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Energy efficiency with a human touch

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Energy efficiency is often seen as a technology-driven field, but the Lean approach is helping us see the people behind the technology. Stora Enso's mills in Sweden are leading by example. 
Making paper and carton products is often very energy intensive, so ensuring that we have a reliable energy supply is a must for Stora Enso. We achieve this by building long-term relationships with our energy suppliers and by producing a large share of our energy ourselves. But to be truly sustainable, we also need to focus on energy efficiency. ​
At Stora Enso we already have ambitious plans to reduce our energy consumption and CO2 emissions​ aiming to produce more products with less energy and lower emissions. Sometimes we need to make major investments in technology to help us reach our ambitious goals. At other times we use highly qualified experts to guide us through system updates. But often, all it takes is bringing together a group of people from different fields and letting them take a closer look.
"At Stora Enso, we have traditionally been very good at adjusting technology to save energy through modernising, optimising and rebuilding," says Stora Enso's Energy Efficiency Manager Mats Marcus. "Now we are also focusing on human beings and their roles in our processes."
"Lean is all about identifying what adds value to a process and reducing everything else," adds Johan Holm, Head of Environmental Policies and Programmes at Stora Enso. "The goal is to get the most out of our existing technology and human resources by improving processes with small changes, to achieve more with less."
With energy accounting for 12% of Stora Enso's annual variable costs, small improvements will accumulate into great savings – not to mention reductions in the use of natural resources and in our C​O2​emissions.
​Swedish mills leading the way 
Lean is being implemented at our mills in Sweden over an eight-month training period. “We’ve tailored the training for Stora Enso’s personnel in cooperation with Chalmers Professional Education, and twenty-five Stora Enso employees from different mills, roles, and functions will take part,” explains AnnaKarin Djupenström, Stora Enso’s Business Development Manager. Training will run until April 2016.
​To ensure that theory is put into practice, specific process areas for improvement have been defined for each mill, together with clear targets. Each unit is required to come up with at least 40 improvement ideas for their process area, and implement 27 of them by early spring 2016. Nymölla and Skutskär Mills are focusing on energy production at their power plants; Fors Mill is working with energy savings in board production; and Kvarnsveden and Hylte Mills aim to improve the energy efficiency of their pulp production.

The Lean team, including Mats Marcus and AnnaKarin Djupenström.​ 
​The Lean team, including Mats Marcus and AnnaKarin Djupenström.​

Input welcome from everyone
Lean works bottom-up instead of top-down: "This method promotes employee inclusion instead of just handing out instructions, and supports the idea of crossing over organisational silos," explains Johan Holm. 
First the actual purpose of each part of the process is determined, while taking into account variations due to human behaviour. This is not always an easy task, but the method has already helped discover a sizeable pump system operating at Kvarnsveden Mill that was not actually adding any value to the mill's processes. "It was only consuming energy, so we could simply turn it off!" Mats Marcus says. "The resulting energy savings will add up to 10 000 MWh per year."​
Real results
At Nymölla Mill, the Lean approach has significantly improved biomass fuel dryness and enhanced communications between the power plant and paper machine, leading to enhanced performance with no investments needed. Skutskär Mill's personnel were able to better align their production with the mill's wood room and power plant demand. This has reduced fuel costs, already saving the mill nearly 120 000 EUR.
In addition, at all of the participating mills employees have been highly motivated and inspired by the opportunity to discover hundreds of ways to improve their work. Saving energy is now a part of the daily agenda in a whole new way.
​Lean is a great example of how we can achieve tangible results in a technology-heavy field without major investments. As Mats puts it: "By focusing carefully on the ways we work, we can really achieve a lot."​