Broan-NuTone’s energy initiatives good for environment and business

Nov.1: Workers build kitchen ventilation fans at award-winning BNC in Mississauga. (YourMBiz.com/Karen Ho)

At Broan Nu-Tone Canada (BNC), energy efficiency doesn’t just help the environment, it also helps the company save a significant amount of money.

“We’ve saved upwards of $300,000 a year in energy costs,” said Director of Operations John Martinovic.

The Mississauga company on Tristar Drive manufactures and assembles range hoods, bathroom exhaust fans, central vacuum systems, and other built-in products for both residential and light commercial applications.

While the cost of many commodities and electricity have continued to rise, Martinovic has managed to help oversee dramatic reductions in usage of natural gas, water and energy as well as lower waste, inventory and turnover time over the last four years.

Matinovic said this year there’s been a 43 per cent reduction in natural gas, 47 per cent reduction in electricity, 73 per cent reduction in waste and 93.7 per cent in waste diversion.

Martinovic said one of the reasons BNC is so motivated to reducing overhead is maintaining a competitive edge against manufacturers in places like Mexico and China.

“The way we keep our jobs here is with flexibility and keeping our costs to a minimum,” he said. “Paying for energy we don’t need is just waste. We won’t be here in five years if we don’t eliminate the waste in our process.”

However, as more things are changed Martinovic said it takes more projects to get similar cost reductions year over year. This year the company has 44 energy, waste and water projects planned for implementation, spread among 20 of the 45 office staff.

At BNC, projects are required to stand on their own with a one-year payback in implementation costs. “We spend a lot of time thinking up ingenious ways to improve the savings,” Martinovic said. “It’s not as easy as it sounds.”

Simple things like switching to bungee cords instead of plastic wrap to temporarily hold extra parts saved the company an estimated $2,400 a year.

The company has also widely adopted kanban, a scheduling system for lean production first implemented at Toyota’s manufacturing facilities in the 1950s. Martinovic said switching to this system enabled BNC to reduce their inventory from two weeks to two days. The 75 per cent reduction in finished goods also resulted in lowered spending on warehouse space and staff that could otherwise be utilized in manufacturing, shipping or receiving.

The work has prompted visits from other Broan-NuTone staff from Mexico, Poland and the United States as well as numerous awards.

Natural Resources Canada gave BNC an award for integrated energy efficient strategy in 2009 after the company reduced their energy use by 25 per cent and another for corporate stewardship in 2011.

BNC also won the 2012 People Power challenge with the Greater Toronto Airport Authority’s Project Green, an annual networking and resource initiative encouraging local businesses to be more sustainable.

The Mississauga Board of Trade also recently announced BNC had won its Business Award of Excellence in the clean and green environmental category. The awards ceremony takes place next week on Thursday, November 8.

Despite years of implementing changes and planning projects, Martinovic is surprised how slow other companies are at adopting similar initiatives. “To me anyone who hasn’t changed their lights in their facility, all they’re doing is burning money,” he said. “It hasn’t spread as fast as it could have or should or will, I just don’t know why it hasn’t done so yet.”

Continued Monday: Martinovic explains what it takes to achieve this kind of success and some of the challenges he faced along the way.

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