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Energy savings through smart manufacturing methods

Reducing energy consumption especially in manufacturing industry is in everyone’s lips. A report by the National Association of Manufacturers, estimated nearly one-third of energy use in the US is input to the manufacturing sector. This accounts annually for more than 100 quadrillion BTUs. Of that, only 43% is applied to process work while the remaining 57% is lost without reclamation or reapplied to central energy generation. As the results of the UN Climate Conference (Oct-Nov of 2021) trickle into policy, inefficiencies in manufacturing will be scrutinized heavily as countries look to reduce energy consumption. Fortunately, manufacturers may benefit from energy efficiency policy changes that could result in a direct injection of cash to the bottom-line. A study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates with smart manufacturing processes, a 20% reduction in energy intensity (energy intake divided by production volume) could result in up to 25B USD in annual energy savings.

Introduction of smart manufacturing capabilities takes a small investment when compared to the total cost of a manufacturing line, and the energy-saving ROI can be significant. In a simple pump example, a linear reduction of flow results in a quadratic reduction in energy consumption. Reducing pump speed to 80% of max might drive energy savings of 50%. Real-time process data can determine pump demand to optimize flow rate and reduce energy burden without human intervention. What if this same principal is applied to every pump in a plant? To every process?

ACEEE references a study by the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Consortium in conjunction with the Department of Energy that monitors continuous data from a hydrogen-generating methane furnace to optimize internal temperature distribution. This process enables a reduction in energy consumption and an increase in the furnace lifecycle by reducing unnecessary wear brought on by temperature fluctuations. In addition to energy savings through process optimization, smart manufacturing methods can lead to reduced energy costs without any changes to a process.

Two-way data networks to a utility also enable incentive based, energy efficiency programs. Efficiency Vermont, Vermont’s efficiency authority, is testing a program to offer financial incentives to manufacturers who demonstrate real-time, measured energy reduction through their meters. Not only will manufacturers involved see a reduction in their energy spend, but they will also earn a check from Vermont based on this same energy reduction.

Historically, the barrier to deploying smart manufacturing systems and realizing energy savings has been the complexity in building an enabling infrastructure. This complexity originates in both creating and maintaining networks, but also managing the cybersecurity profile. With an open, agnostic, and automated platform for edge-to-anywhere networks and an embedded cybersecurity profile, there is no excuse. Market share will be dominated by companies who are recognizing the fiscal and environmental benefits of smart manufacturing – Adapt and thrive, or struggle to survive.


Blog post is written by Skylar Dhaese – OT Network engineer helping integrators and manufacturers monetize their digital transformation.

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