3 Strategies to Boost Manufacturing Efficiency

The United States has the dubious distinction of wasting the most energy among developed nations. EPA data shows industrial energy use is responsible for almost 20 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which means manufacturing operations are a significant contributor. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the energy used by U.S. manufacturing plants costs the nation an additional $180 billion annually, while energy efficiencies of 20 percent or more are typically available, offering savings of about $45 billion a year.

Whether producing steel, processing food, or making chemicals, opportunities abound for improving energy efficiency. Reducing your carbon footprint is now critical for maintaining a facility’s competitiveness—an environmentally friendly business not only saves money, but also earns even more in social collateral.

The prevailing statistic on average building performance is that roughly 30 percent is wasted. And while industrial facilities may strive for maximum efficiency, they face many formidable challenges. A few examples of what they are up against: Aging equipment, reduced capital budgets, disparate or legacy systems that refuse to integrate, a chronic shortage of trained personnel, and a team that’s busy putting out fires instead of proactively managing energy.

Ultimately, maximizing manufacturing efficiency boils down to two options: investing in better equipment and modifying operations to change how energy is used. Capital investments can be out of reach, but the significant savings that tweaking operations can recoup may surprise you. Here are three savvy strategies for boosting energy efficiency in manufacturing.

1. Peak Energy Demand Identification

Load management is a critical part of any efficient operation. Peak energy demand measures the highest amount of power supplied at any one time within the billing period. Base energy use is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), while peak energy demand is measured in kilowatts (kW). Peak demand charges can often equal 30 percent of an industrial organization’s monthly utility bill. You can’t determine peak demand merely by looking at your energy bill, but you can with real-time visibility of energy usage. With real-time metering data available, plus energy visualization tools, electricity users and managers can investigate the timing of a plant’s demand peak and help identify target areas for optimizing manufacturing efficiency savings on the peak demand charge.

2. Weekend Energy Use

Many industrial businesses have regular production shutdowns (weekends, off-shift periods, scheduled maintenance windows) that should see substantial reductions in energy demands. Without visibility into shutdown levels, costly mistakes can occur. Many buildings have advanced control systems that could, and should, be controlling HVAC well but are faulty or misconfigured. Consequently, these systems may heat or cool an empty building every night and every weekend.

3. Weeknight Set-Backs

With the widespread availability of granular energy demand trend information, it has become much easier to identify the amount of energy used during off-shift periods and cut back where necessary. For instance, shallow drops in energy demand can indicate that few pieces of equipment are shutting down during off periods. Also, meticulous data collection allows businesses to compare energy use over time to see how setback sequences change.

Identifying peak demand, weekend energy use, and weeknight setbacks can all help an industrial business enjoy impressive cost savings. As a bonus, scrupulous attention to data can also help manufacturers spot anomalies and potential equipment failures before they happen, thus preventing added costs, work interruptions and optimizing the manufacturing efficiency.

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