With greater uncertainty surrounding the future, growing foreign competition that continues to squeeze margins and the rising price of energy and raw materials, finding ways to be more competitive is paramount.
A key tool to achieve these aims is the use of smart controls in businesses across all sectors. Whilst smart controls are already used in most manufacturing processes, the addition of sub-metering, down to individual motor level, and increased analytical capabilities can provide a better understanding of where electricity is being used, which can help to identify where wastage is occurring. The controls can also be extended to building management that incorporates lighting sensors and automated HVAC controls.
According to research by Siemens, smart building and equipment upgrades could represent savings of between 15% and 20% of total energy costs. It also flags up that each day that passes without steps being made to address these requirements represents further lost savings and squandered benefits for shareholders.
With some manufacturers consuming as much energy when they’re not making products as they do at maximum capacity, according to Clean Room Technology, addressing this wasted consumption is critical to both reducing costs and cutting carbon footprint.
Finding ways to reduce consumption during low production periods also improves the specific energy consumption of products. For some industrial processes, this is a requirement of a climate change agreement (CCA), which allows the business to earn relief from much of the cost of the Climate Change Levy.
More and more, the ‘Internet of Things’ – the increasingly interconnected nature of modern technology and the ability to draw massive amounts of actionable data from equipment and electrical fittings – is providing a wealth of insight into how energy is being used. And, more importantly, how it can be reduced without compromising productivity, according to Power Engineering International.
At the same time, this allows for more precise control over process and energy consumption, enabling better management of operations, equipment health, energy intensity and other variables, it says.
Globally, the total ‘smart manufacturing’ sector is expected to grow from its current level of $156 billion in 2019 to $301 billion by 2026, driven by investment and product innovations from major manufacturers, including Siemens, General Electric, Johnson Controls and Honeywell, according to the Market Report Gazette.
Meeting changing expectations
While end consumers increasingly factor in environmental performance into their buying decisions, they inevitably also expect a range of choices and high levels of quality.
Balancing these two expectations can be challenging, meaning that the equipment used to manufacture these products needs to operate with the highest possible efficiency, running faster and with less downtime.
According to research by Eureka Magazine, 60% of the total power consumption for manufacturing and industry goes into the powering of motors.
Having an intelligent motor management strategy in place is, therefore, crucial to cutting down overall energy consumption by reducing inefficiencies, as well as lessening wear and tear, subsequently increasing plant uptime, it says.
In addition to motors, energy waste in manufacturing is often related to operational inefficiencies in air compressors, lighting, HVAC, refrigeration, fans and pumps, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. An effective energy management strategy should aim to target each of these areas, with smart controls providing a number of options for addressing inefficiencies.
While complex aspects of a retrofitting or upgrade strategy, such as smart controls, particularly for motor management, may not yet be a priority for some manufacturers, meeting the complex requirements of reducing energy consumption while maintaining or improving productivity will increasingly require these measures.
Embracing these new technologies provides manufacturers with a wealth of data and insight into the processes and costs, helping them to remain competitive while preparing the groundwork for future technological innovations.
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