Mark Ashurst, business development manager at Siemens Industry Automation & Drive Technologies, urges UK manufacturers to look at the potential savings achievable on their factory floors to help them remain competitive.
During challenging times, cutting costs will be at the fore for most businesses. For those in the manufacturing and process industries, there are some simple measures that should be investigated to ensure optimum energy and operational efficiency during processes.
It is also worth considering that recent research from energy company npower, revealed major energy users including manufacturers, place energy as the greatest business risk they face. This highlights just how important it is to ensure energy is managed effectively throughout a business.
The starting point for any energy efficiency improvements is transparency. Manufacturers should ensure they know where energy is being used and how? Only with an accurate picture of exact consumption, can areas for savings be identified.
Once this information has been collated, it is important for manufacturers to evaluate the cost-savings achievable through potential improvements. This will allow realistic parameters to be established in terms of enhancements and will also ensure the correct information can be delivered to the board to sign-off any investment required.
Maximising motor efficiency
The introduction of a raft of government directives has sparked a marked shift in the low voltage AC motor industry over the last 10 years. As the mandatory efficiency levels for motors have increased, all industries can benefit from improved motor efficiency leading to a reduction in energy costs.
There are around 20 million industrial motors in service around the world, and these are responsible for two-thirds of the power consumed by industry. It is clear there are significant savings to be had from ensuring maximum efficiency of motors.
It is essential that manufacturers do not overlook the energy consumption reductions and therefore cost reductions, achievable through the motors on site. By ensuring sites use motors of IE2 and above, manufacturers can have a tangible effect on reducing their energy consumption.
Siemens motor scrappage scheme, which ran until the end of 2011 aimed to aid industry in achieving energy savings by upgrading motors.
Driving up savings
Manufacturers should also pay attention to the complete drive train on site. We have estimated that manufacturers can achieve savings of around 60 per cent by utilising variable speed drives on certain applications, particularly where regenerative loads are present such as winders and high bay racking systems. Our most recent research suggests that optimising all drive-trains globally to use less power, could cut carbon emissions by as much as 57 million tonnes a year in addition to boosting productivity. For manufacturers looking to keep a tight rein on costs and boost their reputation by becoming more energy efficient, this is an area that warrants significant focus due to the benefits they stand to gain on a financial and reputational basis.
Many manufacturing sites have extraction fans or pumps that are direct online. These often run at a fixed speed with 100 per cent power, the flow rate being controlled by mechanical means. However, by removing the existing DOL contactor and replacing it with a variable speed drive, manufacturers can control the speed of the motor on the pump or fan. This means they can improve their control of the flow of either air or water, for example, and adjust it to meet the needs of the application. Many applications of pumps and fans can run effectively at 80 per cent speed, achieving significant energy savings, since the power required/ utilised falls off with the cube of the speed.
Streamlining for savings
The most tangible energy savings are achieved when the process is viewed holistically. Individual improvements of components will provide savings, but for comprehensive and noticeable energy and operational efficiency savings, streamlining processes and adopting a totally integrated automated approach, will make a real difference. The process must include identification of the areas for savings, evaluation of the amounts that can be achieved, and realisation using innovative automation products.
Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) available from Siemens IA&DT ensures manufacturers can analyse energy flows effectively throughout processes, accurately determine cost-saving potential at all levels of production and process automation and access products and systems which actually reduce energy demand.
In these challenging economic times, manufacturers would be well-advised to look to measures they can implement on the production line and factory floor to reduce their energy consumption, increase their operational efficiency and ultimately, remain competitive.