7 Proven Tactics to Increase Efficiency in Manufacturing Plants

Do you know how much of the energy you pay for every month is actually used to run your business? Surprisingly, many major companies across the U.S. lack a clear understanding of how their business consumes — and wastes — energy.

America wastes approximately two-thirds of the power it generates. In a recent survey, the United States dropped to tenth place in terms of energy efficiency when compared to 25 of the world’s top energy-consuming countries. This places the U.S. behind several European nations, China and Japan. Commercial buildings account for approximately 30% of all the energy used in the U.S. at a cost of $200 billion every year.  A full 30% ($9 billion) of that energy is wasted.  This energy waste costs businesses millions of dollars every year. 

If your company is currently contributing to that $9 billion in wasted energy — and you’d like to stop paying for energy you’re not using — here are a few options to consider. 

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

The most successful energy savings initiatives are collaborative — actively involving employees at different levels and from different departments. Consider forming an energy management steering committee to secure consensus on short and long-term goals and the methodology to measure and validate success. Keep employees up-to-date on best-practices for ongoing efficiency. Consider initiating a bonus program tied to specific energy reduction goals achieved. Ensure everyone in the plant understands how energy costs affect the company’s bottom line — and how energy efficiency will improve their working environment and their community.

Track current energy use

Tracking energy usage within a building is the first step to identifying where to make cuts. The majority of companies lack the data needed to implement effective energy management practices. A professional energy audit can provide a thorough accounting of a company’s current energy consumption. If done correctly, the audit will also identify and prioritize specific opportunities for efficiency improvement and cost reductions.

Monitor energy use in real-time

Measurement alone can’t reduce energy consumption, but it can provide the data needed to develop effective on-going energy management. Smart meters can measure when and how energy and other consumable resources are being used in real-time. Real-time data can pinpoint overconsumption and other inefficiencies which, when adjusted, will greatly improve building energy performance. Manufacturers gain insights into periods of optimum performance — and can make those actions repeatable. Effective metering will generally generate an immediate energy savings of 10%. As a bonus, scrupulous attention to meter data helps manufacturers spot anomalies and potential equipment failures before they happen — preventing added costs and production interruptions.

Optimize heating, ventilation and air conditioning

Heating and cooling consume around 20% to 40% of a building’s energy. Optimizing your HVAC system will yield multiple benefits above and beyond cost savings.  Here are a few things to consider when reviewing your system.

  • Aligning heating and cooling to designated spaces and adjusting boundaries according to the operating environment and season.  This alone can improve HVAC energy efficiency by as much as 20%. 
  • Installing a programmable thermostat to regulate airflow and temperature at various times of the day and year.  This can save as much as 10% in energy consumption.
  • Adding controls to automatically control the speed, output, and run-time of HVAC equipment such as fans, chillers, and compressor motors. Variable speed control allows the equipment to be set specifically for what is necessary while still meeting the plant’s heating and cooling demands.
  • Discourage the use of blow heaters and portable radiators since they use significant amounts of electricity.
  • Newer heating and cooling systems are far more efficient than old ones, so it may be worth replacing systems that are more than 10 years old.
Lighting

Research shows that optimized lighting improves employee morale, productivity, and safety.  Manufacturing workspaces need adequate and plentiful lighting. LED bulbs use about a quarter of the energy to produce the same light as halogens, and last 5 – 10  times longer. Consider incorporating lighting controls to automatically adjust lights based on a room’s occupancy or daylight availability, and installing day/night switches with motion detector sensors to automatically control outdoor lighting. 

Identify AND AVOID Peak Energy TIMES

Load management is a critical part of any efficient operation. Higher rates during peak demand hours can account for up to 30% of a manufacturing plant’s monthly utility bill. The energy audit will have identified the machinery/equipment that consumes the most energy, and metering data can identify the equipment that’s pulling energy during peak demand. If possible, reschedule operation of energy-intensive equipment outside of peak hours. 

Schedule Regular ShutDowns and Start-Ups

Metering data can identify the amount of energy used during off-shift periods. Scheduling regular production shutdowns where all machinery is powered off for a length of time can substantially lower energy consumption and cost. Likewise, since powering up all equipment at once can create a large spike in energy demand you should stagger equipment start-up.

In Conclusion

Paying for energy that you’re not using simply doesn’t make sense. The cost savings, improved operations, increased employee production and workplace safety achieved by optimizing energy infrastructure can give manufacturers a clear advantage over their competition. And, since there are a number of no-capital-required funding solutions that manufacturers can use to cover the cost of all upgrades, optimizing energy systems is a smart move.

Share this article