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How CEOs Are Advancing Their Sustainability Initiatives

The McWane Family of Companies cast ductile iron products, including pipe, valves, hydrants, fittings, and plumbing products. The processes that are used to produce these products have been refined over time to deliver a high-quality product at a profit. How do you maintain profitability and implement sustainability initiatives?

In his 2021 letter to CEOs, Larry Fink, chairman of investment management firm Blackrock, Inc., instantly made ESG a trending term in boardrooms around the world. In his letter, Fink asserted that all companies will be profoundly affected by the transition to a sustainability-focused economy. He then noted that prior to investment by his company, BlackRock would require companies to disclose their plans for transitioning their business model to account for sustainability initiatives and how that plan will be incorporated into their long-term strategy.

Suddenly, companies needed to have a clear and actionable plan for the “E” in their ESG profiles. More than high-minded visions, strongly worded mission statements, or even tightly defined goals, CEOs of manufacturing companies are now facing a mandate to act.

And they are all facing the same challenges:

How do they update their ESG profiles to strengthen their approach to environmental and climate issues, then successfully move those plans from the boardroom to implementation across the enterprise and on to the factory floor?

And, how do they balance the sustainability issues within ESG, while also speaking the other language of the board – profitability?

McWane, Inc., like so many other companies, has been working this problem for years. McWane is a 100-year-old manufacturing company that produces a breadth of products that are essential to the infrastructure and daily life of people around the world. The McWane Family of Companies cast ductile iron products, including pipe, valves, hydrants, fittings, and plumbing products. The processes that are used to produce these products have been refined over time to deliver a high-quality product at a profit. How do you maintain profitability and implement sustainability initiatives?

In the words of McWane President, Ruffner Page, “The first step on our sustainability journey was to not think about environmental initiatives and profitability goals as two separate and opposed pursuits; because, in fact, smarter, safer, and more sustainable processes chart a direct path to profitability.”

That journey continued when McWane recently joined the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Plants Program. Through this program, McWane chose to set a goal to reduce energy intensity by 20% over a 10-year period, across all their U.S. operations. The management team’s pledge to the Better Plants program was a key factor in getting the general managers of McWane’s divisions to more carefully consider ways to improve their factory’s energy waste and develop sustainability initiatives at the local level.

In support of McWane’s corporate sustainability programs, the team at McWane Ductile New Jersey had been using recycled raw materials for years. However, to reduce the plant’s energy intensity as a part of the Better Plants Program, they needed to do more. The facility-management team knew that their foundries contain many opportunities for energy-conserving process improvements. The problem was that they couldn’t see where those opportunities were hiding.

Enter Synapse, a strategic investment and partner in McWane’s sustainability journey.

Synapse’s Energy Management System, SimplySnap, provides the tools for facility managers to have a holistic view of where, how, and when each and every kWh is being used across the facility, by department, and even within individual pieces of equipment.

Keith Mallet, General Manager of McWane Ductile New Jersey laid out the challenge: “We asked Synapse to help pinpoint the equipment that was wasting energy and help quantify those energy costs.” Utilizing Synapse’s proprietary low-power wireless mesh technology, the team was able to connect sensors to the plant’s existing equipment and wirelessly monitor the equipment’s energy consumption. When the data was analyzed by SimplySnap’s energy cost algorithm, unexpected patterns began to be revealed and the facility management team knew where to start. The insights gained from the data enabled the team at McWane Ductile New Jersey to identify a “quick-win” project to save energy. The energy savings gained from this one project paid itself in a short 5-month period.

SimplySnap not only provided a clear vision that could be translated immediately to meaningful actions, but also laid the foundation for the team to see other opportunities to save energy across the facility.

“Once the team at McWane Ductile New Jersey could see what was driving their utility bills – once they could see all the little numbers that rolled their way up to that big number – I knew we were on our way to identifying more ways to save energy without having to modify our proven processes. The changes implemented resulted in savings that went straight to the bottom line – improving profitability while also achieving a more sustainable operation.” Rod Reisner, McWane AVP, Director of Innovation & IoT Programs.

Reducing the company’s energy footprint and executing their environmental initiatives is not a destination. It’s a journey. The first step down that path requires buy-in from upper management and a team that understands the importance of taking action. However, energy savings doesn’t happen in the boardroom, but rather through the know-how and expertise one finds on the factory floor. Tools such as SimplySnap, that don’t require invasive equipment upgrades or complicated installation and setup, are key in economically revealing the data necessary to gain insights and develop plans to reduce energy waste. But once that data is revealed, facility personnel can execute, enabling the company as a whole to hit their sustainability objectives.

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To find out more about how McWane Ductile New Jersey solved for both profitability and sustainability, check out the details in the case study here.

Visit the Energy Management Information page.