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In China, OSI's Hebei Plant Slashes Energy Use in Sanitation

October 15, 2020

OSI factories around the world follow rigorous sanitation standards that require both water and energy. As the company strives to reduce our environmental footprint, we've been testing, implementing and sharing innovative solutions that cut back on these resources, without compromising on our non-negotiable commitment to maintaining the highest sanitation, food safety and quality standards.

Many of these initiatives are driven by local needs and aspirations and developed by local teams. In India, for example, water access is a chronic challenge. It spurred OSI's Vista Processed Foods to introduce a new cleaning system at its Sirhind plant, which reduced water consumption by 15%. In China, meanwhile, Otto & Sons, an OSI business, has found a clever new way to cut back on sanitation-related energy.

Its Hebei plant, near Beijing, produces a range of products in facilities that undergo a rigorous cleaning each night. Everything from mixers to industrial ovens are sanitized using a cleaning solution and water heated up to between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (50-60 Celsius). An internal analysis found that each day a significant amount of natural gas was being used to heat the water for sanitation, which was contributing a sizable chunk to the plant's expenses, not to mention its environmental footprint.

"We saw the hot water boiler as a place to look for opportunities for improvement," said Bin Hong, Operations Director at Otto & Sons.

The maintenance and production teams began brainstorming solutions. They were spurred not only by a desire to cut costs, but also by a local and company-wide push to reduce energy use. Like all other OSI facilities, Otto & Sons is striving to reduce energy intensity by 20% by 2025 — a target that, as a company, OSI is more than 65% of the way toward achieving. In China, meanwhile, the government has also been pushing for change.

"Since 2016 the Chinese central government has launched new regulations and programs to step up efforts on environmental protection," said Hua Cai, Otto & Sons's Director of Corporate Affairs. "And it has pushed for all production facilities, regardless of industry, to increase their own efforts in this regard."

Bin and his team analyzed the water heating system and realized that design changes could result in significant energy savings. They added steam pipes and made other adjustments to the system at both the Hebei plant's meat processing facility, Hebei Superb Foods, and its dough processing facility, OFS Foods.

The results were stark: After implementing the design changes earlier this year, the time needed to run the boiler at night dropped from five hours to one, and the quantity of natural gas consumed for sanitation plummeted by 75%, resulting in significant cost savings.

"This progress is the result of a change of thinking," said Bin. "Before, people were focused on simply getting the daily work done. But personally, I've been trying to lead manufacturing to analyze areas where we can improve: Where is there waste we can eliminate? Where is the maximum usage of water? Step by step we can change."

Besides the energy reduction initiative, Otto & Sons’ Hebei plant has its sights set on other ambitious goals including reducing CO2 usage during the process of product forming (which requires energy for cooling), and recycling heat energy from the exhaust of ammonia compressors.

These sorts of initiatives, multiplied across the company, are the engine driving our sustainability progress. They inspire change and provide concrete solutions other facilities — both inside OSI and in the wider industry — can implement as they also strive to meet their own goals, step by step.

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