Manufacturing News
Manufacturing News

Energy management improves business performance

Ever-increasing energy costs have processors looking for tools to cut wasteful energy usage.

Faced with ever-increasing energy costs, processors are looking for tools to cut wasteful energy usage, increase production efficiency and look sustainable to the community, suppliers, customers and the general public. One tool that can prove invaluable to making these improvements is industrial energy management (IEM) software. But determining what software to use can be a daunting process—not because there’s a lack of tools, but more often, there are many tools—some of which may not communicate with other software in use or may not have all the depth necessary to create a thorough improvement program. A recent LNS Research publication, Industrial Energy Management: Best Practices Guide, provides a suite of best practices to put an energy conservation program into gear.
IEM software ultimately changes the way manufacturers view energy. Solutions provide advanced capabilities for managing the flow of energy from procurement to actual usage. Today’s software also delivers robust capabilities for reporting on the flow of energy and streamlining data right into the executive metrics dashboard. The best practices guide provides a comprehensive view of IEM by looking in depth at the procuring, consuming and reporting of energy. 
According to the guide’s authors, Matthew Littlefield and Mike Roberts, IEM occupies two pieces of a six-part view of enterprise sustainability management (ESM): energy management and carbon management. The four remaining pieces include environment health and safety, operational risk management, product stewardship and sustainability reporting. The authors contend the first two categories have the most direct effect on business performance as well as the environment.
While IEM is an important method to decrease energy usage and improve the bottom line, planning for and implementing IEM software have issues that must be considered. For example, IEM involves a high degree of complexity to attain the level of visibility and granularity needed to improve performance. Many facilities have disparate, multiple legacy—often incompatible—software products that have overlapping modules and systems, further complicating the process. Because many facilities are so large and geographically distributed, a holistic implementation of this magnitude takes significant resources. Aging infrastructure—plants and equipment—also makes it exceedingly difficult to manage energy properly, according to Littlefield and Roberts. 
Compared to residential, transportation and commercial buildings, managing energy in industrial environments requires a completely different set of solutions. While software streamlines processes and consequently facilitates improvements on energy KPIs, the adoption of an energy management solution may come up short of expectations without the proper energy management system in place. Many organizations have developed systems of management around continuous improvement, reporting, efficiency and more, says Littlefield. 
There are a number of energy management systems definitions—some zero in on software that manages the generation and distribution of energy across the grid while others focus on the processes industrial users implement behind the meter to be more efficient. The guide looks at three main energy management processes in use today: ENERGY STAR, International Organization of Standards (ISO 50001) and the Department of Energy. 
The guide looks at positioning resources for success in IEM. As with enterprise sustainability management, processors will find the most success with new initiatives by building on past successes in operational excellence. The case is no different for IEM, but it takes a well thought-out plan to properly align people, processes and technology capabilities. 
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