Quality management started as a movement to ensure consistency in manufacturing. With the development of systems like Six Sigma, ISO 9000, and PDCA, quality management has been applied to virtually every vertical and organizational structure.
Today’s energy management, as a movement, can be compared to the early days of TQM. If we look to Quality Management as a mature movement, as a thriving industry, as our metaphorical older brother, there are five main lessons we should heed.
Lesson One: Use a Process Approach
Quality management systems are built upon foundations of processes and systems. A process is defined as a “set of interrelated or interacting activities, which transforms inputs into outputs . . . a process requires allocation of resources.” Examples of processes can be strategic planning, measurement of consumption of resources, etc. In organizations committed to quality management, interrelated processes are managed together as a system.
By implementing a process approach, energy management professionals can ensure streamlined operations. For example, in measuring the consumption of energy, using energy management solutions, the energy data will help you refine and improve operational processes. By aligning business critical applications to standard operating procedures, you maintain a process approach.
Lesson Two: Continual Improvement
Quality management is not quality assurance; and energy management is not a one-time campaign to save power. Like in quality management, we must constantly and consistently be seeking to improve and become more efficient.
We must always seek to improve – energy management is not a task you can check off when you reach a predetermined goal. Energy managers, like their quality colleagues, need to set KPIs, benchmarks and metrics. This helps identify performance gaps to areas for improvement.
Lesson Three: Factual Approach to Decision Making
As an energy management professional, you are familiar with your systems, you understand your energy consumption, and you are bound to have good hunches. What quality management teaches us is that while we can trust our gut, we must make decision based on data.
Luckily for us, as opposed to the middle of the 20th century when quality management was gaining traction, big data is here to help us. Everything can (and should!) be monitored. Data can (and should!) be gathered from every device that uses energy. Vast amounts of data can be aggregated and presented as insights upon which we can base our energy management decisions.
Lesson Four: The Five Whys
To effect true change in our energy consumption, we need to adopt The Five Whys to understand the root of the problem.
In the A (Analyze) phase Six Sigma’s DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology, the 5 Whys help us determine the underlying cause of a problem. Though it seems simple, differentiating between symptoms of a problems and its true cause sometimes eludes us.
Problem: Our company pays too much for energy.
Why is our company paying too much for energy? (#1)
Because our energy conservation isn’t systematic.
Why isn’t our energy conservation systematic? (#2)
Because our main systems are wasting energy.
Why are our systems wasting energy? (#3)
Because they are managed by a BMS that doesn’t account for the real-time activity of our devices.
Why are they managed by a BMS that doesn’t account for the real-time activity of our devices? (#4)
Because each device isn’t monitored.
Why isn’t each device monitored? (#5)
Because we don’t have a cost-effective way to monitor each device at each location and aggregate all the data into useful information
By asking “Why” five times, we have discerned that the reason we pay too much for energy is because we don’t have a cost-effective way to monitor each device at each location and aggregate all the data into useful information.
Lesson Five: Be Lean
The TPS model of quality management focuses on reducing waste. As energy manager, we too, must take this commitment to heart. On the surface level, we are here to reduce wasteful consumption of energy, so this seems like a no-brainer. But there is more to it than that.
For example, preventative maintenance can help us eliminate waste because it can lower unplanned downtime and expensive equipment failures.
Quality Management Lessons for Energy Management Success
Naturally, these five lessons are the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot we can learn from the methodologies of Quality Management. Start with a process approach and a focus on continual improvement, make decisions based on data, get to root causes of problems, and improve operations. By adopting these five principles as our own and working with a cost-effective energy management software that encompasses all of these methods, your company’s energy management solutions will thrive.
Jon Rabinowitz is Senior Director of Marketing at Panoramic Power, a leading provider of energy management solutions for retail business around the world. In this role he advocates on the use of sensor energy monitoring technology to make proactive operational decisions and reduce energy costs.