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What you don’t measure you can’t monitor!

19 September 2016

Dan Rossek believes that end users should take a holistic approach to energy management. He says that, to fully understand and optimise the overall energy consumption within a manufacturing plant, it is vital to monitor energy usage. 

When EU-wide climate and energy targets were set in 2007 and enacted in legislation in 2009, they set the goal of reducing green house gas emissions by 20%, improving energy efficiency by 20% and sourcing 20% of energy from renewables, all by 2020. This legislation became the basis for various schemes implemented at national levels, with different governments using their own incentives and penalties.

Cutting greenhouse gases has been a focus for businesses, with the heavy industrials in particular challenged by demanding emissions caps, and required to buy and sell allowances through emissions trading schemes. Over the years the caps have been steadily reduced, bringing greater numbers of manufacturing and processing companies within the scope of the scheme, and driving the need for continuous improvement to reduce carbon emissions.

Alongside this there has been a steady increase in energy costs, delivering further incentives to more tightly control energy usage.

However, minimising carbon footprint isn’t just about costs, taxes and penalties. More business is being done today on the basis of having a sound environmental policy and a commitment to minimising environmental impact. Being able to demonstrate environmental responsibility forms the basis of internationally recognised standards such as ISO 50001, and many companies are finding that such policies give them a competitive advantage.

Practical steps
So, what practical steps can be taken to raise energy efficiency? In many cases the starting point is an energy audit of the plant and processes. This will entail more than looking around the shop floor for obvious energy saving opportunities. At the same time, while installing variable speed drives, for example, can help reduce energy consumption from motors and compressors, this cannot be the end of the story. Deriving maximum value from these energy saving measures, and uncovering others depends on effective monitoring of a whole range of electrical loads, energy supplies and other energy consumers, such as compressed air and pneumatic systems.

Omron takes a holistic approach to energy management, employing a range of technologies and techniques to identify areas for improvements in energy efficiency, and to then carry on monitoring to see what real, measurable savings have been made. Taking this approach to energy management is key – not only to identify the real costs of energy associated with production operations but also to then optimise those processes – making each of them more energy efficient and identifying peaks in energy demand. Only with complete transparency of energy data, tied in with actual productivity, is it possible to optimise costs per part in relation to energy usage.

To be of use to the energy management team, both real time and historical energy consumption data also needs to be available to higher level business systems. Today’s Ethernet-based network technologies make it possible to transfer data from the plant floor into these higher level visualisation systems. But how and where is the data collected?

Retrofittable plant floor energy monitoring components are now available for existing production lines and processes to monitor electrical and all other forms of energy, focusing on areas such as temperature, motion, heat and compressed air as well as electricity.

Key to the Omron energy monitoring range, for example, is the KM series of multi-circuit smart power monitors which help pinpoint unnecessary energy usage. With or without inbuilt displays, the devices measure produced and consumed power, current, voltage, leading reactive power, lagging reactive power, power factor and frequency, as well as non-electric parameters. Combined with Omron’s KM-Manager software it enables the collection and display of data directly onto a PC for trend analysis.

Invisible air flow from compressed air systems within plants can also represent significant energy wastage, Omron’s energy monitoring range therefore also includes air flow sensors which help to identify air leakage, excessive air usage or too much pressure. 

Omron can point to a number of customer sites around the world in addition its own manufacturing facilities where its energy monitoring solutions are helping to save energy, reduce emissions and minimise carbon footprint. At its own plant in Kyoto, Japan, for example, ongoing measuring and optimising of energy efficiency has seen 50% savings in electricity usage and 50% reductions in air consumption.

There are huge gains to be made from taking a holistic approach to energy management, focusing on real time measurement and ongoing improvement. Energy monitoring solutions are available to help identify immediate areas for improvement and to continuously monitor to show the real benefits of any changes made and to uncover further areas that will continue to deliver incremental gains in efficiency – after all you can’t manage what you don’t measure!
Dan Rossek is marketing manager at Omron.

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