZCO asset manager Ian Reid. “Stage one was the start of the process. We plan to do a lot more projects to do with refrigeration and heat recovery,” says Reid.
Smart businesses are looking at the word ‘waste’ and redefining it as ‘potential’. And in a hyper-competitive business environment that constantly demands more from less, embracing more efficient energy technologies is helping to unleash more of it in the workplace and allowing business owners to redirect money into more productive areas. So next time you’re getting set to fire up the barbie, make sure you reach for the energy efficient steaks and snarlers.
Fun fact: most businesses can shave up to 20 percent off their energy costs with smarter energy use. To see how your business can become more productive, check out the EECA Business website.
Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription, an Idealog t-shirt and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).