Most industrial enterprises stand to gain placing energy efficiency among their top priorities, and as the world turns its attention to achieving Net Zero, the need to focus on energy efficiency is growing sharply. Tim Harrison, Customer Success Manager, SolutionsPT, discusses.
Such an interest in achieving Net Zero is reflected not only in the prospect of punitive action for perceived energy wastage, but also in both competitive sustainability and in consumer preferences, where purchasing decisions are increasingly made with climate credentials in mind.
So, how can industrial businesses make meaningful improvements in energy efficiency? And what can be achieved without the dreaded ‘rip-and-replace’ of high-cost assets? The answer to these questions can often be found in the control room.
Levels of efficiency
First, it is impossible for companies to improve their efficiency without identifying each key efficiency type, even if at first it doesn’t seem like it will impact overall energy efficiency or any aspects of climate change. The types of efficiency are covered in the following subsections.
Relating to overall equipment efficiency (or OEE), legacy assets may suffer mechanical and electrical failures that can impact machine availability. This can affect throughput rate or the speed of the machine and will only continue to get worse as the asset is worn down.
This refers to a company’s energy consumption analysis. Unlike personal improvements that we can make (such as turning off lights and powering down devices on standby), industrial companies are often operating ’24/7, 365′, and using energy intensive equipment.
There is also the added strain of aging assets, something that is commonplace across industry. It should be no surprise that aging equipment requires more energy and brand-new shiny assets will always operate more efficiently, but often it isn’t financially viable to simply buy new equipment.
The most important part of any industrial company is the human element. Workforce efficiency is often overlooked when tackling climate change and seeking to make meaningful environmental improvements, but small changes here can have a big knock-on effect.
With the various levels of efficiency identified, companies can create a plan of action to best address each element through a complete command and control solution. By choosing the right Cloud-based software, industrial operators are empowered with a centralised view of operations, creating a single version of the truth that runs throughout an enterprise and drives informed decisions.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking at a single asset in a single facility or taking an overview of a global enterprise, a real-time, centralised control solution will improve efficiency in the following ways.
More on equipment efficiency
Looking at the multitude of issues that can occur unnoticed within an industrial environment, it is easy to see where asset performance can be improved simply by having a further understanding of what’s involved. Moving a substance through a blocked pipe or using a conveyor belt with a faulty pulley requires more energy than it should.
Even off the factory floor, if a server in a data centre is running at a high temperature, the critical cooling is working harder to ensure that it can continue operating. None of these issues on their own would put a stop to businesses; however, it can quickly mount up and lead an enterprise to constantly use more energy than necessary.
Having the ability to drill down into granular detail of each asset means an enterprise can move maintenance from a cost at point of need to an ongoing continuous improvement approach. Moreover, by fixing and adapting small issues as they arise, businesses can avoid unplanned downtime and the energy-intensive shut-down and restart procedures that often result.
The importance of software
As stated previously, industrial companies can’t simply turn some lights off to make significant savings on energy. The continuous operations need to shift power-heavy processes to avoid peak energy times. Again, the right software choice makes this possible: it enables the automatic movement of energy-intensive processes that ease the strain on the grid and help energy providers balance towards renewable energy sources.
Human operators all working from a single organisational system will improve the shift management, reporting, training, and onboarding of new employees, but how does this relate to reducing climate change? Simply put, the remote visibility offered by such an organisational system means that human operators are less likely to need to visit sites to investigate issues.
Accessing from anywhere, maintenance staff already understand how an asset is performing and what’s needed to fix an issue. Now, all the preparatory work is done ahead of time and key employees are only sent to where they are needed. This quickly means fewer vehicles on the road along with the burning of fewer fossil fuels.
While this may seem like a small improvement in the grand scheme of climate change, when you look towards global enterprises that have thousands of vans moving around the country (often at all hours of the day), it does in fact make a big impact.
Each little step
As individuals we are constantly bombarded with environmental improvements that we can make to reduce climate change, and so we should be. Each step we take, no matter how seemingly small, does reduce (or at least slow) the impact of climate change. The scale of industrial energy usage is so much greater than most private consumer choices, so the combined improvements of industry is pivotal to the Net Zero challenge.
It doesn’t matter the sector, whether you are mining for precious metals, or manufacturing a specialised product, utilising the right software will improve the efficiency of assets and people. This all culminates in an enterprise that utilises its energy to the most effective level, proactively solving maintenance issues before they cause downtime, and, most importantly, taking an active role in reducing the impact of climate change through software alone.
World-class AVEVA Unified Operations Centre provides the tools to optimise and revolutionise your enterprise, drive down operating costs and help users to improve their environmental credentials.
For those looking for more info on energy-efficient tech, our Transport page covers electric vehicles and other modern vehicle stories.