Benchmarking Utility Performance
in the Food Industry
Benchmarking is the backbone of a utility monitoring and targeting (M&T)
system. It enables the continuous improvement of utility performance.
What is benchmarking?
Benchmarking is a process that allows a company to compare current production
data - like cost, cycle time, productivity and quality - both to its past
performance and to industry best practices. To assess utility performance,
a company would first establish an energy baseline for its facility -
measuring selected indicators per kW/hr (electricity), BTU (gas or liquid
fuel) or mega joules (combined energy use) - and use this information
as a starting point for continuous improvement efforts. It is particularly
valuable if the company can also compare its data in a blind peer group
to identify potential areas for improvement.
Establishing an energy baseline for your facility allows you to:
- Connect your baseline utility use to product costing models;
- Isolate wasteful processes;
- Normalize the impact of weather on utility use;
- Pinpoint potential improvements in process or utility conservation
to cut costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
- Measure the impact of improvements;
- Compare your utility performance to that of your competitors; and
- Link your utility performance to environmental emissions reductions.
How to get started
Industry associations can champion benchmarking projects by mobilizing
their members to gather the baseline data to create an interactive industry
profile for their members. This profile identifies sectoral performance
and reveals the gaps between the high and low performers. Facilities on
the lower end of the scale can use the benchmarks to set real improvement
targets for themselves.
The baseline performance of one plant will differ from others for a number
of reasons. Geography, facility layout, processes and production schedules
all cause performance to vary. The mix of utility use in different food
processing sectors is also very diverse. A frozen vegetable processing
plant has a much different demand for energy and water than a bakery,
meat plant or beverage processor. Sectors and sub-sectors need separate
benchmarks to be useful.
National benchmarks are currently available for the dairy, brewing, and
wine industries. The Ontario Agri Business Association has energy benchmarks
for the grain and feed sectors. Other benchmarks are under development
and will become available as industry associations are engaged. Talk to
your industry association about how your sector can participate.
Setting utility performance benchmarks
Creating a sector or sub-sector profile for utility performance benchmarking
requires the following steps:
- Conduct electricity, gas, water and wastewater use baseline studies
for individual plants;
- Determine the utility use per unit of production or other parameters
as decided by the plant (to determine utility intensity);
- Compare the intensity of utility use of the participating plants and
identify the performance level of the leading (the top 25%) and the
lagging (the bottom 25%) performers.
Where a sector profile is established, individual plants can use the
data to determine gaps in their own performance and identify projects
that will improve utility performance to the sectoral standard.
From baseline to best practice at the plant level
A company can use its utility baseline to further dissect its operational
utility use and compare energy consumption levels to best practice standards.
In many cases, these standards are not specific to any single industry.
For example, utility companies can provide information on "best-in-class"
operation of boilers or large-scale freezers.
At the individual plant level, the steps involved in utility performance
- Identify the areas or processes at the plant that will benefit most
- Identify the key factors and variables to measure the processes;
- Analyze the data and identify the best practice by selecting a best-in-class
standard with which to compare performance;
- Determine the conditions under which the best practice can be achieved
and specify the action(s) that must be taken;
- Set up specific improvement targets and deadlines;
- Develop a continuous process to monitor results, review and update
See OMAFRA fact sheets on:
More information about utility performance benchmarking is available
Alex Keen, P.Eng., The Altech Group; Phil Dick, OMAFRA