Kohler has 15 potteries around the world. If we put it in basketball terms (because who doesn’t like a good sports analogy), it’s the equivalent of enough players to man three teams, giving the group access to multiple strategic plays and experienced coaches keeping their “eye on the ball.” It’s this kind of global teamwork that has helped Global Vitreous Operations reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent per piece over the last three years.
According to Chip Wilt, Director – Quality & Continuous Improvement, Global Vitreous Operations, crafting vitreous products is energy intensive. After all, we’re firing clay product at thousands of degrees. “By raising the awareness of sustainability throughout our vast vitreous organization, we are able to share expertise and energy-reduction strategies across multiple facilities to collectively focus and maximize our efficiencies,” he said.
So what are we doing? Well, here are a few examples.
First and foremost, yield is energy’s best friend. By using problem solving to increase yields, we are reducing the quantity of pieces to be fired. Additionally, the more pieces we can fire at a time, the more efficiently we’re using the energy. That is, sending 100 pieces through a kiln is more efficient than sending 20 when you have to use the same amount of energy regardless. Improving loading patterns and creative scheduling maximizes the efficiency of the firings.
Heat recovery is another area of focus. As a kiln cools down, its heat is exhausted into the atmosphere through chimney stacks. We recapture that waste heat and use it to heat other areas of plants, such as dryers. Technology also is advancing to reuse this energy inside the kiln, thus using less gas when it’s time to fire.
When all 15 of our potteries adopt these energy-saving practices (or variations to fit each plant’s needs), we start to see our gas usage plummet, as well as our environmental footprint. “This is just a taste of what we’re working on from an energy-usage standpoint,” added Wilt. “We’re thinking differently about tried-and-true methods, and it’s leading us to new, innovative processes.” Now that’s winning playbook.