Central Stores warehouse team’s energy savings recognized through Prudential Productivity Award

Click on the image for a slideshow of the 2016 Prudential Awards Ceremony in Jacksonville, Florida.

Like the university it supports, UF’s Supply Chain Management and Warehouse Operations facility – better known as Central Stores – is a busy place. Central Stores keeps UF functioning on a day-to-day basis by facilitating the procurement of supplies and materials to support the maintenance, repair and janitorial needs of the Physical Plant Division. They maintain an inventory of more than 300,000 items on-hand and constantly order, receive, store and distribute supplies.

An operation like this evokes images of a large industrial warehouse bustling with activity: receiving and unboxing new supplies, preparing other supplies for distribution and inevitably building up mountains of waste on a daily basis. But the reality of this warehouse bucks any notions of excess waste and inefficiency.

“We only have one trash can in the warehouse,” said Allen Masters, UF’s assistant director for Building Operations and Maintenance.

Over the last several years, Masters led the Central Stores warehouse team to drastic energy and waste reductions, resulting most recently in a 2016 Prudential Productivity Award that comes with the added bonus of $4,000 cash.

Masters, who at the time was the assistant director for warehouse operations and supply chain management, as well as waste and recycling operations, said he was always looking for ways to support the mission and goals of the university, but as an operations unit, found it difficult to do so on the education and research side of things. So he and his team decided to jump head-first into energy efficiency and savings.

The team’s efforts began in 2012. “We started small because we didn’t have the budget for it so actually the staff and I did a lot of the work ourselves,” Masters said.

This work included changing out or adding motion sensors to lights in the warehouse, replacing fans with U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified fans, using hybrid and electric vehicles, installing new roll up doors to conserve heat, replacing paper copies with scanned documents, installing rain barrels to collect water for use in the warehouse floor scrubber, partnering with vendors to use reusable totes and many other changes – big and small – that collectively make a large impact.

By 2013, Central Stores was recognized by the EPA’s Energy Star Program as the No. 1 warehouse in the country for highest energy reduction and No. 14 overall for all buildings evaluated.

Between the 2012 and 2015 fiscal years, Central Stores’ energy and water costs dropped from $11,427.77 to just $3,066.08. Masters said operating a 24,000-square-foot building at around $3,000 per year for electrical, water and sewer is like operating a 2,400-square-foot home at $30 per month.

The Central Stores warehouse also became the first UF building to be self-certified using the EPA’s Energy Star program standards in 2015 and is now also classified as a zero-waste facility and will soon be a net-zero energy facility. Masters said the zero-waste certification comes from a 90 percent reduction in waste in the last 12 months (they are currently trending at 97 percent) and the pursuit of a net-zero energy classification is in progress now, which means rather than pulling energy from the grid they will often be directing energy back into it.

Masters said the accomplishments would not have been possible without the dedication and ongoing efforts of the Central Stores team.

“It really is due to their efforts that we’re able to do this,” he said. “They’re responsible for sorting and weighing the waste and making sure the lights are turned off and the air conditioner is set on the right temperature. So they live it every day, and it is because of them and the work that they do that we were able to successfully pull this off.”

The Central Stores team’s efforts were recognized during a Prudential Productivity Awards ceremony last month in Jacksonville and will also be recognized at UF at a luncheon on July 15. In addition to Masters, the team being recognized includes Miriam Aguero, Jose Diaz, Theran Floyd, Vincent Herman, Thomas Gonzales, Alexander King, Scott Mills, David Register, Elizabeth Rowell, Kenneth Stokes and Anthony Trujillo.

The Prudential Productivity Awards by Florida TaxWatch recognize individuals and teams of state employees for creating and implementing innovative solutions and productivity in cost savings, cost avoidances and increased revenue for state government. Since 1989, award winners have produced $9 billion worth of added value for taxpayers and businesses.

Special thanks to Physical Plant Division Associate Director of Business Operations Denna Ferrante and Education and Awards Coordinator Kenya Williams for providing background information for this article.