Jeff Blankman, sustainable manufacturing manager for McCormick and Company, got his start as a project engineer at McCormick’s largest packaging facility in Hunt Valley, Maryland. After being promoted to engineering supervisor, Blankman (pictured) put his interest in energy efficiency projects to work in 2007 and helped make the plant he manages much more efficient and sustainable. He started with the lighting which accounted for 20 percent of annual electricity costs. Blankman figured that he could cut energy consumption in half by changing out the lights in more than 800 fixtures. He did the math, convinced management and then cut lighting costs by 75 percent. By saving more than $400,000 in the first year (and every year thereafter) he got the attention and respect of his colleagues and bosses.
Blankman then took on the conveyor belts that moved millions of boxes around the plant. At the time, the belts ran 24/7, but he realized that they were not all needed all the time, so he shifted to an “on demand” system, thereby saving hundreds of thousands of dollars more each and every year.
Buoyed by his successes, Blankman shifted his focus to other things. When speaking at the Engineering Club in Baltimore, he met up with Marty Metro who runs Used Cardboard Boxes, a local paper brokerage that rescues truckloads of quality used boxes from large companies that might otherwise recycle them or simply throw them away. Blankman now sells McCormick’s excess cardboard packaging at 15 percent more than the company can get by recycling it. This nets another $100,000 per year.
Water was next. By changing one of the plant’s operations from a single-pass water cooling system to an air cooling system, McCormack has managed to save 5 million gallons of potable water per year.
Since 2007, Blankman’s efforts have significantly improved McCormick’s cash flow – no small achievement given the company’s very large size. Each year, people ask him if he can continue producing significant new savings or has he exhausted the low-hanging fruit.
“The more I explore, the more I learn, and my list just gets longer. We have cut our energy costs by over 10 percent and I expect to be able to double that,” said Blankman during a recent interview.
McCormick’s energy supplier, Constellation Energy, has been helping McCormick. The firms inked energy performance contracts that resulted in many of McCormick’s roofs being covered with thin-skin and crystalline solar systems. In fact, one of McCormick’s distribution centers in Harford County is one of only a few buildings in the entire country that has net-zero energy use.
“Between our energy efficiency efforts which reduced our demand at that facility by 55 percent, and our use of alternative energy in the form of roof top solar, we don’t need any energy from the grid,” said Blankman.
With all of this success, Blankman’s boss has asked him to work full time on efficiency issues, moved him to division headquarters, and named him sustainable manufacturing manager for his division. Using his initiative, Blankman created a job that he loves and helped secure a more sustainable future for McCormick & Company. “This is my ideal job,” he said, as he spied another process that could be improved.
I asked him how others could replicate his success at their plants around the world. “We have just formed a team that is beginning to share ideas. The next step is to work on training and a system for inspiring all the staff to come up with ideas for further savings.” Jeff is a good example of what can be done in most businesses today. It takes a champion to get the ball rolling and then it needs to roll up into a corporate plan so that his efforts can be multiplied throughout the organization. Jeff’s next job is to lead that transition where McCormick embeds sustainable thinking into everything they do.