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Industrial Energy Management: The importance of being business-oriented

Producing the right quantity and quality cost-efficiently has long been the key priority of factories. Issues of climate change along with increasing energy costs have recently changed the deal, forcing factories to seek energy savings. But how to prioritize energy efficiency measures, and why should they be mainstreamed at the core of business practices for their value to materialize (in time or money)? Blu.e consultant Yves Bergeron explains the concept.

 

Whenever you are consulted by a factory to improve its energy performance, what is the first step?

Yves Bergeron – In order to generate performance, and therefore value, Blu.e initiates a dialogue with the customer about:

Significant Energy Uses (SEUs), i.e. the scopes with significant improvement potential: manufacturing operations, production and distribution of utilities, and comfort,

Performance Indicators (EnPIs) and their variability (see our e-Guide #1),

Business practices, in particular in maintenance and operation, that impact these performance indicators,

Roles, responsibilities and organisation in place,

Quality and availability of data,

Business tools, in particular tools designed for accessing and processing the data in the form of monitoring, alerting, reporting, analysing and aid to operational management.

Based on this status assessment of challenges, practices, data and tools, it is then possible to prioritise, jointly with the customer, the scope and measures offering the highest potential and best feasibility in terms of energy efficiency. In other words, what is the best practice that will enable the industrial operator to achieve quick wins in money or in time via an enhanced operational practice?

 

Once you have identified the best value-creating practices, you have already completed a good portion of the job, haven’t you?

Yves Bergeron – This is an essential first step, but it is not enough. We then need to work jointly with the field players to understand the information they need in their daily business practices in order to reach the new performance that they were unable to achieve with their existing tools. These data will then be useful to define and parameterize the business interfaces in the Blu.e software to facilitate ownership of the tool.

– Let’s take the practical example of the “weekend base load” –

This is the energy consumption level of a workshop during off-production periods. A workshop contains many equipment components that consume electrical energy. Logically, they must be switched off by the operators at the end of the last production shift of the week. But manufacturing constraints often run contrary to this practice and the full shutdown of equipment at the end of the week’s last shift often turns out to be a secondary priority… for people in a hurry to get back home! Consequently, the standby power level is rarely optimal. It can even be up to 50% higher than during longer shutdowns, for instance during a week-long site shutdown at Christmas time, when special effort is made to switch off all equipment components as they should.

We have therefore designed a Blu.e interface to help the weekend maintenance supervisor visualize the workshops where energy consumption is the farthest from the standby power benchmark. The maintenance supervisor can then prioritize the control checks (“patrol rounds”) made by his crews and generate a list of faulty equipment. He can then send his report to the production supervisors who will use these fact-based data to promote the improvement process with their own teams and ensure that the next weekend shutdown will reach an energy consumption level closer to the standby power target.

 

This example of standby power makes it easy to understand the importance of measures taken by the field staff to improve energy efficiency. But can such business-oriented practices apply to all situations?

Yves Bergeron – Absolutely! This practical case is a perfect illustration that access to data is not sufficient! What delivers energy performance is the proper use of such information by the field staff and by the management. It needs the engagement of all players impacted by the practice, who are key to understanding the change to be implemented at each tier of the organisation. The business-oriented approach recommended by Blu.e engages all players, by identifying three types of initiatives.

. Firstly, “technical” actions on data and IT interfaces. The data must be relevant and reliable, and the interface must be intuitive and sufficient. Feedback from the operator is obviously indispensable to validate the data and interfaces based on his daily tasks.

2. Secondly, “business” actions, i.e. actions that the field player can implement thanks to the new Blu.e functionality.

3. Lastly, the manager is the leader of the change process: he or she explains the need for the change, states the new requirement level and coordinates the improvement process with his/her teams: “Did you use the right data before acting? If not, why? How can we do better next time?”.

The three key drivers of operational control are technologies, methods and business expertise. By combining all three dimensions (technical, business and management), our customers can then achieve the expected performance!

 

Read also our article about change management: 10 key golden rules for successful change in your daily business life