by Kevin Klustner, Powerit Solutions
The manufacturing sector is swimming in data today, but it’s hardly drowning. The problem is that we’re still not collecting the right data, and the data we do collect is often all over the place, segmented and scattered in silos that prevent companies from having a unified and intelligent view of their operations.
As a result, many manufacturers are overwhelmed. If all you do is grab data without a business purpose, you’re bound to feel disoriented.
This is especially the case when it comes to energy data in the industrial sector.
Big data isn’t the issue here, but trying to manage big energy data without the expertise that analyzes and assesses the numbers so they’re coherently and cohesively linked to overall manufacturing decision-making is a definite and decided issue.
Many industrial companies simply are gathering statistics, but they’re not leveraging the data like, say, Optimum Energy, whose Opticx System streamlines HVAC system operations, or Siemens’ Energy Analytics, which generates intelligent reports and analytics by experts in energy data management and energy efficiency. In the long run, these types of solutions will help organizations and enterprises blend operational efficiency with energy efficiency.
To move in this direction, manufacturers must take the energy data that’s at their disposal and ask themselves four key questions:
- What are my key performance indicators (KPIs), and are they the right ones?
- What’s a good energy consumption baseline for my company and my specific industry?
- What’s driving my energy costs?
- When it comes to energy usage, where do I have flexibility in controlling usage?
Once these questions about energy consumption are addressed, manufacturers must find solutions that will help them analyze and make holistic use of their big energy data. This requires a common repository and cutting-edge applications.
This thought process usually leads to the realization among plant managers and industrial executives that energy costs are an integral part of overall operational finances and that these costs demand thorough analysis to achieve optimal savings and efficiency in a factory, plant or facility.
Put another way, energy is a central evaluation lens through which manufacturing executives can examine and improve all their business processes.
From a technology standpoint, we’ve laid the groundwork but haven’t fulfilled the vision. We still need the next generation of holistic applications that seamlessly integrate manufacturing operations and energy availability and pricing. We also need enterprise resource planning that incorporates energy as a component and managed cost.
These last steps won’t be achieved easily. The idea of a single repository for big energy data isn’t small or simple, either. And as so many manufacturing leaders know, unifying across a company is exceedingly complex.
That’s why my best advice is to take each facility’s energy data and analyze it with full context of energy pricing and availability. Then, energy use can become part of the manufacturing decision-making process.
Put another way, optimize each facility within itself and put in energy management controls. Then, optimize it within the greater smart grid context, taking in pricing and event signals. Eventually, the Internet of Things will drive end-to-end optimization from energy generation to consumption in balance with manufacturing needs.
Your ability to gain rich intelligence from big energy data will grow exponentially. By that time, your full industrial operation will be tied tightly to the powerful Internet of Things, and you’ll be able to leverage the increasing communications touch points, as well as the interconnectedness of machinery and control systems.
All of this will help your business attain sharp efficiencies that are clearly reflected in your financial results.
Kevin Klustner is CEO of Powerit Solutions, an international energy management technology company based in Seattle that strives to make the smart grid real, profitable and effortless for utilities and energy-intensive businesses.
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