Bouncing back

The recession challenged every manufacturer to do more with less. As recovery starts to take hold and production shows signs of increasing, the emphasis now should be on making sure operations run smarter, with less energy use and higher productivity. Industry experts have shared some of their practical Tips & Tricks on ways to save energy, cut costs and stretch more life out of your equipm...

By Plant Engineering Staff August 1, 2009

The recession challenged every manufacturer to do more with less. As recovery starts to take hold and production shows signs of increasing, the emphasis now should be on making sure operations run smarter, with less energy use and higher productivity.

Industry experts have shared some of their practical Tips & Tricks on ways to save energy, cut costs and stretch more life out of your equipment. Put together, these tips provide the opportunity for significant savings with rapid ROI and little or no capital expenditure.

Energy savings in production machines

The issue is that at first glance, the options to save energy are usually more expensive in initial purchase cost. Decision makers seldom look at lifecycle cost, operational cost (energy) or environmental issues.

Here are some examples of energy saving in production machines:

  • Replace mechanical drive shafts, gear reducers with direct drive systems: There’s a reduction in friction, causing less energy wasted in mechanical transmission, and it allows running motors at their most efficient point, with less energy wasted in the motor

  • Add drives to uncontrolled motors for fans and pumps: Besides running the motor at its most efficient point, dampers, reducers and valves also are eliminated, which saves energy

  • Replace induction motors with permanent magnet motors: This eliminates magnetizing and minimizes rotor losses, and creates higher nominal efficiency and under partial load

  • Replace hydraulic or pneumatic axis with electric drives: This eliminates fluid and idle losses, and that results in less energy wasted in friction in the pump.

    • Karl Rapp
      Peter Fischbach
      Bosch Rexroth Corporation

      Turn off your backlights

      In most modern PCs and larger HMIs, the background lighting of TFT displays can be configured to switch off after a certain time, especially if the backlight is not LED based. This not only extends the life of the backlight light bulbs, but also can save from 2 W to 8 W depending on the display size.

      Taking a medium size display with 5 W backlight power and the fact that most controls and HMIs are turned on 24/7/365, it comes out to around 44 kWh-per-year, or $4.40 at $0.1 per kWh. And the cost is only going up.

      This amount is small but considering that many factories have hundreds or thousands of displays with powered backlights, this can add up to a measurable dollar savings. One could argue that it is not much since most HMIs consume 20 W to 100 W of power due to the electronics (PC, HDD, Flash, etc.) but it is about a 10% to 15% energy savings.

      All it takes is to source displays with a configurable backlight auto-off mode function and setting it up one time by the OEM or maintenance person. The HMI will automatically save for its designed life time of around 10 years.

      Karl Rapp and Peter Fischbach
      Bosch Rexroth Corporation

      Intake fans cut cooling, heating costs

      In Schneider Electric’s Smyrna, TN manufacturing facility, there are two paint line exhaust fans that exhaust roughly 25,000 cfm of air from the entire manufacturing space. In the summer, this equates to about 50 tons of HVAC, while in the winter it exhausts an equivalent amount of heated air. During the winter, this creates negative pressure throughout the entire building, where cold air rushes in when an outside door is opened anywhere in the manufacturing area.

      To address this, Schneider Electric installed intake fans with variable frequency drives, and also installed variable frequency drives on the two exhaust fans to obtain neutral-to-positive pressure in the paint area. This introduces separate strategies for summer and winter.

      The strategy during the summer is to contain the unconditioned air in the paint area by bringing in an equal amount of unconditioned outside air as hot air exhausted from the paint line ovens. This reduces the air flow in the paint line area and prohibits the exhaust of conditioned air due to the negative pressure created by the oven exhaust fans.

      The purpose in the winter is to limit the exhaust fans from exhausting the heated air from the dryoff and cure ovens. This provides a neutral pressure in the entire building, so that when an outside door is opened, the neutral pressure opposes a rush of cold air entering.

      Schneider Electric has evaluated the potential of this solution and determined that the cost savings potential is more than $35,000 per year in combined heating and cooling costs.

      Ed Willhite
      Facility Manager
      Schneider Electric

      Find an Expert

      Most industrial sectors have cut budgets across the board so I have been putting together a team of industry specific consultants who are leaders in their field. We are focusing on global supply chains, obtaining government grants, lowering energy consumption and implementing regional repair programs with procurement executives for critical components. The best investment a manufacturing facility can make is a phone call to someone who is in a position to solve real problems and focus on solutions.

      Adam White
      Founder at The Die Cast Group
      Fluid Power Consultant
      Industrial Sales Professional

      Don’t forget your pumps!

      I still can’t figure out why there hasn’t been a rush of activity surrounding the use of variable speed motors on pumps. The typical medium-sized plant spends more than $1.4 million a year on energy to run their pumping systems. Better system design and optimized pumping systems may result in savings that will average $350K per year on energy alone (source Hydraulic Institute).

      According to studies by the U.S. Department of Energy:

    • Nearly 25% of electricity demand in the U.S. comes from industrial motor systems

    • More than 50% of pump lifecycle costs result from energy and maintenance expense

    • Less than 15% of pump life cycle costs are initial purchase costs

    • Energy savings of 20% or more are possible with systems optimization.

      • A typical 75 hp (56 kW) pump installation will save more than $15,000 annually. Now multiply those savings across a few hundred pumps.

        Education and investment (plus government incentives) could easily save American industry the cost of higher energy and equipment maintenance, driving more bottom line dollars and added competitiveness. Then add to that the positive environmental impact in carbon footprint reduction.

        John Beca
        Director of Communication
        ITT Corp.

        Look at Alternative energy

        Kaiser Electric achieved Platinum Pure Power Leader status through AmerenUE, which means that 100% of the electricity used by Kaiser’s offices is generated by wind farms in Missouri.

        “We felt that if we were going to go into the marketplace and partner with clients and vendors to help customers reduce their energy consumption, stepping up to the plate within our own company to reduce our own energy consumption would set the tone immediately from a credibility standpoint,” said Kaiser Electric president Steve Giacin.

        Kaiser Electric agreed to buying “blocks” of Pure Power, paying an additional $15 a month for each 1,000 kWh used. Pure Power funds are then used to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates from Green-e Energy-certified wind farms in Missouri and for other types of renewable energy projects.

        Kaiser Electric has also taken the lead in helping its customers reduce energy consumption through its P2 Green Initiative. Under the program, Kaiser partners with the client and the end-user to conduct a complete analysis of their facility’s energy consumption, whether new construction or an existing facility.

        Streamline purchasing

        As a plant and division, we’ve pooled our resources to leverage economies of scale in purchasing for R&M. We’ve identified key suppliers and negotiated deals with them to be exclusive, thus resulting in great customer service and great pricing vs. the OEMs. We then looked at all the components we could, as a business unit, develop ourselves and have our local machine shops make, thus adding volume to our local economy. It resulted in more than $1 million in savings in 2008 and we’re on track to be that in 2009.

        Michael Vida, CPE
        Maintenance and Engineering Manager
        Quebecor World

        Investigate motor control solutions

        From a technology perspective, the industry’s breadth of motor control products provides virtually unlimited ways to conserve energy, save money and meet uptime goals. If machinery makes harsh noises when started such as when full voltage is applied with no motor controller, it might be a candidate for a soft starting solution, which saves energy and protects equipment. Although this sensory approach may seem obvious and unscientific, it’s surprisingly overlooked.

        Marcia Walker
        Manager, Sustainable Production
        Rockwell Automation

        Streamline….your thinking

        I think that my best last-minute ideas involve taking mega vitamins, working longer hours and (the really non-joke idea) rethinking or re-experiencing the process.

        A fresh approach quite often yields new methods for doing work, and not the dreaded “work-around” solution.

        People are always talking about thinking outside the box but rarely really know what that means. The first step is to identify a constraint, then look at the problem like a puzzle and try various methods to solve the puzzle. Sometimes just walking through the entire process will yield an “Aha moment,” such as “Hey! I didn’t know they had put a wall up over here! That’s why we can’t get the forklift through!”

        You may need to tear down a few walls (metaphorically) but the goal is to sensibly streamline your methodology. Certainly, this will lead to cost savings in the long run but the immediate result is the attitude improvements that come when shared problems are solved.

        Tessa Marquis
        New Standard Institute

        Use Federal programs

        Probably the best suggestion I could give would be for all to become familiar with the U.S. DOE’s Industrial Technology Program and the Best Practices that are available there

        Additionally, ENERGY STAR has an industrial program as well as one for commercial properties:

        Both are free and offer a lot of good ideas. It’s your tax dollars at work.

        John Malinowski, Baldor

        Define your needs, focus on spot training

        Skills assessment and training development are essential to an effective maintenance program, but it can be difficult to determine who to train, what to train them for and when to train them. A free article from New Standard Institute, called “Choosing Skills to Train” describes how an organized and structured approach, assessing the core competencies of a maintenance operation, can develop a strong internal foundation at any facility.

        Tessa Marquis, owner
        New Standard Institute

        Pay attention when conveyors are running with no product

        Sensors and a simple controller networked to ac drives or soft starters could detect when there is a lapse in product on a conveyor and only run it when product is present. This saves energy as well as wear and tear on mechanical parts without obstructing uptime goals.

        Marcia Walker
        Manager, Sustainable Production
        Rockwell Automation

        Do a detailed Energy audit

        A “classic” energy audit monitors a facility’s utility spend by tracking all water, air, gas, electric and steam (WAGES) usage. The information gathered from the audit then helps companies identify a wide range of changes that they can make to help reduce their consumption and improve their bottom line to stay competitive in a market that is becoming more difficult to succeed in every day. Energy audits generally help companies identify three different types of energy-savings solutions:

      • Behavioral changes — Behavioral changes are simple, low- or no-cost solutions that can significantly impact the bottom line, such as the decision the Rockwell Automation Milwaukee facility made to save $15,000 per year by powering up the high-current lab at 7 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. Similarly, another Rockwell Automation customer noticed that at the end of the second shift, the batteries used to power forklifts were almost simultaneously put on their chargers, causing a surge in power usage at a peak time. By simply staggering the times when the batteries were put on their chargers, the company could avoid utility penalties for peak usage.

      • Programming changes — Programming changes are relatively low-cost changes to the facility’s energy-consuming assets that can provide a quick payback. On the plant floor, these changes can take the form of improving controls or upgrading older equipment for more effective use of WAGES resources. For example, by installing a variable frequency drive on a constant volume air handler to help optimize energy usage, or insulating manufacturing equipment that uses natural gas for heat to reduce the amount of gas needed, companies can often see a rapid return on their investment in reduced WAGES consumption.

      • Capital investments — Capital investments can range from boilers with advanced process control that helps optimize fuel usage, to installing solar panels or other alternative energy systems to power manufacturing machinery, to building an entirely new, more sustainable plant. While these are the most expensive options, the long-term ROI can also be the most rewarding.

        • Marcia Walker
          Manager, Sustainable Production
          Rockwell Automation

          Get an Energy inspection

          With the economic downturn, many facility managers face tight operation and maintenance budgets. Luckily, many facilities are sitting on multiple energy conservation opportunities that can save thousands of dollars per year with relatively little capital investment.

          A checklist showing where to look for these savings is now available in the Fluke application note, “Save money with best practices and an energy inspection checklist,” available free on the Fluke Website, . The Fluke Energy Efficiency Resource Center provides additional guidance on energy savings and sustainability.

          Historians for root cause analysis

          We have been having a great time putting out an “Open & Layered” message stating that for a small investment you can put Proficy Historian on top of your existing HMI/SCADA infrastructure. Enhancing existing investments and aggregate all the information in a plant to allow for a deeper understanding and the ability to do root cause analysis to improve operations. I think this is the year that people can do incremental investments and the big swings are out.

          David Frede
          Product Marketing Manager
          GE Fanuc Automation