Success in energy management starts with setting goals

Setting goals is easy; reaching them often proves much more difficult.


Control Engineering cover, Industrial Energy Management, special section, February 2013Just ask one of the many people who already have broken New Year’s resolutions made barely a month ago. It’s a good bet that many of those folks didn’t really understand what it would take to make a major lifestyle change. 

No matter how devoted you are to completing a task, you’ll never succeed without knowing the proper steps to take to get the job done. 

When Control Engineering started publishing these Industrial Energy Management supplements, the goal was to spread at least a modicum of knowledge of what it will take for manufacturers to cut their overall energy use without negatively affecting critical metrics like production efficiency and product quality.

We knew that was a major challenge, largely because energy management is not a narrowly focused discipline. It touches every facet of a manufacturing enterprise—from monitoring the lighting, heating and cooling systems in the front office to making strategic decisions about allocating power to production equipment.  

The stories, in particular, shows how challenging it can be for a manufacturer to devise a truly comprehensive energy management program. It requires keeping a close eye on a host of moving parts, many of which are not always easy to see. 

Mission accomplished

For instance, our cover story is a case study on Steelcase, a 100-year-old company that leads the way in designing stylish yet functional office furniture. As Steelcase approached its centennial, its management realized that not only was the company not using energy as efficiently as it could, but its methods of tracking energy use were antiquated. That didn't just look bad for a company known for product innovation; it was unnecessarily expensive. So, Steelcase management set a goal to reduce energy use by 15% and shrink its carbon footprint by 25%, all in the five years leading up to the company’s 100th anniversary in 2012. With the help of a new automation and control platform Steelcase met those goals and continues to improve upon them. 

We also have an article about one of those energy-management moving parts that can be difficult to see. It's fairly common knowledge that variable frequency drives (VFD) can aid energy management strategies by constantly calibrate motors to operate only as fast as necessary to perform a specific task at a given time. This not only cuts down on the amount of energy a motor consumes, it also extends the motor’s life by reducing wear and tear. 

It may not be readily apparent, however, that that selecting the right VFD components is crucial to maximizing the energy-saving properties of VFDs. Read the article starting to learn why it's important to choose the right VFD cables. There’s also a short checklist on how to make the proper cable selection for a specific application. 

The third article should encourage anyone who’s waiting for the full rollout of the Smart Grid. It’s a Q&A with Brian MacCleery, principal product manager for clean energy technology with National Instruments. He is talking about a new development platform that should ease the process of designing devices that can be tied to the Smart Grid.

This issue does, indeed, cover a gamut of energy-management topics. We expect to continue doing so in the future. Again, our goal also is to pass on some useful knowledge in the process. 

This article appeared in the February 2013 Industrial Energy Management special section to Control Engineering, CFE Media.

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