Optimising energy usage and reducing costs



 

A system integrator, contracted by the management of a local softdrink bottling company, provided a solution which resulted in a dramatic reduction in the plant’s energy costs and improved the visibility of the costs associated with the bottling company’s production processes. This article describes how that was achieved.

Recognising the need for an effective energy management strategy, Coca-Cola Swaziland decided to investigate possible options. The management hired a system integrator, Systems Anywhere Coastal, and instructed it to provide a solution which would reduce the bottling plant’s energy costs by 20% in the first year, while improving the visibility of costs associated with the production processes.

To achieve these targets, the company first needed to overcome the challenges of moving from an old business model which took a holistic view of energy cost to one which considers actual energy usage; and ensuring that energy users in the bottling plant were empowered to make decisions which would give them control of situations in the plant.

Defining energy management

While there are many definitions for energy management, they mostly focus on either maximising profits or minimising costs through lower energy consumption.

However, it’s rare to see actual practical examples of how one actually goes about achieving such lofty goals because the solution is usually a great deal more complex than simply switching off something when it’s not in use.

Fig. 1: System topology.

There are no best practice guides for specific industries and usually, insofar as electricity is concerned, only the incoming supply is measured and the data often disappears into storage rarely to be seen again. Monitoring systems tend to only provide historical analysis tools and don’t offer any control functions. But electricity isn’t the only cost: the plant also uses air, steam, water, and gas.

Where to start

Before diving in and installing technology, the system integrator had to ensure that the bottling company’s management understood that energy management involves a culture change in the company and a different way of looking at the broader picture.

Fortunately the management was willing to accept and understand the fundamentals long before the project started. These fundamentals included instilling an energy efficiency culture through executive leadership, goal reviews, etc., and then to undertake the following:

  • Track energy performance for all operations
  • Extend energy accountability to the line/shift/product level rather than in the catch-all “overheads” basket
  • Monitor the performance of assets and technology choices
  • Measure the effectiveness of the facility’s location
  • Balance more assured returns of energy project investments against lower initial returns in the long term

Taking a longer and broader view about strategic decisions

Energy can be seen as a lever for positive growth and change within the business, not simply a cost. It is possible to make the most of the strategic value of energy by thinking in terms of “embedded energy” and “energy productivity.”

Creating awareness about the way energy is managed, procured and used

Companies need to be innovative and aggressive in pursuing and publicising new product and service offerings based on new energy technologies and suppliers.

Creating contingent strategies for emergent future scenarios

This involves rehearsing specific aspects of the future, including substantial and sustained swings in energy price and supply, severe weather events and penalties or incentives around energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. It also means actively managing exposure to risks, and readying plans to take full advantage of what the future brings and which “road ahead” is emerging.

Taking personal action

Corporate leaders can take a number of “to-do” actions today for tomorrow. All can be taken individually, in companies, on corporate boards and across industry.

Evolving from ISO 14001 to ISO 50001

Whereas ISO 14001:2004 specifies requirements for an environmental management system, ISO 50001:2011 specifies requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining and improving an energy management system, whose purpose is to enable an organisation to follow a systematic approach in achieving continual improvement of energy performance, including energy efficiency, energy use and consumption.

Corporate objectives

To achieve a reduction in energy consumption by 20% in one year, the company needed to formulate a series of strategic initiatives which would enlist the commitment of corporate management and create employee awareness while helping to meet departmental targets and investing in tools which could assist with energy management.

One of the most important initiatives was to form a focus group to drive down energy costs. Wiseman Magagula, the automation engineer at Coca-Cola Swaziland, says that the company changed the priority to reducing energy cost rather than energy usage. He explains that if a process requires 500 kWh there is not a lot that can be done about it apart from perhaps shaving off 5% of the energy used, while by changing the production times to non-peak hours, costs could be reduced significantly. This just goes to show that energy cost need not be dependent on energy usage, he says.

Fig. 2: Two sections of the InTouch screen showing the plant overview (top) with demand displayed at the top right corner, and plant areas (bottom) with access tabs to
other areas as well as water steam and air status.

The company found that it needed to formulate a series of tactical initiatives which would optimise energy usage on the shop floor. These would include charging forklifts and running cold rooms only during off-peak periods, running the dust extractors only during working hours and basing lights and air-conditioning on the presence of workers in the area.

Increasing visibility into the factory and other processes became important, as did enable limited, non-intrusive control functions for certain processes.

Implementation

The system integrator selected a range of software solutions from the Invensys Wonderware stable.

Paul Kotze, a senior software engineer at Systems Anywhere Coastal, says that the company was pioneering the vendor’s corporate energy management (CEM) package implementation with version 1.2 of the software using the water, steam, air and power modules, which fits into the supplier’s system platform environment and is an “off the shelf” product which has multiple metering options.

The solution enables real-time visibility of the usage and cost of energy and makes data available to any delivery vehicle.

When the first results were made available they came as a shock because this was the first time that measurements included data from sources other than the mains supply. The company was initially dubious about the veracity of the results – having its own ideas about usage and cost – and did not accept these initial figures, Kotze says.

However, once the results had been verified by the Swaziland Electricity Company, achieving a discrepancy of less than 1%, the management saw the benefits of the system.

Improving visibility

The system keeps operators informed on the exact real-time status of the plant and its various departments while management is kept informed on their smart phones via a mobile reporting facility. This real-time information availability allows for the study of cause-and-effect scenarios which were previously invisible.

Results

The improved visibility into energy usage and cost per plant and subsection, together with the implementation of smarter energy usage and cost control protocols, resulted in a reduction in energy consumption.

Gaining the ability to control high energy operations to take place during low-cost periods and having the staff be immediately aware of their immediate impact on energy cost resulted in a tighter grip on corporate departmental budgets and targets.

Conclusion

Passive monitoring of energy usage is never going to achieve the desired results – energy needs to be controlled and the only way to do that is to incorporate it into the manufacturing process.

Energy can be regarded as a raw material, just like any other, which is transformed by the process into added-value goods. To that degree, it can be accurately allocated to the manufacturing costs of individual items if necessary and that level of knowledge empowers people to make the right decisions and take control rather than being the victims of soaring costs.

Contact Lebohang Thokoane, Schneider Electric, Tel 011 254-6400, lebohang.thokoane@schneider-electric.com

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