ZF North America used Alabama E3 funding to create a recycling program that saves more than $100,000 a year in trash pickup and landfill fees. Pictured here are workers in the Tuscaloosa location, which provides Mercedes with complete axle systems. | Photo courtesy of ZF North America, Inc.

Editor's Note: This blog post has been updated to include USDA as a federal partner of Alabama's E3 program.

Across Alabama, manufacturing facilities are participating in a program aimed at increasing competitiveness through efficient production processes, reducing waste, lowering costs, growing jobs and encouraging innovation.

The program, called E3, is a joint federal initiative between the Energy Department’s State Energy Program (SEP), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, USDA, the Small Business Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership. It is administered by the Alabama Technology Network with support from more than 28 partners, including the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs’ Energy Division.

Leveraging federal and local funds, E3 has conducted 60 energy assessments and 60 lean assessments that provide companies with suggestions on ways to operate more cost-effectively. These efforts have identified total annual energy savings opportunities of $5.2 million. So far, 50 facilities have implemented energy-saving measures that add up to $1.6 million in cost savings and have resulted in the training of more than 1,400 people in energy efficiency and lean manufacturing. Additionally, participants are encouraged to use the AlabamaSAVES revolving loan fund -- created with $25 million in SEP funding -- to implement energy retrofits for identified opportunities.

Two small manufacturing companies -- Electricfil Corporation and ZF Industries -- did not waste any time making good use of the E3 program.

Electricfil Corporation, located in Elkmont, Alabama, used E3 funding to implement energy-efficient lighting upgrades, start a recycling program for waste within the facility and reduce equipment idling. This helped the company cut its annual electricity use by more than 357,000 kilowatt hours and its annual carbon pollution by more than 240 metric tons -- resulting in energy savings of $50,000. The improvements will help advance the facility’s expansion.

ZF Industries harnessed the power of E3 to create a recycling program that saves more than $100,000 a year in trash pickup and landfill fees, enabling the company to hire three people to manage the program. ZF Industries credits the cost-saving efficiency measures and activities that saved time and space in the production process through E3 with helping them secure a contract from Mercedes-Benz worth more than $2 million. This new contract resulted in the expansion of the facility and a projected 85 new jobs. With the help of E3, ZF Industries reports annual savings of approximately 300,000 kWh in electricity savings, 300 tons of reduced carbon pollution and $30,000 of energy cost savings. When combined with other process improvements and E3 activities, ZF Industries is now saving $160,000 a year.