Information technology, advanced automation, and the adoption of practices for energy management are much needed elements to garner quality improvements in energy efficiency. To do this, organizations need to gain greater visibility into energy consumption and then pass it along to operations so the entire organization can benefit from energy reduction.
The industrial sector is the leading user of energy in the United States each year, consuming 33% of the country’s energy according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, (EIA). One way for manufacturers to increase profitability is to lower energy expenditures. The sectors that consume the most energy are chemical production at 22%, followed by petroleum refining at 16% and metal smelting/refining at 14%.
While one efficient part of the solution, like a motor, drive, gearbox, or even coupling, will help to lower energy costs, having all components working together to control a process could yield higher energy efficiency than the sum of its components.
Today's energy mindset needs to be one of continuous improvement. Evaluate and then identify the biggest energy consumer, do a system implementation, improve the energy efficiency, and keep monitoring and evaluating.
Reducing energy usage while increasing production is a vital balance. The productivity gains of the late 1990s and early 2000s brought automation to the point of increasing capacity, but those gains are now being offset by the increased cost of energy. Energy efficiency will remain a lifetime commitment to ensure the enterprise’s profit margin keeps rising.
When it comes to global energy consumption, the world’s total primary energy consumption was 511 quadrillion Btu in 2010, and the United States accounted for 19% of this, according to the EIA.
Changes in energy consumption in energy-intensive industries from 2010 to 2035 will range from almost nothing to 0.8% per year, according to the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2012. While that shows stability in usage, it does not show the other side, and that is where costs are going up.
In addition, energy consumption by the industrial sector will reflect changes in shipments. Starting from low levels of economic activity in 2010, shipments from all industries will grow through 2035. The report states that industries such as steel will grow by 23% but energy use will decline by 12% due to a shift in technologies. The only industrial sector that shows an increase in energy intensity is refining.
|Figure 1. Energy efficiency improvements and changes in manufacturing methods and requirements will affect energy consumption.|
Because energy consumption will be at or around 0.8% across the industrials sectors of the economy, it does not mean that in some areas the percentage of energy consumption can’t go down or won’t go up. For example, steel plants that implement energy saving measures will reduce their usage exponentially between 2010 and 2035. However, in sectors such as automotive, the electric car will use more energy thus driving up the number. The ebb and flow of all the sectors is what gives us the 0.8%, however individually the percentages will vary depending on the industry.
At the same time, energy efficiency improvements and changes in manufacturing methods and requirements will affect energy consumption, according to the outlook (Figure 1). Those changes have the potential to allow for greater profitability and stronger advantages for manufacturers.
Information technology, advanced automation, and the adoption of practices for energy management are much-needed elements to garner quality numbers for energy efficiency. That is why organizations need to gain greater visibility and understand what their levels of energy consumption are and then communicate that knowledge to operations so the benefit of that information flow will lead to greater energy reduction.
What the numbers show is no secret: Energy costs may not decrease, but there is a way to improve the bottom line by cutting back on wasted energy.
While an efficient motor, drive, gearbox, or coupling will help, having all components working in unison to control a process will yield better energy efficiency. The control scheme a user employs is often more important than the components. That means energy efficiency must become a mindset, where the manufacturer is always looking for opportunities to improve efficiency. It should to be like continuous quality improvement, where the search for efficiency never ends. The manufacturer will need to go through an evaluation and identification stage, look at the energy uses, and then evaluate how much energy is being consumed. Once the manufacturer finds the largest energy abuser, there will need to be an analysis of the system to improve energy efficiency and then continued monitoring and evaluating.
Roadblocks to efficiency
After creating a plan, the next step is to execute the program. Oftentimes, manufacturers identify these roadblocks:
- payback time is indeterminate or too long
- shortage of capital
- reluctance to change a working process
- lack of correct definition of system efficiency
- not all parties in the supply chain are motivated
- lack of management time
- confusion about top line vs. bottom line
- poor definition from management, regarding the importance of energy efficiency.
View of the machine
|Figure 2. Optimizing the overall system’s mechanics to get the most out of the process is vital to the whole energy picture.|
One way for a manufacturer to save energy is to look at the machine itself. Using the correct drive system technologies or knowing which motor is the right one for the process is important. However, looking at optimizing the overall system’s mechanics to get the most out of the process is vital to the whole energy picture (Figure 2).