2015 – What’s ahead for UK Business?

According to reports just in, the global environment industry is down. Less money is available for what some CEO?s still see as grudge expenditure, and many U.S. agencies are seeking soft budget cuts. The UK is proving to be an exception following the announcement of ESOS, and EcoVaro does not expect the May elections will have much impact in this regard.

ESOS calls for mandatory energy assessments in companies above a certain size, and requires specific proposals to cut consumption. There is no indication of compulsory follow-through, although it is clear the Environment Agency hopes rising electricity prices and the prospect of monetary savings will do the trick.

It is an open question whether the Tory government would have interfered with commerce to this extent, were it not for the European directive that enforced it. The overall goal is to cut EU energy consumption across the board by 20% by 2020. Energy consultants are rubbing their hands in glee. EcoVaro?s response is to provide cloud-based software.

We will be interested to see how many UK companies make the first deadline of 5 December 2015, in the light of reports that half the 9,000 firms affected appear not to even know that ESOS exists. Some will no doubt pay last-minute lip service. Those with an eye on their own sustainability will grasp the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme with both hands.

The initial ESOS deadline was always going to be a challenge. Some big corporates have stolen a march albeit egged on by green stakeholders. The next challenge comes in June 2015 with the implementation of the European Union?s ?Waste Catalogue? of hazardous substances, and rules for their disposal. We hope a new ISO 14001 will arrive soon and pull the loose threads together.

The introduction of carbon trading late this year brings further opportunities to increase profits through wise stewardship. Auditable metrics are essential for this.

EcoVaro can assist by processing your raw data. We provide this service on a virtual cloud. In return, you can get advice on optimising the quality of your graphs for presentations. 

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The Child at Work: Fun Team Builds with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY

There is a child just below the surface in all of us. When were kids, adults lopped off the sharp bits that intruded into their ?genteel? society. Schools, to their everlasting shame sanded away our unique free spirits, as they stuck us into uniforms and imposed a daily classroom discipline. We received badges and prizes if we obeyed, and strict sanctions when we did not. This produced a generation of middle-age managers who no longer know how to play.

Life can be so deadly serious ?

Things work pretty much the same in business. Life is deadly serious. If we want to keep our jobs, we must deliver on the bottom line in our departments. There is little time for fun outside the Christmas party, when we may, within the limits of decorum engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation, rather than a serious or practical purpose.

Team builds (and strategic planning sessions) can be deadly boring affairs that proceed down narrow funnels defined by human resource facilitators. No matter how hard HR they may try, the structural hierarchy will remain intact, unless they find a way to set it aside during the program. Injecting fun into the occasion liberates independent thought, and this is why.

? But not for a little child at play

Next time you dine out at a branded family restaurant, select a seat that allows you observe the kiddies? play zone. Notice how inventive children become, when the family hierarchy is not there to tell them what to do (although parents may try from the wrong side of the soundproof glass). The ?serious play? side of fun team-builds aims to liberate managers by releasing their child for the duration. Shall we dig a little deeper into this and discover the dynamics?

Many of us have less than perfect oral communication skills. This is one of the great impediments to modern business meetings. We may not have sufficient time to formulate our thoughts for them to remain relevant when we speak. When we express them, we sense the group?s impatience for us to hurry up, so other members can have their opportunity to contribute.

Sharing better thinking with LEGO? bricks

Most of us feel an urge to click the brightly coloured plastic bricks together that carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen released into a war-weary world in 1949. The basic kit is a great leveller because the blocks are all the same, and the discriminators are the colours and the power of our imagination. Watching a free-form LEGO builder in action is equally fascinating, as we wonder ?what they will do next? and ?what is happening in their mind.?

Examples of LEGO Serious PLAY in action

Instead of asking team members to describe themselves in a minute, a LEGO? SERIOUS PLAY? facilitator may gather them around a table piled high with LEGO bricks instead, and ask them to each build a model of themselves. The atmosphere is informal with interaction and banter encouraged. It is still serious play though, as team members get to know each other, and their own personalities better

The system is equally effective in strategic sessions, where the facilitator provides specially selected building blocks for the team to experiment with as they learn to listen, and share. This enables them to deconstruct a problem into its component parts, and share solutions regardless of seniority, culture, and communication skills.

Creating problem- and solution-landscapes three dimensionally this way, enables open conversations that keep the focus on the problem. Participants at these team builds do not only reach effective consensus faster. They are also busy building better communication skills as they do.

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Project Management

In a cutthroat market, where the competition is constantly on the attack to break into your market share, implementing a project-based system can give your organisation the necessary tools to be more efficient and agile.

However, rapidly changing consumer demands, technologies and other factors make it ever more difficult to generate a strategic advantage from projects, let alone develop one. Also since a large organisation can easily end up having to manage multiple projects at the same time, the new management paradigm can appear too complex.

What your company really needs is the expertise that can guide you starting from conception and planning, down through procurement and execution in order to maximise whatever resources you have. Each move must be well thought out so that there are clear goals and objectives as well as methods to achieve them.

Programme Management

Are you running multiple projects pointing to an overall strategic direction? Then you’ll need more than just a “scaled-up” version of project management to make sure every component’s work effort is well coordinated to achieve your enterprise’s desired outcomes.

Through our expertise in programme management, we’ll work with your stakeholders, executives and clients to achieve the following:

  • Design a well-articulated management structure and clearly define decision-making roles & responsibilities – This will ensure decisions are made rapidly with zero to minimal overlapping issues and to promote a unified, well-synchronised advance towards the common objective.
  • Set objectives then make sure they are met by guiding your key personnel in coordinating activities across projects.
  • Design or utilise existing financial models such that they adhere to your enterprise’s financial policies.
  • Develop procedures for reporting expenditures specific to the programme.
  • Establish the programme infrastructure, including
    • The appropriate technical environment and tools (e.g. hardware, software, communication, and other IT-related items)
    • IT staff and administrators
  • Evaluate your enterprise’s current IT architecture to determine whether it will suffice to achieve your objectives. If it doesn’t, propose options you can take to meet what is required.
  • Plan out activities that should take place in different levels in the organisation.
  • Implement a periodic review of the programme progress as well as of interim results to ensure everything is aligned with the strategic outcome.

Programme and Project Reviews

Whether we’ve helped you set up your programme or you did it on your own, time will come when you’ll need to know whether everything is going as planned. If it appears like the entire programme is going smoothly, chances are, something’s going awfully wrong somewhere. Remember, even the most well-planned projects and programmes are still under the mercy of unforeseen variables.

We’ve got highly specialised reviews for either projects or an entire programme. We’ll be able to provide you answers to questions like:

  • Are all projects aligned with the programme’s intended direction?
  • Are the people working on your projects as focused with the business rationale as they have been with meeting deadlines and utilising resources?
  • Where are your risks and exposures? How can they be remedied?
  • Is the project viable at all?

We understand how your staff would want to function normally as quickly as possible. Rest assured, our programme and project reviews are conducted swiftly and efficiently so that both interruptions and oversights are brought to a minimum.

After we’re done, you can expect a detailed quantitative assessment of your programme and/or projects’ status.

Basically, we’re not here to find mistakes; we’re here to help you find ways to correct them. If a project rescue is required, we’ll be the first to lend a hand.

Project Rescue

Believe it or not, many of our clients approached us not before or during their project’s planning stages. But rather, after having gone through sloppy execution, when they end up losing control. In other words, we’re usually at the receiving end of the distress signal, after they’ve punched the panic button.

While obviously this isn’t the ideal time to seek the aid of any expert because it means you’ve incurred unnecessary losses already, all is not yet lost. If the appropriate remedial actions are taken in a timely manner, you can still achieve highly acceptable end results.

In fact, in most of our experiences with project rescue operations, we’ve been able to put projects back on track – just the way the planners wanted them to be. We’ll also help you devise airtight strategies to prevent your project from going astray again.

At the end of our project rescue,

  • You’ll regain complete control
  • Milestones will be reached as planned
  • Requirements will be accomplished, and
  • The project will be realigned with ideal business directions

Project Governance Processes

Constructing a firm underlying structure is essential in any organisation. So before we’ll institute project management, we’ll do the following first.

  • Set up a PMO or Project Management Office to ensure, among others, that
    • Utilisation of facilities, budgets, technical support and other resources will be well coordinated
    • Work products can be tracked and reviewed
    • Issues regarding methodology and processes will be given appropriate attention
    • Training can be organised
    • Project management discipline be instilled in the IT department
  • Establish a steering committee to oversee the implementation of IT and business strategies
  • Fill up slots for a project manager, IT executive and a business sponsor and define the roles of each
  • Infuse project management practices to all affected units of the enterprise

Establishing PMOs, steering committees and other management structures is the easy part. Many organisations spend so much in order to create the structures related to project management, only to find out later that the effort has been all for naught. That’s why we won’t end there. Our objectives will therefore include the following:

  • To plant and cultivate an environment appreciative of project governance i.e. one that does not project it as just a bunch of bureaucratic processes and protocols.
  • To establish an organisational culture that starts at the top.
  • To make everyone involved understand that the power of project governance still lies in the hands of those who will ultimately implement it.

A project-driven enterprise is never propelled by a single project. Since multiple projects require a more complex governing structure, you’ll need to understand the intricacies of programme management.

How an EMS Can Cut Your Carbon Emissions

Your business carbon footprint is directly tied to the efficiency of its energy consumption. From the equipment used in industries, lighting and air conditioning in offices, shopping malls and other commercial buildings, the load used by everyday machines like the coffee makers in the employee breakroom, to hot water boilers in apartment complexes, how much do your processes affect the environment? Standards like the ISO 14001:2015 are being implemented to enable businesses to reduce their impact on the environment, from optimising their energy usage, minimising waste, turning to renewable power sources, all through to preventing pollution and complying with their specific regulatory requirements. How do you handle the volume of data that needs to be obtained and assessed?

Energy management systems come in to enable you to analyse your consumption, identify factors affecting your total energy use – from temperature and humidity conditions, to equipment that is causing spikes, and observe your usage patterns. That way, you can put in measures to minimise wastage while increasing your operational efficiency, reduce your carbon emissions and track your progress all the way. Here, we’ll break down how this is achieved. 

Going Green With An Energy Management System

This is a holistic approach aimed at minimising wastage and optimising energy usage. It includes:

Auditing your energy consumption

The first step is really quantifying how much energy you use, which systems are causing unnecessary load, all through to where there are inefficiencies in the facility. Which equipment has the largest impact on your bill? An energy management system allows you to view it all from one dashboard, such as with the ecoVaro EMS that takes you down to the sub-meter level.

Here, you get real-time data that is collected by the ecoVaro loggers – from electricity use, gas, water, temperature, solar power, humidity, air pressure – the readings can all be monitored. This is done 24/7, and the consumption feeds are recorded. Moreover, ecoVaro pulse data is collected every 15 minutes – which is particularly important when it comes to analysing trends over a time period, be it daily, weekly or monthly. 

Data is only useful if it can be properly analysed, right? So instead of just bombarding you with spreadsheets of numbers, the EMS displays the records into graphs and charts that are easy to comprehend – all from the same interactive interface. So, whether you’re the energy manager in the facility, or you want reports that can be shared with the CFO, owners of the business, or even staff themselves to enable them to understand the energy saving policies that you will put in place – you will be able to carry this out. 

ecoVaro gives you different ways to analyse the data from the readings that have been recommended. For instance, the heat mapping from the interface allows you to see the building’s energy use during different periods at a glance. The site-by-site analysis in particular enables the building or energy manager to assess each individual premises, from checking which block in the school is causing the energy bills to surge, the facility whose performance is falling behind, all through to the office building with the highest carbon footprint. In fact, the carbon and sustainability reports from ecoVaro EMS enables you to see the impact that your operations have. You even get to compare tariffs from the different energy suppliers, that way you can go with the option that is most suited to your situation.

Setting a baseline for your operations

This is essentially a “before/after checkpoint” that you will use to compare the effectiveness of subsequent measures that you will undertake. After making modifications to the systems in your business, you will want a clear picture of whether the new measures are actually benefiting your operations and optimising your energy efficiency, or whether they are deteriorating the performance further. The energy baseline will be critical in analysing your progress. 

Reports like the CUSUM (cumulative sum) charts on ecoVaro show you the energy performance, be it of a boiler in a factory, office building, or chain of hotels – over a set period of time. You can then compare this to the baseline, which will show you if the changes you will implement will make you savings. The heatmaps also come in handy here, showing you the energy consumption at each meter, whether it is low, medium or high compared to the baseline that has been set. The heatmaps give a quick visual to analyse resource usage.  

Creating energy targets

After understanding your energy consumption and seeing how it impacts your business, next is mapping out short- and long-term goals that you want to attain to optimise your usage and reduce your carbon footprint. 

For instance, short-term targets can include the likes of decreasing the night-time lighting load, and adjusting HVAC uptime depending on the level of activity in your business premises for the different hours of the day. 

For the long-term targets, these include setting a specific percentage average kWh reduction for the different industrial sites or buildings under your management; lowering the demand kW throughout the building by a specific range year-on-year; as well as the percentage with which you want the carbon emissions decreased annually. 

Cost efficiency also factors in. For instance, entering your current tariffs into the conversion factoring dashboard on ecoVaro will show you how your consumption translates to the bills that you receive – and even shows you what you stand to save by negotiating for new energy contracts with your utility firm.

Identifying initiatives and implementing energy saving programs

These are geared towards improving your energy efficiency and reducing your carbon footprint. They vary from one industry to the next. For instance, these can include:

Getting motion/occupancy detectors and automatic dimmers installed in the facility

These are lighting controls that enable you to save money and energy by automatically turning the lights off when they are not required (people have left the room), and reducing the light levels for those cases where full-on brightness is not needed. For instance, the dimmer controls enable variable indoor lighting, reducing the wattage and output when dimming the lightbulbs, saving energy in the process. These can be manual, or operated with sensors or timers. 

Motion sensors on the other hand will automatically turn on the lights after they detect motion, then after a short while turn them off – they are typically used for utility and outdoor security lighting. There are also occupancy sensors used in rooms, which turn on the lights when they detect indoor activity, then turn them off or reduce the light output when the particular space is unoccupied. 

Switching to energy-efficient light fixtures such as CFL or LED bulbs

Lighting costs are a major contributor to the energy bills being footed by the business. What kind of systems do you have set up?

Incandescent bulbs are rapidly being phased out due to their inefficiencies. They work by a wire tungsten filament getting heated until it glows – a process that sees almost 90% of its energy being released as heat, instead of light. In addition, with an average lifespan of just 1,500 hours, there is the need for better alternatives – and they have already been around for over a decade: CFL and LED bulbs, which save on energy and have far less carbon emissions. 

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) light up when an electric current going through a tube with argon and trace mercury gases generates ultraviolet light, stimulating the fluorescent coating that’s on the inside of the tube, which in turn produces light. As such, a 15-watt CFL will have about the same light output as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. This makes them approximately 4 times more efficient compared to the incandescent bulbs, with a lifespan of 10,000-15,000 hours. This translates into fewer replacements and greater energy savings. However, there are still concerns about the mercury that is in the CFLs, though it is still in small quantities – basically smaller than the tip of your pencil. In addition, the CFLS aren’t; dimmable. They are usually used as a replacement for incandescent bulbs before completely switching to the more efficient LEDs.

Light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) Take things a notch higher. Here, electrons moving through a semiconductor emit the light, and you can get the LEDs for visible light, ultra-violet, and infrared spectrums. Here, the lifespan is 25,000–35,000 hours, which is more than double that of CFLs, and leagues beyond the standard incandescent bulb. Moreover, with a 16.5W LED bulb you’ll be getting the same lighting as a 20W CFL, or a 75W incandescent bulb. 

You will notice that when you touch LEDs, they feel cool, and this is because less energy is getting converted into heat. With the energy efficient bulbs, you won’t have to run your AC harder during those hot months, further adding to your cost savings. You can be able to see such consumption trends over the months through the energy management system, getting to the root cause of the problem. For instance, seeing the changing trends in the AC energy consumption over different weeks will enable you to assess what is causing it to be pushed harder, and address the root cause of the problem. 

Acquiring energy-efficient office equipment

This is broad, with the changes being made here depending on your particular niche. Take printers for instance. Simply going for printers with sleep and automatic shut-off modes will ensure that the units are not consuming energy when they are not in use. The same case applies to copier machines. Energy saving surge protectors on the other hand are beneficial for allowing you to “unplug” multiple devices that use standby power even when switched off – what’s usually called “vampire power” or “phantom energy“. 

The need for energy savings cuts across the board, from the computers and monitors used, to the coffee makers and kettles. For instance, working with an electric kettle to heat water for tea beats using a microwave or stove. Go further by opting for a kettle that allows you to set the particular temperature you want for the water – since you don’t really need the water for tea to be boiling hot for the tea to properly steep. Taking such steps further contributes to your business’ efforts to go green and reduce your carbon footprint. 

Turning to renewable energy sources

Switching to renewable sources to power your operations will simultaneously reduce your energy bills and cut your carbon emissions. From solar panels to wind turbines and the like, they are cleaner sources of energy, and the installations that you go with will depend on your kind of business. Moreover, this will protect you from the fluctuations in energy prices, since the bills are affected by the availability of fuel, electricity demand, costs that go into generating and distributing it – all of which end up hitting your business in the long run. On the other hand, going off the grid with your own supply of power protects you from this. In fact, if you end up producing surplus energy, you can sell it back to the grid, earning your business extra revenue. 

Sure, the upfront costs of setting up the systems will take a sizable chunk out of your budget, but the savings allow you to recoup the costs over time. In addition, there will be savings from the incentives being provided by the government, such as tax rebates and grants. These are the likes of the Solar PV Grant from SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) which is at €900 per kWp, capped at €2400 for each business. Funding is available for homes, community programs and commercial buildings such as  Collinstown Park School that was able to slash their lighting costs by a whopping 90% after securing 50% of the funding for their energy upgrade project from SEAI. The ecoVaro EMS comes with support for solar power installations in its firmware, that way you can continue assessing the changes that your solar power system will bring to your overall energy usage.

Spread awareness

You should also carry out energy conservation training for your staff. The reports generated by the EMS will make it easy for them to get a picture of their energy consumption trends, and the effects that it has on both the performance of the company, and the carbon footprint as a whole. It also gives them more awareness of the impact that they each have at an individual level. 

Assessing Key Performance Indicators

The energy analytics tools from the EMS will show you whether you are actually meeting your goals. Since it works with the different metered connections, from getting electricity and temperature readings, checking radiation levels, humidity data all through to gas meters, you will be able to assess the progress that your business is making across the board. 

For ecoVaro in particular, the performance of your systems can be seen through reports like Consumption Charts – from the different offices, tenants and equipment energy usage, peak -and off-peak data, as well as Regression Charts that allow you to compare building’s actual energy consumption to its expected performance, and how they are affected by variables such as temperature. 

With the site-by-site data and the monitoring being down to the sub-meter level, you will be able to identify an issue when it crops up and narrow it down to the specific instant and location where it occurred. This enables you to address the problem quicker.   

Conducting a compliance audit

A comprehensive audit can then be undertaken to ensure that your company meets internationally-recognized standards that have been stipulated regarding implementing energy management systems and enhancing the energy efficiency of your operations. The compliance audits are carried out by certified auditors.

Through the EMS, you are able to position your business appropriately to meet the standards for your particular niche, measuring and observing the performance of energy-saving projects that have been implemented. This extends to acquiring and presenting data that will be used to show the business’s compliance to industry regulations and obtain the relevant certification. You are able to report on your carbon footprint, and verify it. This information can also be disseminated amongst your employees and customers, raising awareness about your business green initiatives, boosting your brand in the process.

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