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GE & Universal Studios Hollywood - The Treasure Hunt Model


  • GE has conducted well over 200 treasure hunts globally with a combined emissions reduction of over 250,000 metric tons of GHGs
  • Seen over $14 billion dollars in revenue from ecomagination products and services

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GE & Universal Studios Hollywood

General Electric (GE) applies Lean manufacturing methods in its businesses - both manufacturing processes and transactional situations. Recently, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions became a major target for some of the lean activities undertaken by the company.

NBC Universal, which is 80% owned by GE, is one of the world’s leading entertainment companies and is involved in the development, production and marketing of various entertainment ventures throughout the world. Universal Studios Hollywood (USH) is a leading tourist destination in the Los Angeles area and hosts millions of guests each year. With the combination of active movie production lot and premier tourist destination, there are many opportunities for cost savings across the board in a variety of areas.

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The Treasure Hunt System

The purpose of GE’s Energy Treasure Hunt system is to identify areas of potential savings. Based on Lean manufacturing techniques, the process allows teams to identify and more importantly quantify opportunities to improve energy efficiency. To date, GE has conducted well over 200 treasure hunts globally with a combined emissions reduction of over 250,000 metric tons of GHGs.

A critical element in the success of these events is cross-functional teamwork. Incorporating people from all aspects of the businesses allows representatives from all levels backgrounds to offer opinions and bring their vision to the process. The event highlighted below had representatives from Universal Studios, NBC, GE Energy, GE Motors, Utility Companies, Government and various vendors and contractors. Specialists were also called in to offer advice on engineering, machining, lighting and other aspects of operations.

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Energy Savings on the Lot

A Treasure Hunt lasts three days (plus pre-hunt training) and allows the participants to view the processes and equipment during non-productive time, start up, productive time and breaks.  The time frame covered therefore lets the Treasure Hunt Teams see the site during all stages of equipment readiness.  This provides maximum opportunity for kaizen.

The ultimate goals of the event at USH in March, 2008, were to: Reduce energy consumption by 20% - $1.4M; Instill Energy Savings as Part of the Culture; Deploy Technologies to Eliminate Waste; and Generate a Strategic Energy Plan. These aligned with GE’s overarching corporate strategy of energy reduction across the board. Ten teams focused on different aspects of operations. Electricity, water, natural gas, steam, compressed air, wastewater and chilled water were all focal points of the hunt.  Although only 12% of the theme park operations were reviewed as part of this event, the most critical energy & water processes were included, and the teams identified projects which are easily leveragable to other parts of the complex.  Theme park utility spend is nearly $6MM per year.    

Teams visited sites around the park to assess utility consumption. Some of the areas examined were prep kitchens, office buildings, rides such as Jurassic Park and The Mummy, and attractions such as the Terminator show. Each area had unique problems and associated with utility usage. Some actions were essential to a special effect or a safety, but over the three day period, participants in the event identified almost two million dollars in potential savings with less than a year’s payback on any investments!

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Looking Toward the Future

Through the 200 hunts conducted by GE thus far, more than 5,000 actual energy saving projects have been identified. Not all projects are implemented immediately, but as energy costs continue to rise, there is a suite of potential projects waiting on the horizon.

On May 28, 2008, GE announced that they are committed to reduce their global water usage by 20% by 2012. They have seen over $14 billion dollars in revenue from ecomagination products and services. As a global corporation, GE strives to keep a competitive edge while remaining at the forefront of environmentally conscious business operations.

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