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The significance of industrial energy management has never been greater. Organizations are working to lower energy costs, increase efficiency, and reduce impacts to the environment. Because of its positive effects on business performance, IEM is in many cases considered a mechanism for improving the bottom line. However, there’s also an external driving force by both the public and private sectors. This force demands (and in some respects mandates by law) that organizations integrate sustainability with operations.
In our last sustainability-focused blog post, we explained the LNS Research model of Industrial Energy Management. This model is built around integrating people, processes, and technology with operational excellence. Although there are many advantages to adopting an IEM model, there are also a number of challenges and considerations that organizations must overcome and plan for. It takes planning and execution as well as continuous monitoring and improvement for effective IEM.
Below, we’ll discuss some of the most pressing challenges organizations are facing today when it comes to Industrial Energy Management.
IEM involves a high degree of complexity to attain the level of visibility and granularity needed to improve performance. For the best results, there are often multi-stage, multi-variable processes in use, demanding real-time optimization that accounts for the use and price of energy. To facilitate this process, we’ve seen companies switch to Advanced Process Control (APC) with models that account for energy use and the price of energy. In extreme cases, when grid demand and prices are accounted for, it may be optimal to stop production or produce energy for the grid rather than manufacturing the product.
Today, the amount of physical space and total energy used in the industrial environment is at a scale that’s hard for outsiders to comprehend. For instance, the largest industrial building in the world is the Boeing Everett Factory, which has a volume of 13.3 million m³. Similarly, one of the largest users of energy in 2008 was Dow Chemical with its total energy bill amounting to $27 billion across more than 300 plants. A recent development in the industrial realm has been in the movement toward Enterprise Sustainability Management, part of which is IEM. A holistic implementation and integration of this magnitude takes significant resources.
This challenge is largely focused on North American and Europe, but it goes without saying that many industrial facilities around the world are well beyond their initially designed useful life. Think ten years ago versus 30 or even 60 years ago—things have changed drastically. The impact of an ageing infrastructure comes in many forms, including outdated equipment that’s inefficient, outdated buildings that are inefficient, and out dated control systems that struggle to collect energy data or optimized processes. Attaining the level of granularity needed to properly manage energy can be difficult with an archaic infrastructure.
There are numerous reasons why facilities and companies may lack a coherent industrial software strategy. In many instances, disparate legacy systems occur because of the gap in communication and common strategies between IT and plant engineering departments. With the absence of governance in corporate IT, plants have a tendency to implement a disparate set of systems that are purpose-built for particular needs. Unfortunately, most companies in this situation struggle to maintain these systems as requirements change over time. Other companies struggle with mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures. Examples of these disparate software systems often include multiple control systems, data historians, advanced process control systems, manufacturing execution systems, and reporting systems.
With those challenges in mind, the selection and implementation of the right IEM solution is critical for both improvements in business performance and justifying the investment. In our future blogs posts, we’ll be covering IEM software more in depth, and we’ll also be releasing our Industrial Energy Management Solution Selection Guide toward the end of the year. Stay tuned, and please feel free to share your own challenges with IEM in our comments section.
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