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Producing Energy Savings in Manufacturing Facilities

Key Points
  • Energy management programs should incorporate elements of industrial process control.
  • Monitor energy use in the production area to identify waste and implement savings opportunities.
  • A successful energy management program requires the cooperation of all production staff.

Industrial guyThe wide variety of energy-intensive processes in manufacturing facilities makes tracking and managing energy use a challenge. While energy costs can be significant, often little attention is paid to how that energy is used in production. Although there are a host of energy-saving opportunities for manufacturers, a knowledge gap can hinder the ability to take advantage of these opportunities. To manage energy costs effectively, it's important to measure energy use throughout the facility, identify waste and takes steps to improve efficiency.

Measuring for control

Conventional energy management programs focus on building systems, such as lighting or space conditioning. While these are important, the majority of energy use in a typical manufacturing facility is devoted to production. To optimize savings, the energy management process should include elements of industrial process control as part of a program to improve efficiency.

Energy management should also integrate the energy cost element in production area planning for continuous improvement in cost control. Analysis of data from voltage meters, as well as temperature and flow sensors, can provide process accountability, monitoring and control. Real-time data can be used to identify waste, target improvement opportunities and track progress.  

Energy-saving measures across processes

Manufacturing processes are diverse. Here are cost-cutting measures for a variety of industry segments:

  • Finishing operations. Minimize paint booth length and cross-sections to reduce air supply and energy use while maintaining proper air flow. Add variable frequency drives (VFDs) to control systems and air recirculation to the drying cycle.
  • Machining operations. Install control valves in the coolant supply piping of each machine to only feed coolant when the machine's in operation. Determine the optimum coolant amount by checking the lowest allowable pressure that doesn't negatively impact tool life. Turn off machines when not in use.
  • Refrigeration systems. Install VFDs on evaporator fans, compressors and pumps to reduce energy costs; only using refrigeration equipment when needed. Implement active defrost management.
  • Robotic systems. Hydraulic and electric robots are widely used in manufacturing facilities. Hydraulic equipment for robots must operate whether the unit is in motion or idle, wasting energy. Electric robots use up to 70 percent less power, depending on the task.
  • Cleaning operations. Use an electric timer shutdown circuit to reduce the run time of spray wash pumps, which normally operate (and consume energy) continuously. Select cleaning chemicals that operate at lower temperatures.
  • Drying equipment. Minimize heat loss with proper insulation and repair any air leaks. Also, adjust operation flow to ensure parts arrive at the drying station as warm as possible.
  • Process heating. Replace steam systems with energy-efficient, direct-fire gas technology for savings of 33 to 45 percent, depending on the application.

Many energy-saving measures cut across a variety of industries. For example, replacing pneumatic tools with gauges, drives and controls can reduce the need for compressed air—a very expensive utility. Energy management solutions also incorporate  premium efficiency motors, improved power quality and peak demand reduction.

Image source: iStock

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