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Implementing a Holistic Energy and Utilities Evaluation to Improve Sustainable Production
By: Doug Burns, Practice Lead, Sustainable Production, Rockwell Automation
Posted: July 7, 2009
Volatile energy costs and increased pressure from consumers to be more socially responsible are important business drivers for manufacturers in the home and personal care (HPC) industries. But identifying the potential savings of reducing utilities consumption is not a trivial task. Manufacturing processes are interlinked, and plant-floor layouts have grown larger and more complex over the years to meet changing market demands. As a result, the realities of today’s manufacturing landscape present a multifaceted challenge for manufacturers to identify, prioritize and execute the changes necessary to optimize energy usage.
By conducting an energy and utilities audit that takes a holistic view of manufacturing processes, HPC manufacturers can more easily identify energy losses in order to prioritize savings potential. As a result, cost and consumption of all utilities reductions can be realized and plant performance optimized. In fact, by teaming utilities specialists—such as plant and facility operations directors with domain professionals, such as the lead controls engineer and an internal sustainability champion—you can gain a comprehensive view of the production process from generation to consumption. This helps make sure that production is completed under optimum conditions at the lowest cost possible and that no utilities are wasted in the process.
Conducting an Audit of Utilities Used Production
When beginning the audit process, you’ll want to work with a team of specialists to identify and develop the business goals for your energy management strategy. These goals should be easily quantifiable, such as an overall percent reduction in energy usage or a specific percent improvement in the facility’s energy spend.
Some of these savings can be achieved with simple changes to equipment, usage patterns or technology updates. Longer term changes may involve process overhauls, or perhaps an entire facility redesign. However, all energy audit programs should incorporate the establishment of an energy awareness culture across all areas of the plant. The most successful energy management programs are those that are continuous. Regular audits are an excellent method for keeping employees motivated to continue effective savings programs. Indeed, determining the scope and level of commitment to more effective energy management upfront will focus efforts on the areas with the most opportunity for substantial positive returns.
The next step of an audit process should include an analysis of overall consumption to identify areas of opportunity. As part of this analysis, a certified energy manager (CEM), who has successfully completed their CEM certification exams administered by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), should complete an in-depth analysis of the facility’s current energy usage. Using data collected on-site from the in-house team and a comprehensive review of all utility bills for the past two years, the CEM can generate an analysis output document that provides a broad, high-level overview of the company’s current utilities usage.