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5 good reasons to start your Factory 4.0 transition with energy efficiency

1- Energy is not your core business… if your business is not energy-intensive

The issue of energy efficiency actually proves much less sensitive than working on the costs of materials, processes or organisation. Furthermore, it frequently relates to utilities. But it is actually an excellent topic for experimentation and learning, as it involves very moderate risks. Conversely the potential gains are high, via energy savings of course, but most of all by implementing a process quite similar to the Industry 4.0 approach.

 

2- Energy is everyone’s business

Perhaps more or less directly… but still, try to find ONE business line in your factory where the KPIs should neglect to look at energy! Yet, priority is generally (and legitimately) afforded to the manufacturing of the end product, and not to energy savings. The staff will thus ask for more powerful machines, more comfortable safety energy margins, operating setpoints matching peak demand, etc. It therefore become obvious that an energy-efficient approach is of concern for every single staff member. A great opportunity for a trial run to test the factory of the future!

 

3- Energy is a cross-business issue

In other words, the energy choices of one individual or one business line will have consequences on others. Take the example of an automotive Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM): production requires steam to be available at all times, to match the highest but occasional demand. The utilities operator must therefore invest in the right equipment to avoid any penalties (power, back-up, etc.…). And the maintenance necessary to ensure the proper operation of boilers (i.e. the steam supply) must take place without any impact on production. Yet, it is often possible to organise production with a little more flexibility and a significant potential for energy savings. Reducing the overall energy consumption of a factory or a workshop however requires real communications and synergies between business lines. Quite often, the best practices identified on one site can also be duplicated in another site.

 

4- Energy is often a sure bet

There is little to lose and much to gain financially. Changing a core business process or machine can involve significant risks (particularly in terms of quality) and generally requires substantial capital investments. Conversely, a large part of energy-saving potentials in a factory can be addressed without any CAPEX or nearly none. Furthermore, since upgrades can be made iteratively (recommendations for setpoints combined with performance measurements), the risks of impact on the process are virtually null if the Quality staff is involved in the approach.

 

5- Energy efficiency and operational excellence: two sides of the same coin

More specifically, energy efficiency and operational excellence rely on:

  • Similar or common IT infrastructure and network: connected factory, sensors, PLCs, Data Lakes, etc.
  • Frequently the same data,
  • The same mindset of staff and managers,
  • The same needs for communication with employees,
  • The same type of digital tools: data collection, historical track-records, supervision, dataviz, analysis, management…
  • The same project-based approaches,
  • The same resistance to change

 

By initiating an industrial energy efficiency project, you can thus engage the entire staff in a collective, low-risk approach, and you will be laying sound foundations for the success of your future Factory 4.0.