Five ways to reduce energy waste in manufacturing processes

Companies can reduce their electric bill by avoiding energy expenditure spikes, monitoring their energy during downtimes, and investing in compressed air technology.

By Megan Nichols August 23, 2017

American manufacturers businesses are responsible for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the country from burning fossil fuels for electricity, according to the EPA. As much as 67% of the electricity the nation utilizes comes from coal and natural gas. While manufacturing is critical to the nation’s economy, companies can reduce their carbon footprint by investing in newer or retrofitted equipment or change the way energy is used for manufacturing processes. The only two viable options are to invest in better equipment—either new or retrofitted—and change how your company uses energy in its manufacturing processes.

Some companies are using data to streamline their energy usage through real-time monitoring with power management software, while others are updating their motors and drives, which account for about 70% of energy consumption each year. Even little changes can make a big difference to the bottom line.

1. Avoid energy expenditure spikes

When you turn on the equipment at the start of the day, the energy expenditure for the facility will spike, causing higher voltage charges. Request an energy assessment to get a baseline of what the plant currently uses compared to what it requires, and consider turning on machinery in stages instead of simultaneously.

2. Monitor peak time energy use

The electric company charges the manufacturing plant for both base energy and peak energy. The highest amount of electricity used at one time is the peak energy, and these charges can account for 30% of the facility’s monthly bill. Real-time data collection can help identify the peak hours so you can find ways to optimize processes.

3. Monitor weeknight energy use

You can also analyze real-time data collected each evening for setbacks. Historical data can uncover machines that continue to run idle by using granular energy demand trend information. By analyzing the data, you can spot any setbacks and adjust as necessary for overall cost savings.

4. Monitor energy waste during weekends

Businesses tend to use less energy during off hours, including weekends, holidays, or scheduled maintenance times. Monitoring energy usage can alert management to any possible issues with the system or machinery. The company may learn it needs to change a process to reduce energy consumption during the weekend instead of purchasing new equipment. For example, setting the HVAC system to a specific temperature before leaving for the weekend could result in substantial savings. Combined heat and power (CHP) systems may result in more cost savings by converting the heat recovered from manufacturing processes to produce electricity.

5. Invest in a compressed air system

Investing in a compressed air system can save money long term, since a reliable system is an important factor as long as you have the system checked frequently for leaks and other technical issues. On average, the U.S. wastes $3.2 billion annually with inefficient compressed air usage. Manufacturing companies waste approximately 50% of the compressed air produced; up to 30% is from leaks, and 10% is from inappropriate use. Computer software and ultrasound equipment can measure and pinpoint any leaks. It’s critical that your business implements key performance indicators such as pressure, power, flow and dew point. Train your employees to recognize energy wastefulness and know the exact energy requirements to avoid higher compressed air pressure.

Strive for energy efficiency

Taking a proactive role in monitoring equipment and energy expenditure will result in cost savings for your company, not to mention a greener mentality in the workplace. You can increase the operational profitability by focusing on reducing excess energy consumption, emphasizing workplace safety and strengthening security. Making an investment now to ensure your plant runs efficiently provides benefits for years to come.

Megan Nichols is a freelance science writer and blogger for Schooled by Science. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media,