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GM, L’Oréal Compete on DOE’s Latest Better Buildings Challenge Swap

The energy management teams that participated in season 4 of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge SWAP web series, from General Motors (left) and L’Oréal USA (right). | Image credit: U.S. Department of Energy

In season 4 of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Better Buildings Challenge SWAP web series, energy management teams from General Motors (GM) and L’Oréal USA visit each other’s facilities in search of opportunities to reduce their energy use and save money. The result is an informative, behind the scenes look at what it takes to improve manufacturing competitiveness through energy efficiency in three easy-to-digest 10-minute videos.

With its goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2019 for all 21 of its U.S. manufacturing and distribution facilities, it’s no wonder the L’Oréal team welcomed GM into its largest cosmetics plant. In North Little Rock, Arkansas the GM team explored the manufacturing lines for powders, mascara, lip gloss, and nail polish, hunting for chances to improve efficiency through better air leak monitoring, heat optimization and more.

“Having GM visit was a bit intimidating in the beginning, but it was a pleasure to get their insights on where we can improve and introduce them to some of our successes,” said Carlos Ruiz Rabago, Senior Vice President Manufacturing North America at L’Oréal. “I’m proud of the work we have done to make innovative energy efficiency improvements and build a culture of sustainability, and I think they were inspired too.”

Along with their improvement opportunities, the General Motors team also walked away with new ideas for making energy efficiency more personal for employees, inspired by L’Oréal USA’s employee engagement initiatives, including the solar stanchions named for each of the more than 300 employees in the North Little Rock facility’s 1.2 MW solar array.

The teams travel to Detroit, Michigan for episode 2, where the L’Oréal team took the keys to GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant where the Chevrolet Impala and Volt, Cadillac CT6, and Buick LaCrosse are made. The L’Oréal team uncovered opportunities to improve such as lighting changes and shutting down compressed air systems on the production line at the end of the day. After seeing General Motors in action, the L’Oréal USA team plans to adapt the automaker’s process for energy-efficiency treasure hunts, and looks forward to implementing similar tactics across its plants.

“L’Oréal’s visit was a little daunting at first,” said Al Hildreth, Global Energy Manager at GM. “It’s easy to walk into someone else’s plant and start pointing out the flaws, but it takes a little getting used to when the critical eye is on you.

“I think both teams recognized a lot of similarities in how we operate and built some mutual respect. Along with getting L’Oréal’s insights, we were able to show them some innovative approaches to resource monitoring and management that we use here at Detroit-Hamtramck. I’m confident both of our operations have been improved by the SWAP experience.”

True to the show’s name, the teams swap recommendations and solutions in the third episode of the mini-series. Bonus episodes with additional tips on employee engagement and compressed air – highlights of the teams’ learning – are also included on the DOE’s Better Buildings YouTube channel.

Both L'Oréal USA and General Motors are partners in the DOE’s Better Buildings, Better Plants Program. The nearly 200 program partners represent roughly 12 percent of the U.S. manufacturing energy footprint, amounting to 2,900 facilities in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico, and have reported estimated cumulative energy cost savings of more then $4.2 billion to date.

The Better Buildings Challenge SWAP launched in 2016 featuring Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market, followed by the U.S. Air Force Academy facing off against the U.S. Naval Academy in SWAP 2. The third season followed in 2017, with the Cities of Boston and Atlanta swapping energy teams. Collectively the webisodes have been viewed more than 4.7 million times to date.


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