How DevOps Could Change Your Business

Portrait of programmers working in development software company

Henry Ford turned the U.S. auto industry on its head when he introduced the idea of prefabricating components at remote sites, and then putting them together on a production line. Despite many industries following suit, software lagged behind until 2008, when Andrew Clay Shafer and Patrick Debois told the Agile Conference there was a better way to develop code:
– Write the Code
– Test the Code
– Use the Code
– Evaluate, Schedule for Next Review

The term ‘DevOps’ is short for Development and Operations. It first appeared in Belgium, where developers refined Shafer and Depois’ ideas. Since then, DevOps became a counter movement against the belief that software development is a linear process and has largely overwhelmed it.

DevOps – A Better Way

DevOps emerged at an exciting time in the IT industry, with new technology benefiting from a faster internet. However, the 2008 world recession was also beginning to bite. Developers scampered to lower their human resource costs and get to market sooner.

The DevOps method enabled them to colloborate across organizational boundaries and work together to write, quality assure and performance test each piece of code produced in parallel.
DevOps’ greater time-efficiency got them to market sooner and helped them steal a march on the competition.

There are many advantages to DevOps when we work in this collaborative way. Cooperation improves relationships between developers, quality assurers and end users. This helps ensure a better understanding of the other drivers and a more time-effective product.

Summary of DevOps Objectives

DevOps spans the entire delivery pipeline, and increases the frequency with which progress is reviewed, and updates are deployed. The benefits of this include:

• Faster time to market and implementation

• Lower failure rate of new releases

• Shortened lead time for bug fixes and updates

The Psycho-Social Implications of DevOps

DevOps drills through organization borders and traditional work roles. Participants must welcome change and take on board new skills. Its interdepartmental approach requires closer collaboration across structural boundaries and greater focus on overarching business goals.

Outsourcing the detail to freelancers on the Internet adds a further layer of opportunity. Cultures and time zones vary, requiring advanced project management skills. Although cloud-based project management software provides adequate tools, it needs an astute mind to build teams that are never going to meet.

The DevOps movement is thus primarily a culture changer, where parties to a project accept the good intentions of their collaborators, while perhaps tactfully proposing alternatives. There is more to accepting a culture than using a new tool. We have to blend different ways of thinking together. We conclude by discussing three different methods to achieve this.

Three Ways to Deploy DevOps in your Organisation

If you foresee regular DevOps-based projects, consider running your entire organisation through an awareness program to redirect thinking. This will help non-participants understand why DevOps members may be ‘off limits’ when they are occupied with project work. Outsourcing tasks to contracting freelancers can mitigate this effect.

There are three implementation models associated with DevOps although these are not mutually exclusive.

• Use systems thinking. Adopt DevOps as company culture and apply it to every change regardless of whether the process is digital, or not

• Drive the process via increased understanding and feedback from key receivers. Allow this to auto-generate participative DevOps projects

• Adopt a continuous improvement culture. DevOps is not only for mega upgrades. Feedback between role players is paramount for success everywhere we go.

You can use the DevOps concept everywhere you go and whenever you need a bridge to better understanding of new ideas. We diminish DevOps when we restrict its usefulness to the vital role it plays in software development. The philosophy behind it belongs in every business.

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What Sub-Metering did for Nissan in Tennessee

Electric meters in a row measuring power use. Electricity consum

When Nissan built its motor manufacturing plant in Smyrna 30 years ago, the 5.9 million square-foot factory employing over 8,000 people was state of art. After the 2005 hurricane season sky-rocketed energy prices, the energy team looked beyond efficient lighting at the more important aspect of utility usage in the plant itself. Let’s examine how they went about sub-metering and what it gained for them.

The Nissan energy team faced three challenges as they began their study. They had a rudimentary high-level data collection system (NEMAC) that was so primitive they had to transfer the data to spread-sheets to analyse it. To compound this, the engineering staff were focused on the priority of getting cars faster through the line. Finally, they faced the daunting task of making modifications to reticulation systems without affecting manufacturing throughput. But where to start?

The energy team chose the route of collaboration with assembly and maintenance people as they began the initial phase of tracking down existing meters and detecting gaps. They installed most additional equipment during normal service outages. Exceptions were treated as minor jobs to be done when convenient. Their next step was to connect the additional meters to their ageing NEMAC, and learn how to use it properly for the first time.

Although this was a cranky solution, it had the advantage of not calling for additional funding which would have caused delays. However operations personnel were concerned that energy-saving shutdowns between shifts and over weekends could cause false starts. ‘We’ve already squeezed the lemon dry,’ they seemed to say. ‘What makes you think there’s more to come?’

The energy team had a lucky break when they stumbled into an opportunity to prove their point early into implementation. They spotted a four-hourly power consumption spike they knew was worth examining. They traced this to an air dryer that was set to cyclical operation because it lacked a dew-point sensor. The company recovered the $1,500 this cost to fix, in an amazing 6 weeks.

Suitably encouraged and now supported by the operating and maintenance departments, the Smyrna energy team expanded their project to empower operating staff to adjust production schedules to optimise energy use, and maintenance staff to detect machines that were running without output value. The ongoing savings are significant and levels of shop floor staff motivation are higher.

Let’s leave the final word to the energy team facilitator who says, ‘The only disadvantage of sub-metering is that now we can’t imagine doing without it.’

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What Energy Management Software did for CDC

Hand Pointing at Statistics Graph

Chrome Deposit Corporation – that’s CDC for short – reconditions giant rollers used to finish steel and aluminium sheets in Portage, Indiana by applying grinding, texturing and plating methods. While management was initially surprised when the University of Delaware singled their plant out for energy assessment, this took them on a journey to bring energy consumption down despite being in an expansion phase.

Metal finishing and refinishing is an energy-intensive business where machines mainly do the work while workforces as small as 50 individuals tend them. Environmental impacts also need countering within a challenging environment of burgeoning natural gas and electricity prices.

The Consultant’s Recommendations

The University of Delaware was fortunate that Chrome Deposit Corporation had consistently measured its energy consumption since inception in 1986. This enabled it to pinpoint six strategies as having potential for technological and process improvements.

  • Insulate condensate tanks and pipes
  • Analyse flue gas air-fuel ratios
  • Lower compressed air pressures
  • Install stack dampers on boilers
  • Replace belts with pulleys and cogs
  • Fit covers on plant exhaust fans

CDC implemented only four of the six recommendations. This was because the boiler manufacturer did not recommend stack dampers, and the company was unable to afford certain process automation and controls.

Natural Gas Savings

The project team began by analysing stack gases from boilers used to heat chrome tanks and evaporate wastewater. They found the boilers were burning rich and that several joints in gas lines were leaking. Correcting these issues achieved an instant gas saving of 12% despite increased production.

Reduced Water Consumption

The team established that city water was used to cool the rectifiers. It reduced this by an astonishing 85% by implementing a closed-loop system and adding two chillers. This also helped the water company spend less on chemicals, and energy to drive pumps, purifiers and fans.

Summary of Benefits

Electricity consumption reduced by 18% in real terms, and natural gas by 35%. When these two savings are merged they represent an overall 25% energy saving. These benefits were implemented across the company’s six other plants, resulting in benefits CDC management never dreamed of when the University of Delaware approached them.

ecoVaro offers a similar data analytics service that is available online worldwide. We have helped other companies slash their energy bills with similarly exciting results. We’ll be delighted to share ideas that only data analytics can reveal.

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How Westin Melbourne Hotel Trimmed its Footprint

Pebble stones arranged like footprints on the beach. Family summer vacation concept

Becoming sustainable is a three-pronged process. You must save money and push the buttons the government is pressing you to. But there’s a deeper, more urgent issue. If your customers mark you down for not being green enough you are heading for trouble. Let’s see how well this hotel is doing.

The Melbourne flagship of the Westin hotel chain boasts 262 spacious rooms with views of Melbourne Square and surrounding theatres, designer boutiques, galleries and national landmarks. The architects included conference facilities, a wellness centre and sundry bars and restaurants. After climate change arrived to stay, hotel management discovered they had inherited a water and energy-greedy monster. Their solution was to measure what was going through their systems, and then progressively cap the building’s greedy appetite.

The Melbourne Westin Hotel could not have achieved results without these metrics. They began by determining key indicators and measuring them. This provided them with criteria to set achievable, cost effective targets in the following key areas of their business:

  1. Water Management – Demand-based linen and towel recycling, installation of back-washable water filters, water-saving shower heads, dual-flush toilets.
  2. Waste Management – Conversion to green products, recycling kitchen oil, moving towards a paperless office, recycling everything possible.
  3. Energy Management – Energy-efficient light bulbs, standby settings for lights, computers, televisions and air conditioners
  4. Stakeholder Communication – Staff green-team training, guest education, ongoing employee briefings
  5. Strategic Positioning – Visible, top-down commitment, optimised carbon offsets from clean, renewable energy sources, clearly stated position in the market

Westin’s Melbourne landmark has made good progress towards becoming the green hotel for others to follow. It has adjusted its environmental policies, increased water and energy awareness and implemented tight waste management.

Consumers are already shopping to make their carbon footsteps lighter. Food stores are on the bandwagon although apparel is lagging. Perhaps it’s time you found out just how your company is shaping up. It’s no longer a matter of ‘if carbon taxes’. It’s a matter of ‘when it does’.

ecoVaro is a software system-in-the-cloud that lets you enter your water and energy consumption and process it online so you can monitor and manage your usage. In no time at all you could be saving money like Westin Melbourne did. Does that sound like something worth investigating?

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How Volvo Dublin achieved Zero Landfill Status

bulldozer working

The sprawling New River Valley Volvo plant in Dublin, Virginia slashed its electricity bill by 25% in a single year when it set its mind to this in 2009. It went on to become the first carbon-neutral factory in 2012 after replacing fossil energy with renewable power. Further efforts rewarded it with zero-landfill status in 2013. ecoVaro decided to investigate how it achieved this latest success.

Volvo Dublin’s anti-landfill project began when it identified, measured and evaluated all liquid and solid waste sources within the plant (i.e. before these left the works). This quantified data provided its environmental project team with a base from which to explore options for reusing, recycling and composting the discards.

Several decisions followed immediately. Volvo instructed its component suppliers to stop using cardboard boxes and foam rubber / Styrofoam as packaging, in favour of reusable shipping containers. This represented a collaborative saving that benefited both parties although this was just a forerunner of what followed.

Next, Volvo’s New River Valley truck assembly plant turned its attention to the paint shop. It developed methods to trap, reconstitute and reuse solvents that flushed paint lines, and recycle paint sludge to fire a cement kiln. The plant cafeteria did not escape attention either. The environment team made sure that all utensils, cups, containers and food waste generated were compostable at a facility on site.

The results of these simple, and in hindsight obvious decisions were remarkable. Every year since then Volvo has generated energy savings equivalent to 9,348 oil barrels or if you prefer 14,509 megawatts of electricity. Just imagine the benefits if every manufacturing facility did something similar everywhere around the world.

By 2012, the New River Valley Volvo Plant became the first U.S. facility to receive ISO 50001 energy-management status under a government-administered process. Further technology enhancements followed. These included solar hot water boilers and infrared heating throughout the 1.6 million square foot (148,644 square meter) plant, building automation systems that kept energy costs down, and listening to employees who were brim-full with good ideas.

The Volvo experience is by no means unique although it may have been ahead of the curve. General Motors has more than 106 landfill-free installations and Ford plans to reduce waste per vehicle by 40% between 2010 and 2016. These projects all began by measuring energy footprints throughout the process. ecoVaro provides a facility for you to do this too.

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How Sustainable is Suez Environment

Waste water treatment, purification plant for factory

French-based Suez Environment works in the water and waste-management environment, with specific reference to water production, treatment, & pollution disposal, and waste treatment, recycling, incineration and site desensitisation. Its more than 65,000 employees distributed worldwide have participated in flagship projects like Renault’s goal of 95% reclamation of vehicle parts, and Lyonnaise des Eaux’s saving of 12 million cubic meters of water in a single year.

Suez Environment claims to have consistently increased the recovery rate of treated waste, decreased direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, and made significant inroads into the production of sustainable energy on behalf of its clients. But then surely that’s Suez Environment’s business, and with over 65,000 employees we are entitled to expect this. Given that there have been persistent allegations of privatised water distribution bumping prices up to the detriment of the poor, how effective is Suez Environment at practising what it preaches back home?

GDF Suez is its largest shareholder and includes it under its environmental and societal responsibility umbrella. This makes environmental performance an overarching goal alongside management systems, health and safety, risk and procurement, and ethics. Its environmental ambitions spin out into the following strategies:

  • Understand the interactions between our activities and the environment
  • Open dialogue with stakeholders and foster partnerships with them
  • Set quantitative and qualitative targets at all levels of the organisation
  • Achieve optimum balance between financial and environmental challenges
  • Be proactive; anticipate impacts on the environment and plan for them
  • Increase employee awareness through interactive training and education
  • Be constantly innovative; share successes within the organisation
  • Monitor progress continuously and publish measured results achieved.

These goals direct the Suez Environment management team’s attention towards optimising performance in key areas like greenhouse gases, energy management, renewable energy, biodiversity, responsible water management, pollution prevention and health and safety considerations.

Among numerous other examples, its waste incineration programs convert hazardous and conventional waste into heat used to generate electricity without requiring virgin carbon products. Elsewhere, the same energy warms market-gardening tunnels and work places on winter days.

Suez Environment uses sophisticated energy management software to analyse information that’s transmitted by data logging devices online. ecoVaro provides a similar service in the cloud. ecoVaro adapts to your requirements providing fresh insights to your business.

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How Energy Conservation saved Fambeau River Paper

Making notes about printing machine

Rising energy costs caught this Wisconsin paper mill napping, and it soon shut down because it was unable to innovate. Someone else bought it and turned it around by measuring, modifying, monitoring and listening to people.

The Fambeau River Paper Mill in Prince County, Wisconsin USA employed 13% of the city’s residents until rising energy costs shut it down in 2006. Critics wrote it off as an energy dinosaur unable to adapt. But that was before another company bought it out and resuscitated it as a fleet-footed winner.

Its collapse was a long time coming and almost inevitable. Wisconsin electricity prices had grown a third since 1997, the machinery was antiquated and the dependence on fossil power absolute. So what did the new owners change, and is there anything we can learn from this?

The key to understanding what suddenly went right was the new owners’ ability to listen. They requested a government Energy Assessment that suggested a number of small step changes that took them where they needed to go in terms of energy saving. These included enhancements in steam systems and fuel switch modifications. However they needed more than that.

The second game changer was tracking down key members of the old workforce and listening to them too. This combination enabled them to finally hire back 92% of the original labour force under the same terms and conditions – and still make a profit (the other 8% had moved on elsewhere or retired). The combined energy savings produced a payback plan of 5.25 years. Three years into the project their capital investment of $15 million had already clawed back the following electricity savings.

  • Evaporator Temperature Control $2,245,000
  • Hot Water Heat Recovery $2,105,000
  • Paper Machine Devronisers $1,400,000
  • Increased Boiler Output $1,134,000
  • Paper Machine Modifications; $761,000
  • Motive Air Dryer $610,000
  • Accumulator Savings $448,000
  • Densified Fuels Plant $356,000

In terms of carbon dioxide produced, the Fambeau River Paper Mill’s contribution dropped from 1 ton to 600 pounds.

How well do you know where your company’s energy spend is concentrated, and how this compares with your industry average; could you be doing better if you innovated, and by how much? Get these questions answered by asking ecoVaro how easy it could be to get on top of your carbon metrics. This could cost you a phone call and a payback on it so rapid it’s not worth stopping to calculate.

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Shared Services – Are They A Good Idea

Things happen fast in business and we need to stay on top. It does not seem long ago that some enterprises were still hands-on traders or artisans with a few youngsters to help out. People like that did not do admin and their accounting was a matter of making sure there was enough money in the jar.

When Wal-Mart’s Sam Walton took over his first shop in 1945 things had moved on from there, although he did still deal directly with his customers. When he died his legacy was 380,000 jobs, and a business larger than most economies. So there’s plenty we can learn from how he grew his business.

One of Sam’s secrets was his capacity to centralise what needed gathering together, while empowering store managers to think independently when it came to local conditions. His regional warehouses had individual outlets clustered around them within one day’s drive each. This shared service eliminated 90% of safety stock and released capital for expansion.

Wal-Mart took sharing services a step further in February 2006, when it centralised accounts payable, accounts receivable, general accounting and human resources administration at Wal-Mart Stores and Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The objective was to bring costs down, while allowing local managers more time to focus on their business plans and other initiatives. As a further spin-off, Wal-Mart was able to integrate its data on a single SAP platform and eliminate significant roadblocks.

This is an excellent example of sharing services by creating own centres of excellence.  Of course, this is not the only business possibility. Other corporates have successfully completely outsourced their support activities, and Wal-Mart has no doubt had a variety of similar offers too. But, is the Wal-Mart picture entirely rosy, or is there a catch?

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has indicated that top talent may be the loser globally. This is because the Wal-Mart model removes many challenges through standardisation, and offers less scope for internal promotion as a result. Language and cultural differences may also have a long-term detrimental effect on the way the departments work well together.

Local outsourcing – this is the business model where several firms engage a shared service provider independently- may hence prove to be a more malleable option for smaller companies. It often makes more sense to hunt down made-to-order services. Offerings such as the professional support we offer on this site.

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