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The 16 Best Ways to Save Energy in Manufacturing

Published Jul 06, 2017

Imagine a world where all its inhabitants had to put on a hazardous material suit before they stepped foot outside. A world that has become so toxic with waste, it starts to interrupt how we go about our daily business.

Now flip that image around completely. Picture a world where industries across the country took the initiative to take care of the environment, and save some money while they’re at it.

Industrial and manufacturing facilities are among the highest producers of waste in America, taking claim for almost 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. While significant changes have been made over the last 10 years, we still need to push to create energy efficient buildings and processes.

So we’ve made it easy for you and compiled a list of 16 practices that can be implemented in your facility. We thought we might add that not only are these tips good for the environment, but they’ll save you money too!

No to Low-Cost Improvements

1. Start by asking yourself, "How can I measure the improvements I am making without fully understanding where I began?"

Getting an energy audit should be the first and most important step you take when creating a green initiative. An audit will point out areas where your facility is wasting energy and harming the environment. They can be customized to fit every budget, ranging from online forms to hired professionals who come into your facility. No matter which route you take, you will be able to create a baseline for where you are currently positioned and determine what goals you would like to achieve with your initiative.

Make a realistic plan to achieve your energy efficiency goals based on the information gathered during your audit. Make a schedule and plan to reassess your goal(s) 2-5 times per year. Collect the data to see the impact your decisions are making for your facility and the environment.

2. Switch to biodegradable cleaners

Switching to biodegradable cleaners will help to keep harsh toxins away from you, your employees, and the environment. Try swapping out old products as they start to expire or run out. This way it will be a gradual change over and there isn’t lost money from wasting what you currently have available. Make sure to shop around for the best price-to-quality ratio. Many eco-products can be much cheaper than their chemical counterparts, especially when bought in bulk.

3. Become a paperless business

This one is a no-brainer since we are half way through 2017 but, at any rate, it is still worth mentioning. Keep all memos, presentations, manuals (and more) in their electronic form. Do Not Print Them. Doing this will save you money not spent on paper and printer ink, but Mother Nature will also be grateful. Added bonus for that employee who always seems to be misplacing his documents: this allows him nearly instant access to all documents, right on his computer, for reference.

If it isn’t an option to go completely paperless, that’s okay too. Update your printer and copier settings to print on both sides of the page by default. This is a small change that can have a huge impact on the resources used.

4. Switch bulbs to compact-fluorescent (CFL) or LED lights

Make the switch to CFL or LED light bulbs. While these bulbs have a higher up-front cost, their life-time value is much more than the traditional incandescent bulbs. While it seems like a simple fix, it actually makes quite a difference. Check out this energy saving calculator to estimate what type of impact this would be for you. 


5. Cut back on night and weekend energy use

Take a deeper look into your energy data while your facilities are not running (on a night or weekend). Are you still using unnecessary electricity while no one is around? Take some time to consider what has not been shut down or unplugged that could be.

6. Get employees on board with your initiative

It takes the whole corporate community to make the switch to being an environmentally conscious facility. Encourage your employees to work with you to help create more efficient processes. By involving your employees in the planning stages, they will likely feel more invested in the initiative. Have them commit to a set of guidelines for what the initiative is going to include. Along the way, keep them informed on how well the company is trending towards the goals.

Start by making small changes. Send out a 15 minute calendar hold for everyone in your company to set up their computers to be as efficient as possible. By making sure computers/laptops automatically hibernate when not in use, your company will in turn use less energy.  

Other ways to cut back on energy usage include:

Switch off equipment when not in use.

Printers, personal air conditioners/heaters.

Unplug appliances when not in use (microwaves, coffee makers, toasters). If the device is off, but still plugged in, it will continue to pull from the energy source.

Have employees shut-off and unplug computers/laptops on nights and weekends.

Discourage excessive use of lights. Ask employees to turn off lights in their office, the cafeteria, or meeting rooms when they are not in use.

7. Be considerate with start-up spikes

If it can be avoided, don’t turn on every mechanical system you have at one time. Gradually ramp up each piece of equipment in a specified manner that works best for your facility. This will help to lower severe surges in energy consumption.

8. Use technology to hold virtual meetings

Software such as WebEx or Skype are great tools that allow you to hold non-essential meetings from a remote location. Some of the best applications of these virtual meetings would be for customer update or internal meetings.  Use your better judgement here since there will always be instances where it is critical to physically be there with the client or employee. Utilizing virtual meetings allow you to save on travel costs and conserve your output of emissions at the same time.

9. Allow employees to work from home

Giving employees the privilege of working from home is not only good for morale, but it is a huge way to cut down on energy costs. Say you decide that they can choose any two days per month to work at home, that is still two days that capable employees will not be in your facilities to use the resources. But before you send everyone on their way, you need to make sure there is a VPN connection set up. This will allow them to log into the secured corporate network from home for access to files saved within the network.

10. Plant shady trees near office building

This suggestion has extra benefits because not only are you replenishing natural resources, you are also providing shade for your facilities – ultimately reducing the need for air conditioning.

11. Monitor your thermostats

Keep thermostats out of the control of general employees at your facility. This will allow you to keep the temperature at a level that suits the vast majority of employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests keeping temperatures between 68°F and 76°F. 

Medium to High Cost Improvements

12. Cut back on raw materials

It is unlikely to be able to cut out all raw materials, especially in the world of manufacturing. But have you considered what could be exchanged with recycled materials? Commonly used recycled materials include steel, cardboard, paper, and glass.

Think of all the raw materials you are currently using, and contact a recycled materials vendor to see if they offer the supplies you use. By lowering the amount of raw materials in your facility, you can help decrease the amount of waste you are creating. 

One thing to keep in mind: switching from raw to recycled materials does not automatically mean you have to compromise quality. If using recycled materials has at least one effect on your brand, it will give you a competitive advantage for being known as being environmentally conscious.

13. Renewable energy

A common misconception when it comes to using renewable energy in manufacturing is it can’t possibly be power for the facility’s needs. On the contrary, renewable energy is more powerful than you might think. The main sources come from sunlight, wind, heat, and rain. Many businesses will use a combination of two or more sources to ensure they will have power during energy “down-time.” 


14. Embrace natural lighting

While installing skylights into your office space will have additional upfront cost, it can be accounted for over time with the money saved on light bulbs and electricity. Natural light is also better for your health and has been proven to make employees more productive. It is versatile and can be used completely on its own or with artificial lighting fixtures.

15. Install timers for lighting and heating

Use automatic timers to schedule your light and heating/cooling systems to make sure your systems are only running when the employees are in the office. Keep energy usage and costs down once these upgraded systems are installed.

Tip: Make sure to check them on a regular basis to make sure they are consistently doing the job they were installed for.

16. Buy energy efficient devices

If you can get passed the initial sticker price of energy efficient machines and appliances, this one is should be fairly painless. It’s very practical for machines that run completely on electricity, and will save you money over the lifetime of the machine.

Taking the time to implement some of these suggestions into your daily business can help lower costs and improve proficiencies. While adding them all probably isn’t an option for most businesses, adding a few here and there can make all the difference. Start by choosing one obtainable goal and build from there!

**These recommendations are not guaranteed to work in every situation.


About Arrowhead Systems, Inc. Wisconsin-based Arrowhead Systems, Inc. is a leading provider of conveyor, packaging machinery, and line productivity solutions to customers in the food, beverage, packaged products, pharmaceuticals, and container industries. The company’s facilities include three manufacturing locations in Wisconsin, an engineering office in Michigan, plus direct sales staff and field service representatives throughout the United States.

For more information: Contact Arrowhead Systems at


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McDougall, David. "The Top Five Energy Efficiency Measures for Industrial Businesses."Sustainable Plant. N.p., 6 Mar. 2013. Web. 6 June 2017.
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