It’s time to redefine the term “monitoring” as it relates to managing energy consumption to improve industrial manufacturing. The capacity to access, integrate and precisely analyze granular level energy data from the production floor has increased exponentially. The progress is due in part, to easily and seamlessly combining hardware and software over industrial Ethernet for ever-greater levels of automation optimization.
Monitoring energy data at the operation level is a well-established production management discipline. Manufacturers have been collecting energy data with traditional power monitors – and submeters, in some cases – for years.
Two relatively basic energy scenarios demonstrate the relationship between information-powered visibility and achieving insights necessary to prioritize and make correlations.
- In order for its enormous presses to run correctly, a North American magazine printer powers-up the equipment 24 hours ahead of the next production run. Because the systems shrink during the post-production cool down, the production start-up sequence includes using gas-fired burners to heat up the presses. Lowering natural gas expenses attached to this high-utilization step in the production process looked like an obvious cost-mitigation focus. In reality, with natural gas at low rates relative to the cost of electrical power, gathering intelligence on the much larger consumption of electricity is a more significant energy management opportunity.
- A manufacturer’s energy consumption profile documented a significant spike in demand that occurred monthly, without fail, on the same day and at the same time. A submeter pinpointed the source of the spike. During lunch break on the same day of the month, the maintenance staff simultaneously started all of the production equipment for testing purposes. Staging the start-up – achieving a steady state with one system before turning on the next – would avoid the spike. But the optimal energy management strategy also included scheduling the once-monthly testing at 6 a.m. during the power utility’s off-peak demand period. The bump in overtime costs is minimal relative to paying peak rates over the course of an entire year.
Traditional activities like charting the month-over-month plant costs, or even building the case for replacing low-efficiency equipment, are relatively fundamental compared to the potential of energy monitoring within a standardized network platform. Industry will see decision-making and improvement planning improve dramatically as data collection moves closer to discrete production elements.
Drilling down to the individual machine or device level complements a management strategy to look deeper, sharpen lines of sight, and correlate multiple perspectives. The advanced data capture that is emerging with an IP-centric infrastructure can enable significantly more than macro, facility-level adjustments. It can help identify exactly what assets are consuming energy and when it is taking place. So, what is an IP-centric infrastructure? It’s an infrastructure where all devices, machines and software systems deploy the standard, unmodified use of the Internet Protocol (IP). It creates a unified network fabric where devices within a plant can to talk with one another, as well as those at the enterprise level.
The new definition of energy monitoring aligns with the core principle of identifying the most critical variables and prioritizing modifications or improvements according to the impacts on production efficiency and profitability. Given the contribution that energy makes to the cost of production, management wants to know, with confidence, that the enterprise is optimizing every critical variable.
The objective is to reduce the amount of energy per unit produced, whether that unit is a ton of plastic resin or a bottle of soda. Routinely and pervasively achieving these higher degrees of data granularity and visibility is still in the distance, but we can see the new monitoring capability from here. The use of Ethernet with IP, such as handheld tablets and EtherNet/IP-connected devices, is increasing the amount of actionable information and communication specific to energy consumption.
The ability to impact energy utilization ranges from operation- or facility-level projects deploying standalone meters, to fine-tuned interventions that make any machine or device accountable to act as a smart power meter reporting energy consumption. Manufacturers today can be found at every point along that broad spectrum. However, every enterprise recognizes the profit-improvement opportunity that is available through managing energy better.
Energy projects face the same scrutiny as every improvement effort that competes for resources or capital. Rates of return and payback periods dominate in the management approval process. In that respect, there is good news for the energy management win/loss record. The enhanced energy data granularity enabled by EtherNet/IP – and the sharper visibility the detail creates – raises the odds that an energy efficiency pursuit is focused where it counts. Industrial EtherNet/IP-enabled energy monitoring allows manufacturers to identify opportunities for high-impact changes that materially improve the process – and the bottom line.
To learn more, sign up for the Industrial IP Advantage eLearning courses here.