Getting Smart with Energy Intelligence

March 3, 2014
Industrial companies increasingly are looking to a comprehensive energy management system as a way to increase profitability, but to effectively drive long-term financial growth, these efforts must be combined with efficient operations. Lack of visibility into key performance indicators and a legacy manufacturing IT environment are common roadblocks to achieving these goals. Leading companies are overcoming these obstacles and effectively deploying energy intelligence software to gain insight into energy’s impact on production.

A variety of industry forces are driving the need among industrial companies for a comprehensive energy management system, but it’s profitability that’s ultimately motivating much of activity. Organizations are realizing that sustainability initiatives alone can’t drive profitability. They’re finding that energy management efforts must be combined with efficient operations in order to effectively drive long-term financial growth. However, two key challenges – lack of visibility into key performance indicators and a legacy manufacturing IT environment – are preventing many companies from achieving their financial and operational goals.

Investing in Energy Intelligence software, which includes data collection, visualization software, and analytical tools, is one way in which organizations are beginning to address their challenges. In many cases, this software supplements existing and planned manufacturing operations management (MOM) software and automation investments. But these technologies traditionally neglect to collect and manage energy data in context of operations, so industry-leading companies are beginning to deploy Energy Intelligence software to gain insight into the role of energy within their operations – from procurement through production.

In addition to operational insights, the data generated by this technology is being used to provide improved clarity for buy/produce decisions and to help justify energy efficiency projects. But energy data alone can’t drive success. The information generated by this technology must be paired with the right energy management processes and organizational leadership capabilities. By uniting all these elements, companies can begin to develop a more holistic and effective strategy that turns energy data into actionable operational insights.      

Overcoming Obstacles

Macroeconomic trends like global population growth and GDP expansion are certainly driving the need for cleaner, more cost effective sources of energy. These trends are prompting individual companies to target energy projects aimed at reducing consumption and improving sustainability. And though financial growth is a top business objective for executives in the coming year, according to a survey from LNS research, companies are not necessarily tying sustainability and energy management programs to this goal directly. Instead, these programs are more often tied to profitability improvements and energy usage reductions.

Top sustainability objectives for 2013 include reducing the total cost of operations and reducing energy consumption. The top goal for energy management also is reducing the total cost of operations. Executives also want to align their energy programs and operations with corporate sustainability objectives.  

Companies face a variety of challenges in reaching these objectives, but the top issues cited by executives were both related to technology:

  • Disparate systems and data sources. Purpose-built applications often are implemented piecemeal by individual divisions or business units, so systems lack cohesion and strategic purpose.
  • Energy metrics not effectively measured. The proliferation of disparate systems makes it difficult to share data across the enterprise and make measureable improvements.

Connecting People, Processes, and Technology

Energy Intelligence software is making it easier for companies to achieve their sustainability and energy management objectives by delivering data across the enterprise. What’s more, this information is being delivered to role-based decision makes in real time with analytics.

Energy Intelligence software brings together energy and production data so it’s possible to view energy consumption by process or product and even allocate energy costs to the bill of materials. But technology investment alone isn’t enough. Organizations must align and optimize key resources – people, processes and technology. Instituting a few best practices in these areas can help ensure the technology investment reaches its full potential:

  • Seek support from senior leadership. This backing is imperative for success as it often acts as a catalyst for creating an energy-focused culture as well as an effective Energy Intelligence software implementation.
  • Take advantage of existing energy management programs. These programs, such as ENERGY STAR, ISO 50001 and Superior Energy Performance, can serve as a helpful resource for understanding industry best practices and developing methodologies.
  • Take a next-generation approach to manufacturing software. Use a common information management system for energy data can help alleviate past problems related to measuring energy data and transforming it into operational insights.
  • Use role-based KPIs. Energy Intelligence software standardizes data sources in a way that allows executives and decision makers down to the shop floor to identify specific areas for improvement and measure progress toward goals. 

While more environmentally-conscious decisions will be expected by stakeholders over time, the operational and financial benefits of Energy Intelligence software warrant enough evidence to take action now. For more information on energy management best practices, please visit http://discover.rockwellautomation.com/Energy and download a copy of the Top Strategies for Energy Intelligence eBook from LNS Research. In this eBook, from which much of this article was excerpted, LNS Research helps provide a roadmap for industrial organizations aiming to turn big data into operational insights with Energy Intelligence software.  

Related Content

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!