Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Briggs & Stratton Motors On


Compressed Air Best Practices interviewed Richard Feustel, the Corporate Energy Manager of Briggs & Stratton.


  Stratton Corporate Energy Manager, Richard Feustel    

Good afternoon! Please describe Briggs & Stratton briefly for us.

Good afternoon. Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest producer of air-cooled gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment. Headquartered in Milwaukee, WI, the Company designs, manufactures, markets, and services these products for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) worldwide.

Our roots date back to 1908 when inventor Stephen F. Briggs formed an informal partnership with investor Harold M. Stratton. This partnership eventually developed into Briggs & Stratton as it is known today. We are proud to say that we have been custodians of our environment for all these years.

Today we operate nine (9) manufacturing facilities in North America and three (3) outside the U.S.

Please describe your emphasis on employee Energy Awareness

Briggs & Stratton made the commitment to energy management from top-to-bottom. We have designated a corporate energy manager, established facility energy leaders, and have created a sustainability team.

We now have energy teams at each facility. They work with a facility energy leader, who usually comes from plant engineering or maintenance. As a first step, the energy teams do a good job making people aware of energy. Because they are educated at how to reduce their energy at home, they get interested in it. This makes them ask questions about dimmable lights, motion sensors, ways to turn down the thermostat.

Educating every employee on energy efficiency is a key strategy. The more comfortable employees are with the topic, the more ideas they come up with at home and at work. We conduct compact, fluorescent-light sales for employees and also hold multiple energy awareness fairs. At our last one, they got a reduced price of $1-2 per bulb! We incorporate Energy Star and local companies focused on reducing energy and water consumption.

How does the Energy Team work together?

When I joined in 2008, we had a lot of separate efforts going on. A lighting project would be done in one facility, and then in another, and each had to do it from scratch. Now we share ideas and experiences on what works. We hold monthly conference calls and have one annual meeting.

We just did a modular boiler project and discovered we could do a heat recovery implementation from the compressed air. The challenges with heat recovery are is it practical to get the heat from here to there.

One of our facilities in Jefferson, Wisconsin had already done heat recovery projects with their painting system. They offered a lot of good ideas on how to implement this heat recovery opportunity.

There is a corporate budget for energy efficiency projects. When they are looking for a project they can’t fund, they will turn to us. Corporate monies consider projects with a less than 2 year payback. The ease of implementation is a factor, as is does it affect people or production.

  One compressed air energy efficiency project turned off 1100 hp - worth of air compressors!    

Can you give examples of Sustainability Projects?

Briggs & Stratton has been working tirelessly to eliminate waste from and incorporating recycled materials into its manufacturing process whenever possible. Here are some examples:

  • We’ve invested over $105 million in improving our impact in cleanliness of our products and operations in the past decade.
  • We use over 100 million pounds of recycled aluminum in the production of our products every year.
  • We have achieved a 50% reduction in hazardous waste over the last five years.
  • We use recycled cardboard and returnable containers for shipping.
  • We recycle over 250,000 gallons of oil annually.
  • We have saved 5.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity in facility lighting projects.

Annually, the company recycles approximately 35,000 lbs of computer and electronic devices.

Can you list some projects done by the Energy Team?

Our Energy Team has implemented projects which have saved nearly 30.1 million kwh (7.8 M in 2007, 7.1M in 2008, 15.2M in 2009) over the last three years. We received significant levels of energy grants and tax deductions which made the ROI’s on these projects attractive:

  • $806,000 in incentives from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program
  • $1,189,419 tax deduction (2007 and 2008) under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (formerly called EPAct 2005)

What is even more important is that the Energy teams have established baselines, key performance indicators, and goals. We have developed a long-range plan to continue to achieve energy reduction and to increase energy awareness. We also execute an ongoing program to recognize achievements at the plant level and corporate wide.

We feel that we have transitioned the energy management program from a variety of people maintaining energy project spreadsheets to a corporate-wide transparent commitment of sustainability. We create project lists in each facility with ease of implementation and also with costs and ROI’s. We scale that out into short term and long-range plans.

What do the projects focus on at Briggs & Stratton?

The project areas cover lighting, compressed air controls and new VSD air compressors, furnace improvements (metal melt furnaces), boiler projects at two facilities (modular boilers at the Auburn facility), VSD motors added to motors and pumps, reducing compressed air and steam leaks, and upgrading motors to NEMA premium motors. Even the ice machine can be made more efficient and it’s been pointed out to us!

Please describe some compressed air energy-efficiency projects.

We had one significant project in Missouri where we were able to turn off two Centac centrifugal air compressors (one 600 hp and one 500 hp)!

We had two buildings operating with independent compressed air systems. One building had three Centac’s (700 hp, 600 hp, 500 hp) venting compressed air out the roof while the other building had three 100 hp air compressors (one a VSD). We suggested they combine the two systems into one system. This did the trick and allowed us to turn off the two centrifugals.

We have leak audits on going in all the facilities. Some programs are more formal than others. Some have quarterly leak checks and some have monthly checks. Some are done by the local utility and some are subsidized by Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy. They will pay for the leak check (75%) and when (not if!) you get them repaired they will pay another 75% of the repair bill.

We also recognize “leak finders” by using three-part leak tags. The three-part tag consists of: one goes to maintenance, one stays on the leak, and the third is for the leak finder to put into a pizza raffle! We have fun with leaks prevention programs at the plant level.

  "Our Energy Team has implemented projects which have saved nearly 30.1 million kwh over the last three years." - Richard Feustel, Corporate Energy Manager of Briggs & Stratton    

What future projects do you have in mind?

We will continue with lighting projects like the one we did here in Milwaukee where we put in 3000 new fixtures in the production and office areas. Motion sensors are installed on 2700 of the fixtures. Our production changes too much so we can’t program the sensors.

We are trying to transition from natural gas furnaces to electric units. They are more efficient and also more versatile. We are looking at some dual capability furnaces as well. We use the furnaces to melt metal.

Air conditioning in our southern plants is being reviewed as are our spray and dunk washers which we use to clean oil off of parts. These washers are heated by steam and we are working to lower the required temperatures.

Boiler systems will be a continuation of what we are doing – we’ve done some big projects like the modular boilers here in Milwaukee (a redesign of the HVAC system). We have good ideas for the furnaces and boiler systems at other plants.

With compressed air I feel like we are 30-40% there. Controls need to be focused on. Some facilities are still using manual controls. The compressors themselves can be staged better. We do own efficient air compressors. We’d like to work on storage, demand-side applications, and inappropriate uses of compressed air like blow-off applications. The good news is that we have employees identifying and telling the Energy Team about these opportunities!

How does Briggs & Stratton report energy efficiency?

My boss, John Giran, did most of the GRI Audit. It was very useful to us because it provided benchmarking on what other companies are doing. They provide a questionnaire taken off their web site. There was no cost.

It became a framework for putting sustainability reporting together. We use that framework for benchmarking other companies.

We recently became a “Save Energy Now Leader with DOE. That involves making a pledge regarding energy used per product produced. Our pledge is to reduce our energy intensity by 25% over ten years. It is a lofty goal for us and will take the dedication and focus we have developed over the past three years.

Thank you and congratulations on your program.

For more information contact Rod Smith, Compressed Air Best Practices, tel: 412-980-9901, email: