Responsible Creativity

Who wants to spend time sorting out order errors or questionable material availability when you’d much rather be trying a new glaze recipe? Having reliable suppliers is essential, and finding companies that share your concern for the environment can be a great bonus.

Focusing on your creative process can be difficult if you constantly have to deal with supplier problems. After all, who wants to spend time sorting out order errors or questionable material availability when you’d much rather be trying a new glaze recipe?

Having reliable suppliers is essential, and finding companies that share your concern for the environment can be a great bonus. I recently heard this story about Duncan Enterprises’ efforts in energy reduction and want to share it with you:

For 61 years, Duncan Enterprises has focused on ceramic arts and crafts marketing, manufacturing, sourcing and distribution. Not one to rest on its reputation, the company strives to explore new avenues of creativity for its core brands in support of its mission statement: We make it easy to experience creativity and the excitement of personal accomplishment.

In 2005, Duncan took a big step in supporting one of its guiding principles-to be socially and environmentally responsible. The company applied for and received an Energy Conservation & Waste Management Assistance for Industry survey from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Industrial Technologies Program (ITP).

“Our energy costs kept rising exponentially due to factors like crude oil prices, and we had to find a way to save money,” said Larry Duncan, chief executive officer and president of Duncan Enterprises. “We were also dealing with stricter standards, like California’s emissions standards on stationary generators, so my team was charged to research hydrogen stationary generators. We kept finding ourselves being led to the DOE, and we literally stumbled upon the energy assessment opportunity.”

Through its Save Energy Now program, the DOE conducts plant energy assessments to help manufacturing facilities across the nation identify immediate opportunities to save energy and money, primarily by focusing on energy-intensive systems such as process heating, steam, pumps, fans and compressed air.

Finding Opportunities
Save Energy Now energy assessments help plants quantify potential areas for savings by providing step-by-step guidance to facilitate the process. An assessment can also be part of an overall energy management strategy that will continue to yield major bottom-line benefits throughout the company. Once Duncan Enterprises was selected for an assessment, the DOE fully prepared the team for what to expect during the process through hands-on training and active participation.

The company got ready for the assessment by learning about the new energy assessment guidelines and requirements, preparing its team for the assessment, and gathering the appropriate information. At no cost to Duncan Enterprises, the company partnered with graduate students and professors at California State University, San Francisco (CSUSF) to begin the assessment process.

For three days in 2005, the Duncan Enterprises and CSUSF teams surveyed the Duncan plant for energy conservation opportunities. The teams looked for ways to minimize lighting costs, standardized thermostat settings for the air and heating system, found and fixed leaks in the air delivery system, and initiated new processes to reduce energy use by becoming more efficient.

Making Changes
Duncan Enterprises then took action on the opportunities identified in the assessment. The manufacturing process was restructured to make heavily used bottling lines compatible with each other. This allowed Duncan to return to a single shift for two bottling lines, resulting in the lines being used for a minimal time during the peak energy rate period.

Duncan also repaired its entire air compressor system. The company uses a large amount of compressed air for activities like bottling, mixing color and airbrushing. “Contrary to popular belief, compressed air is expensive,” said Duncan. “The repairs we made have saved us a lot.”

Several smaller initiatives took place to reduce energy and lighting consumption, along with the associated costs. All company computers were set to go on standby mode at night, and team members were encouraged to turn off lights in rooms and buildings that are not in use. In addition, the company turned off the nightlights on its well-known “lollipops” (the ceramic walls that line the company’s front buildings) and replaced them with motion-sensor lighting.

Working with the CSUSF team, Duncan Enterprises was able to assess key industrial process systems and identify cost-saving opportunities. By implementing the recommended actions, the company reduced its energy use and shrunk its carbon footprint in the near term.

Enjoying the Benefits
Following the assessment and consequent improvements, Duncan Enterprises was selected in November 2007 to receive an Energy Saver Plant Award for achieving more than 7.5% total energy savings. The award was a surprise. “We knew that we had achieved these savings, but at the assessment’s beginning, there was no award being offered,” said Duncan. “Only after several companies performed the assessments and achieved savings did the DOE decide to honor companies like us with an official award.”

Due to its participation in the Save Energy Now initiative, Duncan Enterprises has joined the growing ranks of U.S. industrial manufacturers that are committed to saving energy and money, and increasing their productivity. The company continues to seek initiatives to save energy, reduce costs and be environmentally responsible.

For more information, contact Duncan Enterprises at 5673 E. Shields Ave., Fresno, CA 93727; (559) 294-3335; fax (559) 294-2447; or visit Additional details regarding the Save Energy Now program are available at

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