Industrial manufacturers are among the world’s biggest energy consumers and contribute more than 30 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. To mitigate this, the industry must find ways to reduce consumption. Some are pledging to drastically reverse their reputation by aiming for ambitious net zero factories. Here, Garry Forfar of COPA-DATA UK explains how energy data management systems (EDMS) can help to lower consumption and achieve net-zero.
Energy management initiatives have seen a resurgence in recent years, driven by a need to reduce costs and boost reputation. In the last few years, we have seen a wave of manufacturers improving their green credentials, investing in carbon capture and storage (CSS) technologies, and offsetting their emissions. BrewDog used this method to launch itself as the world’s first carbon negative brewery.
In September, the British Government also announced a £220 million investment to its most polluting industries to cut their carbon emissions. The grants of up to £30 million will allow companies to invest in more efficient boilers, electric motors, as well as developing technologies in the renewables space.
While these efforts are noble — and in some existing cases, are incredibly successful — it is vital that manufacturers first understand the exact composition of their energy usage.
Most manufacturers believe they already have an EDMS in place. They know how much energy is required to run their plant and might consider ways for them to reduce their bills. Often, this is limited to shutting off lighting and using smart meters to monitor HVAC systems. However, energy management can be smarter.
An EDMS should use Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and devices to gather consumption data from the entire facility. Rather than the painstaking task of compiling energy data manually, an EDMS should do the work — analysing different equipment and processes and presenting this data to operators to allow them to make decisions.
In addition, this system should look beyond purely electricity use. For industrial applications, an EDMS should include the volume of air, gas and water used in each process.
Consider a soft drinks manufacturer as an example. Let’s say the facility has two identical air compressors used for pushing different flavourings through pipes and into vats holding the product. The processes are identical, and therefore their energy usage should be too. While reducing a small percentage of air wastage may seem trivial, these small changes can reap significant gains.
Moreover, an EDMS can make this fast and straightforward. An effective system should automatically analyse the amount used by each compressor. If the output is more or less, an operator can investigate and make operational changes to avoid wastages.
Even small savings can go a long way in manufacturing, especially as external costs continue to fluctuate. Industry leaders have already warned that the ongoing fuel crisis could halt production for some UK factories. Furthermore, many corporate customers of these manufacturers are refusing to pay more for products or take on this knock-on effect.
For manufacturers with large contracts with supermarkets, retail chains and restaurants, reducing costs in other areas is the only way to stay afloat.
An EDMS can help by highlighting areas for improvement that would not be possible to spot without an overview of the entire facility. Legacy equipment, for instance, can often fall behind in efficiency compared to newer models. When using an independent EDMS, such as COPA-DATA’s zenon, users can monitor data from new and existing machinery, regardless of their brand or communication protocol.
This feature allows an EDMS to collect energy usage statistics from the entire plant. When visualised on a dashboard, an operator can then use this insight to make changes where necessary.
This could be as simple as performing maintenance on our aforementioned air compressor, or installing automation to reduce high levels of energy usage in legacy equipment. Examples of this could include deploying a soft starter, variable speed drive (VSD) or investing in an energy efficient electric motor.
Most manufacturers are actively looking for ways to reduce their emissions, but to achieve greater efficiency — or ambitious net zero targets — they must first gain an overview of their current consumption across the facility.
While investing, capturing and offsetting are all good for the planet — and for a manufacturer’s PR efforts — energy reduction via an EDMS is key to achieving greener production.