Drive manufacturing competitiveness with energy awareness
Regardless of the industry, most operations teams have one thing in common: They’re being asked to cut expenses from already trimmed operating budgets. With the easier-to-cut line items long gone, teams need to start exploring new improvement opportunities, such as energy management.
Under constant pressure to squeeze more out of their operating budgets, manufacturers often turn to operations teams to drive innovative improvements that lead to cost savings. Energy management is one area of significant opportunity by using automation technology to extract and interpret data so manufacturers can improve productivity, efficiency, and reliability.
Operations teams constantly investigate ways to increase throughput, improve quality, reduce waste, and optimize labor.
Despite the success of these efforts, management continues to increase its expectations, demanding further reduction in operating expenses while maintaining-or even increasing-production. In the past, achieving these goals has been accomplished through a combination of equipment upgrades, Lean Six Sigma processes, and other incremental improvements. As more expense-reduction opportunities are taken already, considering the role of energy within operation can be a fresh approach.
The power of information
Energy reductions from the facilities team may have included multiple utility rebates to retrofit shop lighting and motors, HVAC systems, upgraded air compressors and chillers, and added variable speed drives. The team also may have worked with a local utility to generate payment for demand response.
Putting manufacturing productivity at risk to figure out how to save energy isn't a favorable option, and no one is going to agree that turning dials to save nickels is worthwhile. What about leveraging the operations team's experience to analyze energy as production data?
New, nondisruptive methods for accessing energy-consumption data are practical from within existing automation systems, without an advanced degree in power quality. It simply requires engaging manufacturing support teams.
Energy awareness through data
As with other useful analysis, effective-energy awareness must have the right information at the right time in the context of what's happening during production.
To reveal this level of insight, many manufacturers have implemented a top-down approach, analyzing energy-consumption patterns versus production output to determine how operations impact energy use. Limited product lines make these consumption patterns less complex and easier to detect for procurement, production scheduling, and sustainability objectives. The effectiveness of the analysis generally falls short when more complexity is introduced with more product types, where too many factors exist to accurately assess consumption patterns. The impact of nonproduction-energy consumption complicates the ability to correlate energy usage patterns against production schedules.
A common alternative is a bottom-up approach focused on metering energy at the point of production using an energy-management system. While this approach provides accurate, detailed data, it also can be disruptive to production, complicated to execute, and often can require a significant investment with an unclear return.
The availability of easily accessible data sources from energy-aware devices and systems offers a more effective view of energy as production data. This level of energy information helps enhance the data already being collected with top-down and bottom-up approaches.
Some level of energy metering often exists within newer motor control products to more efficiently control motors, but now it can be extracted from the system and analyzed at minimal cost and without affecting production.
Leveraging this information more easily provides a granular view of energy as production data. Coupling these accessible data sources with more traditional top-down and bottom-up approaches helps isolate energy usage on the factory floor. When energy consumption is understood in the context of manufacturing, energy becomes a manufacturing data point. The team can use energy-consumption data as any other production metric to make adjustments to production and machines.
Gather data: connect, collect
Using an 80-20 rule while focusing on the highest consuming assets can net the greatest results. Collecting energy-consumption data on high-horsepower motors can help the operations team identify the top energy-consuming assets and later prioritize improvements that will have the most significant impact on cost savings.
Energy-aware capabilities enabled by motor-control technologies allow nondisruptive extraction of energy-consumption information with minimal manufacturing impact. The addition of an automation controller as a data concentrator on the plant's EtherNet/IP network allows operators to gain access to the consumption energy, collect the energy attributes, and store the data in a historian for further analysis, without touching the asset or process. Given the advancements in automation technology, this capability is being embedded into motor control technology for easier access.
For years, energy management revolved around finding easy wins. Auditors walked around, collected data, and struggled to add business value when not fluent with plant production processes.
By viewing energy as an element of production, manufacturers use existing expertise and tools to reduce consumption and move beyond the easy wins. Today, in-house engineering staff can examine energy in the context of production and use commercially available optimization tools to pinpoint specific areas of concern. Converting energy to a cost-per-production unit, which easily can be added to Lean Six Sigma tools like value-stream maps, allows the team to find answers to questions such as:
- Should work-in-progress (WIP) be used as a battery to store low-cost energy for when rates are high?
- Should equipment be left on-and thereby consume energy-until the next run because of the time it takes for the equipment to return to the required temperature?
- Can a series of operations be sequenced to take place at times of lower energy demand and still meet production schedules?
Learn more about defining energy performance metrics and see figure 2; click into the next page, below.