I’ve read dozens of articles regarding energy management and manufacturing, many of them focus on the dark-side of energy. “The sky is falling,” or as the columnists put it “the sky is turning gray and is diminishing because of your carbon emissions;” and in the same articles, “energy utility costs are volatile and rising, and are going to put you out of business.”
I’m not writing today to discuss the validity of climate change or rising energy cost, or to put you into a panic regarding your energy management program or lack thereof. But just so it’s out on the table: Greenhouse gas emissions, sustainability and rising energy costs are key topics for manufacturing. There; said it; done.
Energy will be a constant in our manufacturing process, flowing from the beginning of the process to the end; but few of us have activated all this energy information. So, I’d like to point out the bright side of our manufacturing energy condition and talk about three ways we can activate our energy data.
- Energy can be visible; it can be monitored, trended and analyzed. We can see where and how we are using it and wasting it.
- Energy as a raw material; we can evaluate energy’s impact on our individual product cost.
- Energy in the context of production; we can evaluate our energy consumption against production and process parameters (temperature, humidity, wind speed, time of year, etc.).
Energy can be Visible
You have a firm handle on the cost of materials and labor in regard to production, but when it comes to energy many of us do not have a clear understanding of the cost of producing our products. We have little to no visibility to energy; so, energy is dealt with as an overhead cost that gets allocated across the facility. When we’re told that one of our objectives is to help reduce energy cost and participate in sustainability, we do our part by remembering to turn the lights out after we leave the restroom. For many of us our visibility into energy ends with the allocation on our budget spreadsheet and at the plant wall. We can talk about our overall energy cost and give metrics based on our overall energy usage and fluctuations, but beyond that our visibility is limited. Expanding our view of energy consumption leads to quicker and more intelligent decisions at the point of use.
Energy as a Raw Material
Today we monitor our cost per product; raw materials, labor, etc.; but when it comes to energy we spread (allocate) the cost across all our products. Products take different levels of time and energy to produce, and producing a product today might be different tomorrow. We can measure and analyze our raw materials, labor and other costs to look at the waste or savings associated with the product. What about energy? What if you could view energy as a raw material; just like any other material that is included in your bill of material (BoM)? How much do we use per product SKU? What was wasted during production? Can I optimize my usage? Does one line or shift operate more efficiently than another? If we could track energy as another element on our BoM, then we could track it throughout our production process.
Energy in Context of Production
Shift and production line information, equipment schedules, capabilities and run parameters, raw material variables, temperature, humidity, wind-speed…just think what energy would look like if you could correlate it with your production process, people, equipment and other variables! Let me give you an example: you have multiple suppliers who supply a raw material that has moisture content that must be extracted (heavy energy cost) as part of the process. One supplier is cheaper than the others, but what seems to be a cost advantage may be lost in the energy to process. Another example: shift-two production line consistently consumes more energy than the other shifts. What you can’t see is that shift-two starts the equipment before any product is being produced and that during changeovers they do not shut down the line, allowing it to run with no product being produced. If only shift and line information and equipment energy consumption were available we could alleviate the problem with a simple training exercise.
Activate Your Manufacturing Energy Data
We have to take energy beyond the plant wall and deeper into our production facilities. The deeper we go, the greater the opportunity we will create; plant wall to departments and areas, to machines and production lines, to cells, to motors, etc., measuring both purchased (e.g. electric, gas, water) and internally generated utilities (e.g. compressed air, steam, landfill gas). All this will provide a ton of big data that you can then make smart and actionable by aggregating, correlating, comparing, and analyzing, and putting into a viewable tool that will allow you to activate your energy information with dashboards, scorecards, trends, analytics and reports.
Activated energy big data provides a real picture of how your energy is being consumed and wasted. It can be used to:
- Forecast energy usage and negotiate energy contracts
- Address energy exceptions and waste
- Bring control to your processes with energy targets
- Meet regulatory standards (e.g. ISO 50001)
- Evaluate capital expenditures
- Change behaviors
All of which reduce your carbon footprint and your energy cost.
Entegreat works with manufacturers to activate their energy by providing tools that transform their big energy data into actionable knowledge making it visible, available (raw material) and in the context of manufacturing.