GM’s Energy Stars: Tom Quinn, Spring Hill Manufacturing

GM’s Energy Stars: Tom Quinn, Spring Hill Manufacturing

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We're recognizing the Energy Stars who have helped @GM save $435M in energy costs, like Tom Quinn of Spring Hill Mfg

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Tom Quinn, Energy Conservation Engineer, Spring Hill Manufacturing

Members of GM Spring Hill Manufacturing's energy team (from left to right): Tom Quinn, Dwayne Herren and Jody Riley.

Spring Hill is one of 73 GM plants that met the EPA ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry by reducing energy intensity by at least 10 percent in 5 years or less. Spring Hill achieved a 33 percent reduction, avoiding 38,270 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Monday, November 2, 2015 - 10:10am

CAMPAIGN: GM Energy Efficiency


All this week, we will be recognizing employees from our U.S. facilities who have helped GM realize $435 million in energy savings by reducing energy intensity by 40 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 41 percent over the last 20 years.

Name: Tom Quinn

Title: Energy Conservation Engineer

Facility: Spring Hill Manufacturing

Length of time with GM: 7 years

1. What led you to pursue a career in energy management?

I began to fully appreciate the benefits of energy conservation while serving for two years as a missionary at a rural housing refurbishment project. It is clear that everyone benefits from lower utility bills, from the smallest residential customer to a corporation as large as GM. Also, there’s always something new and exciting to learn in this field. So, what started as a calling has now become a very enjoyable career.

2. What benefits – financial, environmental or others – have you realized at the plant since reducing energy usage?

The financial benefits have been tremendous, and the reduction in consumption of natural energy resources is also a plus, but working together to achieve these goals is a tangible benefit in itself because it builds momentum.

We’ve invested about $7 million in energy efficiency projects at Spring Hill since 2011. This money has gone to projects that usually have a one to two year payback and the savings alone are now topping $17 million.

In addition to these projects that have a quick payback, we also pursue a long-term energy efficiency strategy when we invest in new production equipment or perform major maintenance at the facility.

Finally, plant teams not only support the above projects, they implement low- or no-cost initiatives on their own. This is a testimony that working together and leveraging resources gets things done.

3. What are some of the ways your facility cut energy intensity to meet the ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry?

There are so many, but it truly starts with employee involvement. Energy teams meet periodically to develop energy saving initiatives and track progress toward goals.

We have full support from plant leadership and great teams willing to take appropriate risks to improve our energy intensity. We continue to push the envelope to achieve the corporate guidelines for nightly and weekend shutdowns wherever possible.

From a hardware standpoint, we have installed variable frequency drives on pump and fan motors, installed new high bay lights in the entire facility, installed and improved our heating and cooling controls, made major upgrades to chilled water plant controls and piping, and modified the heating system to reduce natural gas use.

4. How did you engage employees to cut energy use in their daily jobs?

Nearly everyone I’ve encountered is open to reducing waste. In most cases, there is also a willing and competitive spirit to pursue established targets, especially when tangible benefits exist and the targets are attainable. I try to leverage the natural interest of employees by providing calculations and historical data which helps raise awareness and assists leadership in prioritizing energy conservation activities.

5. What are some energy best practices you have learned from your colleagues, ENERGY STAR or other partners?

This is a great question. Because the energy conservation field is very broad, it is difficult to be an expert in all areas. At GM we have the benefit of many experts who regularly share information about their personal fields of concentration in regular conference calls.          

The strategy behind our recent chilled water plant efficiency upgrade came as a result of shared expertise from the GM Facility Energy and Carbon Optimization Group, the GM/DTE Energy Partner Project, Department of Energy Assessments, and other published papers. We are now able to optimize chiller plant efficiency to best match the varying plant and weather conditions using variable frequency drives, equipment staging, and adjusting temperature set points. 

Our venture into wireless lighting control was a first for GM, so we relied heavily on the GM Corporate Lighting Committee, as well as information from published papers discussing the use of wireless lighting controls in an automotive manufacturing environment.

6. What is your best tip for the average consumer looking to reducing energy use – either at home or at work?

At Spring Hill Manufacturing, all utilities – electric, natural gas, water, compressed air and chilled water – are monitored at the building level and some with an even finer tooth comb. For example, our HVAC system is monitored at each air circulation unit, and the wireless lighting system is monitored at each fixture. All of this data is compiled and maintained in an historical database. This capability did not happen overnight. It took a disciplined approach and a conscious effort on the part of many project stakeholders to include metering where it made sense.

My best tip is to include metering and data logging capability with any new infrastructure and energy improvement project.  Use this information to educate team members, demonstrate performance, and identify new opportunities.