How Energy Conservation saved Fambeau River Paper

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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The Cloud: Changing the Game for Small Businesses

There is a consensus among cloud experts that the onset of cloud computing will benefit small organisations the most. In fact, many even go as far as saying that the cloud and small businesses are a match made in IT heaven. How much of this is true and how much of this is merely part and parcel of the hype surrounding cloud computing?

The Cloud as the Great?Equaliser

If you closely examine the essential characteristics of cloud computing, particularly public cloud services, you will see why small organisations would be very interested in the cloud, and would eventually flock to it, like moths to a flame. And why not? Cloud computing is turning out to be the weapon that can allow small and medium organisations to compete on a more level playing field against large enterprises.

Here are some cloud computing benefits that may just close the gap between the two.

  • Significantly lower IT spending. With little to no investment at all on hardware infrastructure and practically zero maintenance costs, SMBs that would have required substantial capital for IT are now finding it easy to get a business started from scratch or develop and test out new products by using the cloud as the backbone of their IT set-up. The pay-as-you-go pricing scheme that cloud computing offers allows companies to start small and scale up as needed, or when the revenue starts coming in.
  • Higher employee productivity. Licensing fees for software applications can run high even if you don’t have a large staff. Good thing there are now a host of cloud-based office tools – word processors, spreadsheets, presentations, accounting systems, etc. – that can boost employee productivity without the corresponding costs that small businesses can ill afford. Plus, team members in remote locations can continue to collaborate with the rest through any internet-connected device in real time.
  • Easier, better communication. The easy accessibility of communication apps has also changed the way employees interact with fellow employees and more importantly, with customers. Whether through email, instant messaging, or social networks, cloud services have given individuals and businesses more ways of giving and getting feedback. The best thing about it is that most of these services don’t cost much or are even free, giving SMBs ample tools to create better products and improve service.
  • A Look at the Figures Many small businesses are already seeing the potential in the cloud, with SaaS (Software as a Service) applications most commonly used among the early adopters. These services include email and other communication apps, file sharing, and backup.

In a February 2012 Edge Strategies survey (commissioned by Microsoft) of 3,000 small businesses in the US, the following data came to light:

  • The number of small companies with 2 to 10 employees using paid cloud services will triple in the next three years;
  • Current cloud users report purchasing an average of 4 services in the cloud now and expect to use 6 in the future;
  • Fifty percent agree that cloud computing is going to become more important for businesses such as theirs.

Further, a survey of 323 SMBs recently released by social business site Spiceworks and sponsored by EMC reveals that from 48 percent at the start of 2012 and 28 percent a year ago, 62 percent of the businesses surveyed now use some type of cloud app.

What these numbers show is that cloud adoption among small and medium enterprises is starting to gain ground and for sure, more will do the same as understanding and awareness increase. Yes, these businesses should still perform their due diligence as there is no one-size-fits-all cloud solution. But for those companies who have managed to find the right cloud apps and services for their needs, it’s all sunny skies up ahead.

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Spreadsheet Fraud

To any company executive or business owner, the mere possibility of fraud can be enough to send alarm bells ringing – for good reason. In a prolonged recession, the last thing investors would want to discover is a huge, gaping hole where supposedly a neat profit should have been. Also to find out that such loss was brought about by deliberately falsified accounting and poor spreadsheet controls only makes the situation even more regrettable.

Why?

Because these losses would not have occurred had there been a stronger risk management program in place and more stringent quality control on critical data to begin with.

But given the nature of a spreadsheet system i.e. its sheer flexibility and easy accessibility, plus the fact that they were never intended to be enterprise-level tools, there are no hard and fast rules for auditing spreadsheets. Also because of the lack of internal controls for end user computing (EUC) applications, in this case spreadsheets, you can’t expect these systems to yield consistently accurate results.

In fact, most managers assume that major spreadsheet errors should result in figures that are blatantly out of touch with how things stand in the real world, making these errors easily detectable.

Well they assumed wrong. You’ll find cases where the losses ran to millions of dollars without anyone being the wiser.

In instances of fraud, the problem becomes more complicated as these errors are deliberately hidden and cleverly disguised, perhaps one erroneous cell at a time. Even if these cover-ups started out with smaller figures that may have had negligible impact on a company?s operation, the cumulative costs of these ?insignificant? errors multiply exponentially as the spreadsheets are reused and utilised as bases for other related reports.

While there is no generally accepted definition of the term ?spreadsheet fraud?, its quite easy to identify one when a case crops up. Fraud arising from spreadsheets are typically characterised by:

Fallacious inputs – correct figures are deliberately replaced with false values.

Erroneous outputs owing to data alteration – hyperlinks are linking to the wrong spreadsheets or cells; use of macros or special lines of code which are understandable only to the person who developed the code.

Concealment of critical information – can be done with easy ?tweaks? such as hidden rows and columns, using the same colour for both the font and the background, or hard coding additional values into a cell.

There is nothing really highly-sophisticated or technical in any of these methodologies. But without internal spreadsheet controls in place, it would take a discerning eye and a thorough review to catch the inconsistencies contained in a spreadsheet fraught with errors. Also, if these errors are knowingly placed there, the chances of finding them are close to nil.

Learn more about our server application solutions and discover a better way to protect your company from spreadsheet fraud.

More Spreadsheet Blogs


Spreadsheet Risks in Banks


Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry


How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence


Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment


Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework


Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations


Spreadsheet Risk Issues


Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back


Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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Why DevOps Matters: Things You Need to Know

DevOps creates an agile relationship between system development and operating departments, so the two collaborate in providing results that are technically effective, and work well for customers and users. This is an improvement over the traditional model where development delivers a complete design ? and then spends weeks and even months afterwards, fixing client side problems that should never have occurred.
Writing for Tech Radar Nigel Wilson explains why it is important to roll out innovation quickly to leverage advantage. This implies the need for a flexible organisation capable of thinking on its feet and forming matrix-based project teams to ensure that development is reliable and cost effective.
Skirmishes in Boardrooms
This cooperative approach runs counter to traditional silo thinking, where Operations does not understand Development, while Development treats the former as problem children. This is a natural outcome of team-centred psychology. It is also the reason why different functions pull up drawbridges at the entrance to their silos. This situation needs managing before it corrodes organization effectiveness. DevOps aims to cut through this spider web of conflict and produce faster results.

The Seeds of Collaboration

Social and personal relationships work best when the strengths of each party compensate the deficiencies of the other. In the case of development and operations, development lacks full understanding of the daily practicalities operating staff face. Conversely, operations lacks ? and should lack knowledge of the nuances of digital automation, for the very reason it is not their business.
DevOps straddles the gap between these silos by building bridges towards a co-operative way of thinking, in which matrix-teams work together to define a problem, translate it into needs and spec the system to resolve these. It is more a culture than a method. Behavioural change naturally leads to contiguous delivery and ongoing deployment. Needless to say only the very best need apply for the roles of client representative, functional tester and developer lead.

Is DevOps Worth the Pain of Change?

Breaking down silos encroaches on individual managers? turf. We should only automate to improve quality and save money. These savings often distil into organisational change. The matrix team may find itself in the middle of a catfight. Despite the pain associated with change resistance, DevOps more than pays its way in terms of benefits gained. We close by considering what these advantages are.

An Agile Matrix Structure ? Technical innovation is happening at a blistering rate. The IT industry can no longer afford to churn out inferior designs that take longer to fix than to create. We cannot afford to allow office politics to stand in the way of progress. Silos and team builds are custodians of routine and that does not sit well with development.

An Integrated Organization ? DevOps not only delivers operational systems faster through contiguous testing. It also creates an environment whereby cross-border teams work together towards achieving a shared objective. When development understands the challenges that operations faces ? and operations understands the technical limiters – a new perspective emerges of ?we are in this together?.

The Final Word ? With understanding of human dynamics pocketed, a DevOps project may be easier to commission than you first think. The traditional way of doing development – and the waterfall delivery at the end is akin to a two-phase production line, in which liaison is the weakest link and loss of quality inevitable.

DevOps avoids this risk by having parties work side-by-side. We need them both to produce the desired results. This is least until robotics takes over and there is no longer a human element in play.

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