There are organizations and individuals who are using the principles of Reinventing Fire to make money and gain durable advantage in their industry.
Founded in 1951, Texas Instruments (TI) is one of the largest designers and manufacturers of semiconductor products in the world, ranking 223 in the Fortune 500. It has operations globally and each one of its semiconductor plants consume large amounts of energy to manufacture the devices that drive everything from phones to projectors to prosthetics.
Historically, sustainability has not been the core focus at Texas Instruments. Wafer fabs are complex, extremely capital-intensive (often several billion dollars), and highly energy-intensive. Furthermore, reliability is crucial—production stoppages can cost more than $1 million per day. In 2003, when TI was designing plans for a new plant in Richardson, Texas, TI had the courage and the initiative to explore opportunities in energy efficiency. Paul Westbrook, TI’s Sustainability Development Manager, led TI on an effort for major cost reductions as well as a more sustainable fab. These goals, which conventional thinking would say are competing, forced TI to question everything, go back to the drawing board, and innovate.
Using energy-efficient equipment, waste heat energy recovery methods, and innovative designs, TI succeeded in building a unique chip fab which reduced facilities systems energy use by 38 percent and cut natural gas consumption by more than 50 percent. At its completion, the Richardson facility had a capital cost 30 percent less than the previous chip fab (built just 6 miles away), and saved more than $4.0 million per year in operating costs. By building in Texas with innovative fab designs, TI also successfully kept 1,000 high-tech jobs at home and heightened synergies with existing plants.
TI continues to work on multiple sustainability goals, including reductions in resource consumption, waste, and emissions. By 2015, TI anticipates energy and water reductions per chip by an additional 45 percent. Westbrook notes that managing energy is now a part of TI’s DNA—he has employees from all departments calling him up with new ideas. The culture at TI has created an organizational pull for energy management, serving to accelerate progress in sustainability. Thus, though energy constitutes a small part of its total costs, TI serves as a model for other companies that energy management can result in benefits for shareholders, employees, and for society at large.