Family-owned Business “Contains” Energy Spend

HOMERVILLE, GA – For many years, Lee Container in Homerville, Georgia, has lowered costs by using Lean tools to complete Continuous Improvement projects. However, in 2017, the company began to wonder if they could save money in a different way. Because the plant’s utility bills were often over a million dollars annually, the company’s president, Robert Varnedoe, thought they may be able to cut costs by implementing better energy management practices. To identify and understand their opportunities for improvement, Varnedoe reached out to the Georgia-North Florida Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) to set up a no-cost energy and sustainability assessment.

After an initial questionnaire and interview, a team of students and engineers from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering thoroughly reviewed Lee Container’s utility bills. Then, they visited the plant and utilized equipment such as infrared cameras and probes to collect data and assess the company’s operations and equipment.

A few weeks later, they provided the company with a report including information about the current energy use at each production line and throughout the facility, including warehousing and office areas. The report also included five Assessment Recommendations with estimated costs and payback periods. The recommendations ranged from simple investments in insulation to installation of a solar array, but all estimated a payback period of less than five years.

Since completing an IAC energy assessment with GaMEP, Lee Container has:

  • Implemented 3 out of 5 Assessment Recommendations.
  • Invested approximately $16,000 in equipment upgrades, including conversion to LED lighting and improvements to HVAC systems.
  • Lowered the company’s energy costs by over $27,000 per year, which has already paid back the initial investment.
  • Used the report to help them make decisions about future equipment expenditures and energy management goals.

“The IAC team was great to work with. We got the report back quickly and it helped us assess both why our energy costs were high and how we could improve. We have already implemented many of their recommendations and have seen great results.” – Robert Varnedoe, president