As could be expected with a general grouping like this, which includes a wider range of facilities with varying production focuses, responses show some interesting ranges. On the spending front, the drop should not be as dramatic as other areas of processing. This group also shows a more receptive approach to new and varying types of feedstocks, software applications and wireless technology integration.When it comes to 2009 vs. 2008 purchasing projections:
In addressing energy costs:
- 53 percent indicated that they will spend less on safety programs and related products in 2009. Last year, most respondents spent less than $10,000 in the category.
- Correspondingly, 53 percent of respondents said that they will not invest as much this year on automation equipment as they did in 2008. Last year, 26 percent spent more than $100,000 in this category.
- Looking at overall capital equipment expenditures, 32 percent of respondents said that they spent more than $750,000 last year, and 42 percent said that they will spend the same or more in 2009.
In working to reduce energy usage (respondents could check all initiatives that applied to their facility):
- 37 percent said that energy conservation initiatives have offset price hikes in keeping costs even.
- 26 percent said that costs are down due to internal energy conservation practices and lower oil prices.
- The remainder indicated that they continue to deal with rising energy costs.
When asked which initiatives could be implemented in order to realize greater energy efficiency gains, while least impacting operational efforts:
- 83 percent have started to do simpler things like shutting off lights, and relying less prominently on heating and air-conditioning services to help control costs.
- 72 percent have implemented new, more efficient lighting products.
- 61 percent said that they have purchased new, more efficient equipment.
- 50 percent also added instrumentation that allows for better equipment monitoring and control in maximizing energy usage.
- 39 percent cited machinery overhauls and increasing preventive maintenance practices as a way to reduce the amount of energy needed to power their older equipment.
Questions were also asked regarding the respondents' familiarity and use of new feedstocks:
- 37 percent identified improving usage patterns.
- The remaining were split between facility improvements and individual equipment upgrades.
On the software front:
- The feedstocks that they are most familiar with, in order of precedence, are biomass, plant by-products and agricultural by-products.
- The most prominently used of the newer feedstock types is plant by-products.
- The feedstock that respondents feel has the most promise moving forward is algae.
- The biggest obstacle readers see with the integration of these non-fossil fuel sources is the lack of an established infrastructure in dealing with these new feedstocks.
In terms of wireless technology integration, readers cited data capture and equipment monitoring as having the greatest impact on their operations, but only 26 percent said that they have retrofitted current equipment with wireless capabilities. The greatest benefits cited for wireless use were fewer location limitations and the absence of cables.
- The most important software functionality cited was inventory management (47 percent), followed by maintenance scheduling (21 percent).
- The greatest realized gains from software investments were operational efficiencies (47 percent) and quality control (16 percent).
- Looking ahead, respondents' greatest needs are inventory management and maintenance scheduling.