How does Daimler approach Energy Efficiency in general? Peter Blaurock is responsible for energy management and energy supply for Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations. We sat down with him for an interview to talk about current measures in the Mercedes-Benz plants as well as overall goals with regards to energy management.
Mr Blaurock: you are, as it were, the man commissioned with saving and supplying energy at Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations. What are your objectives for the Group?
From 2022, Mercedes-Benz Cars will be supplying its plants across Germany with energy in a way that is CO2-neutral. To do so, it will be relying completely on electricity produced from regenerative sources, for example from wind and hydroelectric power. The sourcing of "green" energy will be complemented in some plants by in-house generation in highly efficient gas CHP power stations (combined heat and power), also known as cogeneration systems. Any remaining CO2 emissions will be offset through approved compensation projects
At home we save energy by turning off the lights whenever we can and turning the heating off when we open the windows. What are the relevant levers in the production area?
Much as they are at home: energy awareness. This includes opting for energy-efficient technology and, above all, its intelligent control and operation. We need to consider energy efficiency as an integral part of the system, with people, that is to say our staff, at the heart of this system. Working with creativity for energy-efficient innovations and solutions, taking energy efficiency systematically into consideration during planning, adjusting building sizes accordingly, using intelligent controls and innovative technologies during operation, as well as looking at every idea and every single suggestion for improvement. Energy efficiency is relevant to each and every one of us.
What challenges do you currently see in terms of energy management?
Both in Germany and abroad, the energy markets are becoming increasingly volatile. The regulatory requirements are in a constant state of flux. This means that, if we are to meet our ambitious energy objectives, we must continue to develop our strategy and our energy management at all Mercedes-Benz Cars production locations.
To what extent are you able to apply the VUCA principle, as it is called, to the challenges in the market and to the political challenges in terms of energy?
Very easily, in my view, because the V for volatility relates precisely to this area of conflict in the market: while the demand for electricity is growing, the supply networks are being put to the test by the turnaround in energy policy and by the shift to renewable sources of power. At the same time, Uncertainty remains, since there is no provision for long-term planning within the current legal framework. So much is changing, so fast, and it is impossible to predict accurately how either energy policy or energy costs are going to develop. On top of this, the Complexity continues to grow: in legislation, in supply contracts and in the availability of the renewable energies in line with our requirements. Everything is becoming so much more volatile and complex, yet at the same time the power we need must remain affordable, which brings us, as it were, to the A for ambiguity. It is for this reason that we are investing in energy-efficiency measures that will help us reduce energy costs. At the same time we are very consciously investing in sustainable, "green" production facilities and energy supply systems.
What measures are being applied in your department "Energy management and supply" and across Daimler generally in order to save energy?
All Mercedes-Benz plants in Germany hold ISO 50001 certification and we continue to boost the awareness of our employees for the need to save energy. Energy efficiency is becoming a more and more important factor at all locations. We are also making use of digitalization, deploying an energy management data processing system across all sites to help reduce our energy consumption. Additional technical energy-saving measures, such as switching off energy consumers when production is not running, are ensured by the building management system.
How should I envisage this building management system?
This is a central control point, through which all lighting, ventilation or compressed air systems can be switched on or off remotely. The shift calendar is programmed into this system so that it knows precisely when the various functions can be switched off.
Do you have "energy saving experts" working at your sites abroad, too? And how do you ensure that energy saving measures are being successfully deployed across all sites?
Yes, we have experts working on our energy efficiency at all locations. The multi-site scope of our organizational functions ensures that expertise is transferred between locations.
It's probably easiest if I give you an example of this: last week we were visited here in Sindelfingen by a team of experts made up of representatives from various plants. They were taking a detailed look at the issue of ventilation technology in the body-in-white and paintshop areas, as they had done already in Bremen and Rastatt. All these visits had one common objective: the optimization of our ventilation and lighting systems. These "Deep Dive Workshops" and "CIP inspections" (CIP, continual improvement process) can lead to very tangible energy-saving measures.
Are you already reaping the benefits of these measures?
Indeed we are. At our plant in Kecskemét, Hungary, for example, we have been able to significantly reduce the energy consumption per vehicle over the last five years. We did this by optimizing the on- and off-times for the lighting and ventilation systems, changing over to LED lighting, introducing a new lighting control system (including a dimmer function) in the body-in-white area, optimizing the software for the energy supply systems and introducing an on-demand system for airflow control.
How do you motivate the employees to play an active part in saving energy themselves?
Energy efficiency begins with each individual – this we know. The awareness of the workforce is a key success factor in our Group-wide energy balance. We are therefore all the more appreciative of the many innovative and varied ideas from our employees as to how and where we can save energy. We are also running a communications campaign across all locations, with notices and posters, flyers, desktop screensavers and energy fairs, aimed at boosting awareness even further and motivating staff.
How should I envisage an "energy fair"?
We hold these energy fairs, as we call them, at regular intervals in the production area. The most recent fair took place in fall 2018, when we invited external pump manufacturers to show us their new products and features. Pumps are massive energy consumers. The manufacturers were all represented with market stalls and gave talks. There were colleagues there from many different sites and departments, such as planning, maintenance, manufacturing and energy supply. This sharing of ideas is very important to us, as a means of exploring where there may be opportunities to use more efficient pumps in new projects or to replace existing pumps.
In conclusion, one final question: If you could have one wish for your role, what would it be?
One thing comes immediately to mind. It is my heartfelt wish that every employee at Daimler would act at work as they do at home: using energy consciously and carefully - in other words, lights out, close the windows, turn the heating down, switch your computer off.
Every kilowatt hour that we don't consume is one that doesn't have to be generated, and therefore represents a saving in terms of CO2. I'm proud to say that we have made a good start in this respect.