The Role of Energy Management Systems in Smart Factories

Smart factories involve many moving parts. Consequently, they need tools to manage these multiple systems and ensure the facility operates as efficiently as possible. Energy management solutions are among the most crucial of these platforms.

Energy management systems include Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, smart transformers, connected HVAC equipment and cloud computing platforms to control it all. While implementing this technology can be daunting, it plays several key roles in smart factory operations.

 

Reducing Costs

Like many Industry 4.0 applications, smart energy management systems minimize ongoing expenses. These devices adjust factory power consumption based on real-time conditions to maintain productivity while using as little energy as possible. As a result, they produce significant savings.

A recent study quantified these savings by measuring smart utility meter performance across 87 factories. Energy consumption fell by an average of 7.46% in each facility, resulting in over $41 million in savings across the entire company. While not every organization will achieve cost reductions that substantial, any amount of savings is always welcome.

 

Optimizing Maintenance

Energy management systems also play an important role in equipment maintenance. Manufacturers spend $222 billion on maintenance on average, either from direct repair costs or from breakdown-related losses. However, those relying more on predictive maintenance experience 52.7% less unplanned downtime, and this is where energy management comes in.

Predictive maintenance relies on real-time equipment health data to alert manufacturers to emerging issues. Temperatures or electrical signals falling outside of normal parameters are common examples. Consequently, manufacturers enable more proactive maintenance practices by analyzing electrical use through smart energy systems.

 

Ensuring Uptime

Similarly, smart energy management helps manufacturers maintain productivity. Proactive maintenance is part of this endeavor, but IoT energy systems also support it by ensuring more reliable power supplies. A constant energy source is the most basic requirement to avoid the $5 million in losses a single hour of downtime can cause.

Smart energy infrastructure can respond to changing conditions in real time to ensure consistent power levels. As a result, sensitive manufacturing equipment can keep working at the same level even amid grid issues. This reliability is particularly important as the nation’s energy network ages or goes through disruption from required upgrades.

 

Improving Safety

Manufacturers must also consider their energy systems’ impact on employee safety. Exposure to harmful substances or environments is the leading cause of nonfatal injuries in manufacturing, and equipment-related incidents are the second most common cause. Energy management affects both.

Consistent power delivery to equipment prevents safety-affecting malfunctions, such as sudden stoppages or out-of-control speeds. Smart energy solutions can prevent electrical shocks by identifying hazards as soon as they arise and automatically cutting off power to the affected area. Predictive maintenance will also make equipment or electrical-related risks less common.

 

Enabling Sustainability

Energy management systems are also key to ensuring sustainability. Pressure is mounting for manufacturers to embrace more eco-friendly business practices, and energy efficiency is a key part of this movement. The industry’s electrical consumption alone produces 285 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Smart energy systems support sustainability goals by minimizing facilities’ electrical consumption. These savings reduce energy-related emissions and make renewable power a more viable option. Renewables are intermittent, but smart infrastructure can move excess electricity in and out of storage according to real-time needs to balance supply and demand discrepancies.

 

Smart Factories Need Energy Management Systems

As factories embrace more technologies, they’ll need more control over their energy usage to ensure everything works correctly. Smart energy management systems provide that control.

Energy management systems improve manufacturers’ finances, uptime, safety, sustainability and reliability. Those advantages are hard to ignore, so it will not take long for the industry to react and these technologies to become standard. Getting ahead of that trend is key to retaining a competitive edge in this market.

 

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