Energy intelligence in plant-to-enterprise integration

With the economy picking up again, manufacturers are scaling up their operations. Factories can gain a competitive edge using energy intelligence.

11/07/2013


Energy intelligence requires the ability to identify maintenance needs early, prevent sudden failures, and avoid unexpected downtime. It requires scheduling energy hogs to minimize their impact and being conscious of energy costs. It also means getting energy KPIs under control to reduce a plant’s carbon footprint and meet corporate sustainability goals. Energy intelligence goes beyond using the power meter to correlate energy with labor, time, productivity, and more—giving manufacturers the control they need from the plant floor to the enterprise layer.

Preventive maintenance on the plant floor can range from recognizing early signs of worn-out bearings on motors to keeping track of a compressor's run hours. This information is accounted for in KPIs. It can result in a reduction of downtime on the enterprise layer and lead to concrete cost savings in a product’s energy usage. Energy intelligence can drastically improve efficiency of such equipment as compressors, chillers, and boilers. It is vital in the measurement and verification of power factor correction and VFDs (variable frequency drives) for fan and pump applications, energy efficient lighting, and other energy conservation-related activities.

With the marriage of energy visualization dashboards and production information, energy intelligence is becoming a mind-shift agent on the plant floor, as well as at the enterprise layer. In addition to identifying for facility managers the low-hanging fruit such as optimization of building automation and availability of real-time energy score cards, it also provides key insights to tackle complex energy conservation measures and establishes the foundations of energy policies and green initiative goals. Energy intelligence becomes a means of keeping track of environmental and sustainability goals and certification of LEED, Energy Star, and ISO 500001 energy management.

To achieve energy intelligence, consider this four-step process:

  1. Measure all energy assets.
  2. Visualize energy usage from process, machine, and building automation systems, as it correlates to production and energy dashboards accessible with standard web browsers and mobile devices.
  3. Reduce energy use by operating motors with VFDs, choosing high efficiency motors, shifting and staging loads at appropriate times, using the energy standby mode for energy hog loads during break times, automating processes, and making behavioral changes.
  4. Manage energy as a task of continual improvement following the ISO 50001 energy management standard: plan, do, check, action.

 

To achieve energy intelligence, manufacturers require energy solutions that provide various types of energy monitoring capabilities. These include a diverse energy product portfolio ranging from PLC-based energy modules to stand-alone energy meters with open networks like CC-Link and Modbus. With a comprehensive energy management solution, including all the necessary hardware and software, manufacturers will be able to effectively measure energy consumption and acquire energy visibility to production lines, processes, machines, and energy hogs such as compressors, chillers, and boilers.

A comprehensive portfolio of energy management solutions should include products and technologies designed to help factories achieve optimum productivity and total cost reduction through effective deployment of energy information. At the heart of these products should be an energy monitoring solution that provides easy-to-read visual data identifying how much and where energy is being used by various building loads and processes. A monitoring solution must also collect usage data from all energy types—electricity, water, gas, compressed air, and steam. After determining problem areas within a facility, factories can implement a viable energy savings plan to reduce consumption and demand through a dynamic demand control/response solution.

Demand management applications allow industrial customers to manage electric demand charges by appropriate setting adjustments, such as turning off noncritical loads for short windows of time, cycling the building automation loads while taking the space comfort and production criteria into consideration. With electrical distribution networks across North America aging, utility companies anticipate getting help from the commercial and industrial customer base to participate in demand response for grid stability and reliability during peak energy load hours, typically the hottest summer days. Participating customers are rewarded with incentives.

An energy intelligence infrastructure can be implemented through multiple phases starting with measuring the top layer energy loads such as mains for electric, compressed air, gas, steam, water, and tier-one energy loads such as compressors, chillers, and boilers. Afterward, they can move to machines and processes on the plant floor. Once a comprehensive energy infrastructure is deployed, the manufacturer can practice agile preventive maintenance, satisfy EPA requirements, keep track of energy KPIs, drive continual energy efficiency and conservation improvements, and meet supply chain energy-related goals—all while maintaining a competitive edge.

Ghulam Khan is a senior automation solutions engineer for Mitsubishi Electric.

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