Facilities and Utilities

November 2016

Analytics Deliver the Value of the Industrial Internet

​The Internet of Things is here. According to research firm Gartner, 6.4 billion connected “things” will be in use in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015. Manufacturers are focused on a special case the Industrial Internet of Things or the Industrial Internet. It promises to transform the way people and machines interact by using data and analytics in new ways to drive efficiency gains, accelerate productivity and achieve overall operational excellence.

This is not just a vision of what is to come. The Industrial Internet is
being implemented now and providing tangible results. GE, one of the thought leaders, is building “digital power plants,” with more than 10,000 sensors that, by GE’s predictions, will increase a facility’s efficiency by 1.5 percent, reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 3 percent, reduce its coal consumption by 67,000 tons for each megawatt of electricity produced, and add $230 million any power plant’s value.

One measure of the opportunity connect smart devices is the number of them that are network ready. Berg Insight estimates that shipments of wireless devices for industrial automation
applications including both network and automation equipment reached 4.8 million units worldwide in 2015. Growing at a compound annual growth rate of 25.1 percent, shipments are expected to reach 18.3 million by 2021. The installed base of wireless devices in industrial applications is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 27.7 percent from 14.3 million connections at the end of 2015 to 62.0 million devices by 2021.

The Industrial Internet is possible because of the convergence of several key trends.First, the machines used in plants have become smarter over time, with more sensors and control points providing much more data on their operations to plant managers.Second, networking technology makes it possible to gather all of that data.Big data and its associated technology make it possible to gather and access all of that data.Finally, analytics make it possible to derive actionable information out of the data that is gathered. The sum of these parts provides the real benefits to manufacturers.

Let’s examine how manufacturers can take advantage of these benefits. For many manufacturers FacilityConneX works with, one of the most critical systems in their facilities is compressed air. Approximately 70% of all manufacturers have a compressed air system employed in a range of applications, including pneumatics, refrigeration, energy storage, heating and air conditioning, and braking systems.

Often called the fourth utility, compressed air is also a significant expense. Compressed air system performance can affected by air leaks, poor
compressor operation, over-pressurization, insufficient air storage, improper uses of compressed air, and inadequate maintenance of point-of-use filtration and connections. The issue with compressed air isn’t just energy and operating costs, but also reliability. Inconsistent compressed air quality is also a contributing factor to downtime, scrap, and equipment.

Over the years, compressor manufacturers have developed a number of different types of control strategies. Controls, such as start/stop and load/unload, respond to reductions in air demand, increasing compressor discharge pressure by turning the compressor off
or unloading it so that it does not deliver air for periods of time. Modulating inlet and multi-step controls allow the compressor to operate at part-load and deliver a reduced amount of air during periods of reduced demand. Our customers in manufacturing tell us that it is too easy for these systems to operate inefficiently.

Humans cannot predict failure, but your assets have the data and can tell you if they are trending out of control and if they are starting to fail. The
data you need is available in the compressed air systems. Gathering data and transforming it into actionable information is the role of an analytics based system. Let your assets intelligently tell the operators what is required t keep them running, what issues are occurring, and how to change a failure trend.

Identifying and preventing failures will not only save money against your machine and output efficiency; it will limit unnecessary preventive maintenance costs and save on energy usage and capital cost.

Utility Rebates Topped $7 Billion Last Year

​Rebates are critical when facility managers think of working with their utilities to cut energy use and costs. Utilities across the United States invested approximately $7.7 billion in energy efficiency over the past year, according to the ACEEE report, The 2016 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard.

The structure and delivery of customer-funded electric energy efficiency program have changed as the electric industry restructured.Restructuring resulted in a decline in funding for customer-funded electricity energy efficiency programs in the late 1990s, primarily due to regulatory uncertainty and the expected loss of cost-recovery mechanisms for those programs.

Subsequently, utility commissions placed renewed focus and importance on energy efficiency programs. From its low point in 1998, spending for electricity programs increased more than fourfold by 2010, from approximately $900 million to $3.9 billion. In 2015, total spending for electricity efficiency programs reached roughly $6.3 billion. Adding natural gas program spending of $1.4 billion brings the total to the $7.7 billion in 2015.

The report credits the growth in these programs to state policies. In Minnesota, for instance, utilities are expected to save 1.5 percent of their annual sales volume each year. Utilities also find that these programs are valuable customer service tools. The programs allow utilities to help address customers’ concerns about their use and cost of energy.

Some utilities also offer energy efficiency programs that focus on the ways in which the equipment within a facility operates. For example, a utility may offer some financial support for commissioning, including support for monitoring based commissioning. For instance, an HVAC system that isn’t performing as designed to maintain desired temperatures generally will use more energy than necessary. If the commissioning process reveals the need for major investments in new equipment, the utility may develop custom rebates or other incentives.

Do these incentives work? The Industrial Strategic Energy Management Initiative, at the Center for Energy Efficiency, examined the results of strategic energy management (SEM) programs. SEM programs emerged from the continuous improvement approaches used in many production operations, and focus on reducing energy intensity over time. Rather than focus on equipment change, they look at changing business practices, operations, and individual behavior.

Researchers tallied the results of the programs, and found they reduced overall electric energy intensity by 5.4 percent during the one-year implementation period. While this study focused on industrial users, it provides evidence that concerted efforts to reduce energy consumption can pay off.

June 2016

How Much Does the Fourth Utility Cost You?

Approximately 70% of all manufacturers have a compressed air system powering a variety of equipment. Compressed air systems are critical to a number of functions within a manufacturing facility such as:

  • Food & Beverage for filling and capping
  • Pharmaceuticals for tablet coating
  • Plastics injection molding
  • Paper pressing
  • Blasting and cleaning operations

Compressed air is commonly thought of as a facility’s Fourth Utility because it is one of the most expensive uses of energy in a manufacturing plant. According to the University of Minnesota, about 8hp of fuel is used to generate the electricity required for 1hp of compressed air, making it the least efficient and sustainable plant utility. As a result, compressed air systems consume 8% of net electricity use in manufacturing facilities, across all industries.

Over time issues with design and maintenance of compressed air systems can build, accounting for up to $3.2 billion in wasted utility payments in the United States every year according to CAGI. Monitoring the compressed air equipment in your facility can help you justify system improvements to increase energy efficiency. My monitoring and analyzing your facility’s compressed air system will likely reveal several opportunities for reducing the plant’s energy draw, resulting in significant energy savings, lower operating costs and a minimized impact on the environment through a smaller carbon footprint.

While identifying and fixing these problems will result in significant immediate savings, many utility companies are offering
additional rebates or reduced rates for industrial facilities that are able to decrease energy demands. These incentives can further reduce manufacturing costs and benefit the environment through lower energy demands.

FacilityConneX has analytics specifically for compressed air equipment. We can help you keep costs low while ensuring your equipment works at optimal efficiency.

Analytics: The Voice of Your Compressed Air System

​Sam Deptula, PE, of our partner B2Q, shows how the analytics for compressed air systems can help plants save money on these high energy consuming systems. This 6 minute video shows a hands-on, practitioners view of how analytics can make a huge difference in compressed air operations.

Check out the Automation World Webinar

​Mark Pipher, FacilityConneX’s GM recently spoke on a Automation World’s webinar “Compressor Optimization: Increasing Reliability and Efficiency.” Mark joined experts from GE and B2Q to discuss how plants can:

  • Improve up-time with higher compressor reliability
  • Decrease compressor energy and maintenance costs up to50%
  • Use analytics to identify probable causes and recommend corrective action
  • Increase operational efficiency up to 40% with faster resolution

You watch a replay of the 45 minute webinar by clicking here.

Automation World Webinar
Automation World Webinar