Steps Industry Can Take to Reduce Energy Consumption

An action guide to reduce consumption of water, air, gas, electric, and steam.

As energy consumption from 2000-2010 increased 28% and worldwide industrial energy consumption is expected to increase by approximately 50% from 191 quadrillion Btu in 2008 to 288 quadrillion Btu in 2035, manufacturers need to develop an energy-management culture. One method is Rockwell Automation Industrial GreenPrint, a four-stage process for progressively achieving improvements through existing and key new investments. In a recent report, Rockwell examined the state of industrial energy usage and assessed the readiness of industrial companies to take action to reduce consumption of WAGES (water, air, gas, electric, and steam).

Energy Awareness
The first stage is to establish a documented view of WAGES usage at facility, production, and, eventually, product levels. The study found that many organizations lack the skills, technology, or incentives to monitor and evaluate energy usage at even a facility or site level. Without seeing and assessing facility energy-usage data, these firms are unlikely to reduce costs via improved energy consumption -- and even less likely to take the more analytical and beneficial steps of examining energy usage of equipment, lines, work areas, and by SKU.

Energy awareness lays the cornerstone for ISO-50001 compliance, the framework for industrial plants, commercial facilities, and entire organizations to manage energy; the standard was published in June 2011, and ISO estimates it will have a positive impact on as much as 60% of the world's energy use. Yet many companies remain on the energy-management sidelines, their inability to grasp energy monitoring driven by a one-dimensional view that industrial energy consumption is an "unavoidable" cost of doing business, and so they:

  • Treat energy consumption from the "outside in," looking at consumption within their facility as a lump cost.
  • Allocate energy costs evenly across a facility based solely on square footage, process unit, or similar measures.
  • Accept high energy bills as overhead

Facility Monitoring
Companies should be monitoring and assessing facility-level energy consumption to know a facility's energy demand and environmental impact over a period of time, and how that demand (and costs associated with it) vary by what's occurring in the plant. Even simple, spreadsheet-based models for facility monitoring can offer benefits at the outset.

A number of U.S. government programs also help manufacturers to get out of the starting blocks:
The Energy Star program offers an Energy Program Assessment Matrix to help organizations compare their energy-management practices to Energy Star guidelines, as well as a Facility Energy Assessment Matrix to help evaluate energy management at facilities.

  • The U.S. Department of Energy conducts Industrial Technologies Program Save Energy Now energy assessments. Save Energy Now is a national initiative that aims to drive a reduction of 25% or more in industrial energy intensity in 10 years.
  • The U.S. Council for Energy-Efficient Manufacturing runs the Superior Energy Performance initiative, which is intended to foster an organizational culture of continuous improvement in energy efficiency; develop a transparent system to validate energy-intensity improvements and management practices; and create a verified record of energy savings and carbon emission reductions with potential market value that could be widely recognized both nationally and internationally.

Companies lower energy usage through scheduling production intelligently (e.g., timing of equipment changeovers) and use of more efficient equipment or design improvements (e.g., reuse of waste heat). They can leverage technologies, such as variable-frequency drives and power-control devices, energy-efficient components, and advanced motion-control solutions (e.g., servo motors and direct-drive technology) to significantly reduce the amount of energy required to power their processes.

Executives staring at blank energy-management worksheets -- i.e., no reliable information on plant-level energy usage - need to establish an ongoing program of audits and assessments, even if these begin as simple walk-arounds. Walk-arounds identify where quick returns are likely to be found, target key metrics to monitor, establish preliminary goals for facility improvements, and generate ideas to improve monitoring. Recommendations may include low-investment modifications, such as shifting maintenance operations to nonpeak times, or may be more complex, such as programming changes to equipment or the purchase of new equipment and control devices.

Energy Efficiency
During this stage of the Industrial GreenPrint methodology, companies make incremental and proactive behavioral, control, and equipment improvements (e.g., devices to transmit energy data in real time). They automate their decision making (without management/employee intervention) to allow real-time production tradeoffs among customer demand, corporate objectives, and energy expenditures. And they begin to implement forecasting, load aggregation, and rate analysis exercises, which allow them to coordinate internal production requirements and production schedules with external energy markets.

Controlling Production
Few facilities operate "lights out" (i.e., running without any human intervention), but thousands of plants rely heavily on automated equipment and processes. Many production environments couldn't exist any other way. Yet automation often requires equipment to follow strict scheduling and routines, with few changes to accommodate different parts or products. During a single shift, production modifications may only occur to resolve abnormal conditions that threaten product quality or plant safety (i.e., the equipment stops, and maintenance intervenes).

Now automation assumes a new critical role in improving operations, influencing not only safety and OEE (quality, yield, and uptime) but energy consumption as well. Making WAGES information visible via internal dashboards keeps managers and workforces focused on capturing further energy-management improvements and accrues significant cost, compliance, and performance benefits. But without regular measurements, reviews, and revisions -- systematic PDCA (plan, do, check, adjust) - efforts to continuously improve lose organizational benefit.

Visible and actionable WAGES data ensures a PDCA cycle that allows the workforce to constantly see and resolve issues. It's especially important to secure ongoing gains because improved management of energy consumption won't necessarily deliver sudden, substantial improvements. Energy management is a marathon, rather than a sprint, with savings measured in hour-to-hour and day-to-day increments: When and why did a machine exceed typical energy draw? Why did an equipment changeover cause startup surges? Why did a component change extend the production cycle into a peak-draw period?

Visibility is the only practical way to keep track of conditions (successes and failures) and to gauge the effectiveness of practices, processes, devices, and equipment in minimizing energy consumption. But unlike PDCA cycles based on human observation and intervention -- involving managers and team members that perform the activities of plan, do, check, and adjust -- the key to energy improvement lies within the streams of data running to, through, and from equipment. Process automation supercharges PDCA energy management.

To make this happen, industrial technologies, such as variable-frequency drives (VFD) and servo and linear-motion devices, are necessary to transfer energy intelligence into energy-usage action. VFDs, as an alternative to fixed-speed controllers and throttling devices, improve operating performance, control capability, and energy savings by:

  • Avoiding peak demand charges: Ramp motors up to speed gradually during times of peak demand.
  • Optimizing power in relation to load: Use the precise (i.e., not excess) amount of energy required by the equipment to fulfill demand.
  • Generating energy: Many VFDs are capable of regenerating power, which can then be routed back to the system or sold to utilities.
  • Optimizing performance: Intelligent motor controls integrate advanced networking and diagnostic capabilities to optimize performance, increase productivity, and reduce energy.

Energy Optimization
Energy management truly becomes proactive when companies model, simulate, and analyze energy as an economic variable in coordination with energy-compliance criteria and production requirements. WAGES information gets codified on production bill of materials as an input, factored into strategies from product ideation to product delivery, and companies increase profitability and improve the total cost of ownership of operational assets.

Modeling production leverages collected WAGES data and taps into production metrics, regulatory reports, and climate data. For example, firms model energy-cost data with production energy demands, and select optimal energy options at the optimal times during a day or shift: a spike in natural gas prices triggers an alert to rely on alternative energies or facility-generated power. Sophisticated control systems also can incorporate emissions data into modeling algorithms and direct production to use non-emissions-generating energy sources when emissions credits are nearly depleted.

Energy-usage data at a product or SKU level offers new opportunities to improve energy management, but that alone is like driving a car by looking in the rear-view mirror. That view shows where you've been but offers little help navigating what's ahead. A predictive dashboard provides visibility into conditions ahead and proactive strategies for managing energy-specific production decisions every minute of every day. Imagine taking all historical energy data -- per product, per
machine, per line, per facility - and using it to model future facility behaviors. The captured what-is
data enables what-if modeling perspectives.


Energy Aggregation
Modeling provides insights into WAGES consumption that allows companies to react to production conditions and then simulate and implement energy-efficient production strategies. Aggregation integrates data with enterprise resource planning (ERP)-level information, such as production output data, and incorporates energy on the bill of materials -- WAGES data brings value to the entire business beyond production.

For example, aggregation enables review of product portfolios and market opportunities, examining how potential products can be produced (along with their cost structures). This can lead to more effective pricing for new products (e.g., revise an existing product to reduce input variables and costs) and an improved product pipeline (e.g., eliminate products that exceed reasonable cost structures). Embedded energy information also allows manufacturers to proactively respond to external energy conditions.

Companies that aggregate and evaluate energy requirements in a full business context make more informed decisions for resource planning, scheduling, product portfolios, and allocation of assets across their networks of facilities; they gain greater returns on their resource expenses.

Aggregating to the BOM
Most companies currently track the material and labor that go into a product, rolling those component costs into a cost of goods sold (COGS) figure. An energy component also can be incorporated into COGS as well as appear on the BOM (or for process industries, into the recipe or list of ingredients) along with parts, part numbers, specifications/compliance standards, suppliers, assembly documentation, equipment requirements, pricing. Companies manage energy as if it's a raw material - a manageable, documented input to production - and identify how much energy each production load requires and plan energy costs in advance.

With energy-consumption data in the BOM, a company continuously builds a repository of energy-usage information related to specific products and batches. This repository allows operations leaders and facility managers to analyze in real time what's occurring and spot trends, as well as apply this information to more advanced product-specific modeling. Energy usage for a given product, batch, or SKU also can be cross-examined alongside the equipment used to produce it, building unit-level consumption comparisons (e.g., which product runs most efficiently on which machines or in which facilities).

Growing energy demand, diverse energy sources, and diverse user needs pose challenges for industrial companies, including increased regulatory and legislative activity intended to minimize environmental impact from energy-use and energy-pricing increases in reaction to supply volatility. The United States continues to explore legislation intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spur more clean energy and energy efficiency. Other countries require designated or large consumers to report their energy consumption. Still other regulatory measures include requirements to put in place energy managers or mandatory maintenance of energy-consuming equipment.

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