We’re continuing our blog series on how utility bill data can save you money. Today we’ll look at the City of San Bernardino, CA, and UniFirst Corporation.
Disorganized energy data causes you to miss opportunities.
In 2012, at the height of the recent recession, many government, city/county governments had cash flow issues. There were four California cities that declared bankruptcy, and one of them was the city of San Bernardino—population roughly 210,000. The city was looking for a way to save money and obtain additional revenue.
So their part-time energy manager went to work on the city’s utility bill data. Her name is Susan. She focused on the basics—getting a backlog of utility bills into their energy management software. This simple step enabled her to spot irregular use situations that were costing the city a lot of money.
She also leveraged the utility bill data by using it in a major grant proposal that resulted in an award of $375,000.00 to retrofit city lights. A critical component of the grant application was the applicant’s ability to effectively present utilities information for the location. Without access to the utility bill data, this would not have been possible.
Since then, the city has found funding for other projects. The city recreation department was awarded $248,000.00 for a program that helps bring food to seniors and homeless people in the San Bernardino area.
That’s a total of $623,000.00 just in grants. That is getting creative with your energy data. And it is a powerful illustration of the savings that can come from your utility bills.
UniFirst Corporation is one of the largest uniform service providers in the United States. They design manufactured sell, rent, and delivered uniforms and protective clothing, and they have a lot of laundry facilities that wash uniforms.
The Unifirst management team had been tracking utility bills at over 200 of their locations across North America using two different methods. One set of data entry operators was hand-keying bills into their accounting system, and another was duplicating that data entry using Excel spreadsheets. This process did not prove to be an easy way of comparing one bill to another, since it prevented the company from spotting energy issues. And it was really inefficient.
But once they started tracking their energy spend in EnergyCAP, they received full ROI on their energy management software investment within two years. Some of that was from improved business efficiencies. If you are streamlining processes, from the receipt of bills, to processing them, and then getting the data into a system to analyze, there’s a lot of time that can be spent and/or saved in that process.
Today, Unifirst’s utility bills are all received at a single location. Bills are manually entered, and then an energy administrator reviews them for accuracy using a mix of audit results and graphical charts. This process produces very actionable data. It also reduces processing time, which has dramatically reduced the amount of late fees.
Unifirst also use a customizable dashboard to check usage compared to prior bills in order to catch any type of billing or meter issues before the bills are sent to accounts payable. That way, they avoid the cost and time required to deal with refunds or overpayments. They’re tackling these issues on the front end—before the bills are paid.