Sustainability tips: How manufacturing can become more energy efficient

Manufacturers should consider energy as a cost component of manufacturing production, measure where and how energy is used, and create an implementation plan for using energy more efficiently.


Plug into green solutions.Consider energy as a cost component of manufacturing production, measure when, where and how it's used, and create an implementation plan for using energy more efficiently. Speaking at the Manufacturing / Automation Summit, March 28-30, 2010, hosted by Control Engineering and Plant Engineering magazines, a session with energy management experts advised about energy use and sustainability for manufacturers on March 29.

Offering advice on these topics were Rene Wolf, general manager, factory automation, Siemens; Carl Castellow, PE, industrial energy efficiency manager, Schneider Electric; Rod Ellsworth, vice president for global asset sustainability, Infor; and Marc Leroux, marketing manager for ABB's collaborative production.

Identify, evaluate, realize
Wolf advised:
- Key drivers behind industry's push toward energy efficiency are rising energy costs, corporate social responsibility, government regulations, and electrical reliability;
- Obstacles industry faced in its drive toward greater energy efficiency: incorrect perception of low return on investment (ROI; many don't understand that payback time can be quick), low costs versus low lifecycle costs (some don't always do calculations to see that higher initial cost is more than offset by energy savings), lack of measurement culture around energy consuming equipment, and side benefits (such as reliability, less downtime) are not considered;
- To understand this, companies need a comprehensive approach, where those involved identify, evaluate, and realize. (Identify energy flows to uncover hidden energy potential; evaluate potential savings by considering life cycle costs of investments; and realize efficiency gains to optimize equipment and processes).

Look at energy assets, create a plan
Castellow recommended:
- Consider energy assets. Manufacturers that make steam as part of their processes should consider that as an energy asset that might be sold back to the local utility;
- An energy action plan should buy a seat at the table for any major decision-making. The plan should be built into production and company-wide thinking, way beyond an energy audit, which so often sits on a shelf; and
- Integrate supply and demand, take a long-term approach, and use experiences to consider various options.

Mitigate cash, waste, risk
Ellsworth suggested:
- Because energy can be the largest cost of production for many manufacturers, best practices should be used to bring energy savings into plants to mitigate cash, waste, and risk;
- To better factor in energy and environmental impact, enable the ability to make the changes, aggregate the necessary resources, create visibility (more than 20% energy savings can be realized just by monitoring), use optimization and intelligence tools; and consider collaborative innovation; and
- Because energy efficiency requires integration of behavioral changes, continuous energy commissioning needs to become part of ongoing processes, related to all assets.

Measure and control energy use
Leroux said:
- To implement an energy management strategy, consider requirements, needs, and contracts related to external grid; local network and cogeneration possibilities; manufacturing operations; process automation; and hardware. Applying variable speed drives (VSDs), for instance, can save about 30% in related energy costs.
- Shed load as needed (one spike over a pre-determined peak can result in higher monthly charge for all electricity that month with some utilities), optimize processes, and look at energy optimization; and
- Assign costs to various production centers based on cost of operations according to time and processes, so real-time energy costs can be factored into cost of production.

Other energy-related resources
Also from Control Engineering :
- From the summit - Improve asset management with smarter information tools: IBM ;
- Motor efficiency requirements come December 2010. Are you ready ?
- Sustainable Engineering news and products from Control Engineering .
- Mark T. Hoske, editor in chief Control Engineering ,; David Greenfield, editorial director, moderated the session and contributed to this story.

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