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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

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As part of the project, the CEM also made a capital investment recommendation pertaining to the compressed air system. The analysis showed that by installing an air buffer tank or additional storage tanks, the manufacturer could further reduce peak loads and therefore reduce overall load and cycling of the compressors.

Other capital investment recommendations ranged from investing in variable frequency drives for the air handlers in the plant’s HVAC system, to upgrading the boiler controls for burner management, combustion control and heat recovery alternatives. However, because these projects potentially require greater capital investment, they must be weighed against other business goals and longer-term production requirements.

Overall, the audit process identified over $240,000 in potential savings for the manufacturer. In tough economic times, those bottom-line savings can mean stability and risk mitigation. As the economy improves, the optimized production processes can mean improved margins and a significant competitive advantage.

Bottom Line: Monitor

In addition to the behavioral, programming and capital investment changes that a holistic utilities audit will bring to light, the monitoring of energy usage is a crucial component to a successful ongoing energy management program. Each individual department in the plant is often not aware of its consumption on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. This is a crucial aspect, because you cannot control what you cannot measure and you cannot optimize what you cannot control. By simply metering the consumption of utilities, small opportunities for improvement can be identified that can provide a significant impact on energy usage, resulting in immediate financial savings.

Stephen Stokes from AMR Research points out in his article titled “Sustainability, Green, and the Greenback: Where’s the Money in a Sustainability Management Ecosystem?” that “targets and tracking are crucial. Leading organizations set targets and regularly report their successes in attaining those goals.”