Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Energy excellence: How to develop a successful energy management strategy for manufacturers

March 29, 2011
By Ivan Romanow

As energy price volatility continues, manufacturers are coming under increasing pressure to proactively manage their energy consumption while also maintaining compliance with evolving sustainability requirements. Many companies, however, have not factored energy consumption into their planning or execution decisions because they don’t have the right data in the right context. A detailed understanding of the energy consumption for specific production areas, equipment and products, can help manufacturers better manage production planning and execution in an informed and responsible manner.

The strategy
Manufacturers need timely visibility into energy consumption at the local level to effectively manage their energy consumption. An effective manufacturing energy management strategy should: provide manufacturing context (product, batch, lot, equipment) for energy usage; provide near real-time visualization of contextualized energy information, which enables manufacturing personnel to optimize planning and execution decisions; outline where and why metering should be implemented; provide insight into the current baseline energy usage; integrate into operational excellence programs; and provide timely and accurate energy consumption data for performance management reporting and analysis.

Developing such a strategy should include the following steps:
• Assess your energy costs. Energy management is not just about tracking energy consumption through utility bills, but more about how effective companies are when it comes to considering energy in operational decision-making. The best practice is to start with a baseline plant energy assessment to identify savings measures. n Monitor and measure. This enables companies to benchmark themselves internally across functional groups, as well as externally against industry standards.
• Understand when energy is used. An effective energy strategy combines production contexts, such as volume, shift, crew, uptime/downtime and major waste events (e.g. leaks). Dashboards and reports clearly define consumption patterns, identify peaks, valleys, ramp-ups, ramp-downs, peak demand and load duration curves.  
• Understand where energy is used. A critical feature of an energy management program is an annual energy audit of all operational systems, including the plant’s insulation, steam traps and lighting. As a result of these audits, employees can participate in energy efficiency ideas for management consideration. Energy-saving measures fall into two categories: capital projects (e.g. heat recovery from boiler flue gas, variable speed drives, compressor controls and the installation of high efficiency motors); and no-cost or low-cost measures, which usually require continuous attention (e.g. turning off pumps or lights when not in use).
• Eliminate waste. You can eliminate waste by focusing on the following areas:

  •  Thermal energy – According to documentation from energy services firm 360 Energy, “on average, plants having significant thermal loads…can save about 20 percent of their fuel costs with a concerted energy program.”
  • Electricity – 360 Energy also estimates that “about 10 percent of total electrical energy consumption can be saved, mainly through motor improvements. Other measures include power factor correction, automatic control of building HVAC, lighting improvements and air compressor system improvements.”
  • Water – This resource is a minor component of the total utility bill for most industrial plants. According to 360 Energy, potential savings in this area is up to 50 percent.

• Maximize system efficiency. Installing dimmers and timers tied to production schedules or scheduling high-energy equipment to run at non-peak times are examples of maximizing system efficiency. Installing gas, steam, air or electricity meters together with the implementation of a management reporting system can save up to 20 percent of energy, according to 360 Energy.


The tools
There are technologies available to help Canadian manufacturers optimize energy use. Investing in energy-efficient hardware and lighting is helpful in reducing energy consumption. VSDs can be used to save energy on rotating equipment by controlling the speed of a motor through adjusting the power supplied to the equipment.

Near real-time historian and integrated visualization tools help companies to automatically collect energy data, providing the decision-makers with real-time insight into the energy processes.

Statistical process control software enables companies to establish limits and alerts management when the processes are out of control limits. Investing in analytics, dashboards and alert management provides the right energy data to the right person at the right time.

Interoperability of energy management with asset management enables maintenance to consider energy consumption data while scheduling maintenance activities. Similarly, the integration of energy consumption data with advanced process control data enables operators to include information related to energy usage and cost to achieve a balance of output, quality and energy efficiency.  

Operations should achieve rapid and substantial business benefits by implementing an integrated manufacturing energy management solution. Manufacturers who do this effectively can receive pay back for the overall investment in less than a year.

Ivan Romanow is the director of sales and marketing at Gescan, a division of Sonepar Canada (

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