By Dan Sullivan, Head of Sales and Marketing at Gazprom Energy
Manufacturing businesses account for a significant proportion of the UK’s energy consumption, with data from National Statistics ranking the sector as the country’s third-biggest energy consumer. And this makes sense, given the energy-intensive equipment and infrastructure on which manufacturers rely.
But as the government continues to make strides towards hitting its environmental targets, how can manufacturers ensure their energy use doesn’t breach current and future consumption legislation? And make savings as a result?
To help manufacturing firms boost their efficiency, we’re sharing some helpful insight and advice on how manufacturers can operate as efficiently as possible.
Develop an energy management team
Depending on the size of your organisation, it can be difficult to oversee and track energy usage across the business – meaning you risk missing out on potential savings. To counter this, creating an energy management team responsible for monitoring how and where energy is used can help shine a light on wastage, enabling you to save in key areas.
Select a handful of senior personnel from each area of your business to work as your energy management team. Their task is to track day-to-day usage, reporting on inefficiencies while actively exploring new processes and approaches which will generate energy savings.
When briefing your energy management team, be clear on your objectives and highlight the positive impact their actions will have on the wider business. In some cases, it can be helpful to incentivise personnel, with recognition for those whose recommendations lead to the biggest energy savings in any given period.
And remember, for help managing energy consumption and spotting inefficiencies, be sure to lean on your supplier for support on areas of focus and how best to implement changes. Their expertise, insights and industry knowledge can lead to cost savings and improved efficiency in key areas, so it pays to partner with a supplier whose service you can trust.
Explore how your business uses energy at a granular level
As a manufacturing firm, you may be used to a significant expenditure on energy bills – but don’t be complacent. If, for example, your operation has gone unchanged for years, and your bills reflect this, perhaps it’s time to explore new ways to cut costs and reduce your overheads.
One of the very best ways to discover potential energy savings is with a granular view of your consumption. Automated meter reading (AMR) technology gives you this, highlighting peaks and troughs in energy use at 15-minute intervals, to provide absolute clarity over when and how your business consumes gas and electricity.
With the insight offered by AMR, you can use this to develop an energy efficiency strategy. Target areas where energy is at its peak and ask why it’s high and if it can be lowered. Then, think about down-time, and the potential inefficiencies associated with shutdown and standby periods.
Get a handle on equipment management and shutdown processes
Many manufacturing firms rely on technology 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with equipment whirring away around the clock. This is part of the reason why manufacturers account for such high energy consumption, and why many may find it difficult to seek out potential energy savings.
There are, however, some ways in which businesses can look to make essential energy savings. As touched on above, AMR technology offers detailed insight into energy usage – information you can use to strategise the shutdown process. By powering off equipment for just a short time during off-peak periods, the savings can be sizeable, with a marked reduction in energy wastage and the potential for a significant reduction in bills.
It’s also worth considering peak demand charges, which are calculated by your energy provider and reflect the 15-minute period when your business uses the most energy. Is there a particular time of the day when equipment use hits a peak? Could this consumption be staggered or adjusted to reduce peak demand charges for a set period?
Manage furnace performance and usage
Does your business rely on a furnace? If so, it’s likely to be the single biggest energy consumer on your premises, so it pays to make sure it’s used as efficiently as possible.
Carry out an energy audit of your furnace by monitoring how it’s used; referring to the original operating conditions and specification, look at whether your furnace is being used within the correct and most efficient parameters – are there opportunities to reduce how much it costs to run?
Often, servicing and maintenance gaps may be responsible for drops in furnace efficiency, so always make sure it’s maintained in line with manufacturer recommendations.
Get your house in order
Even in an energy-intensive manufacturing environment, small changes can make a difference, so don’t overlook the simple adjustments which shave pounds and pence off your overall energy bill.
Begin by reviewing your current workplace energy practices, auditing aspects such as lighting, heating and the use of doors and windows. Are there any obvious areas for improvement? If so, your energy management team will be key to ensuring they’re resolved.
Next, reinforce the importance of energy saving to your personnel. This can take the form of a newsletter, presentation or the introduction of signs reminding people to turn off lights and turn the thermostat down where possible. Utilise technology and knowledge-sharing platforms to help spread the message and ensure that all departments are aware of key energy changes. It may also help to incentivise personnel, offering rewards to departments whose actions save the most energy, for example.
Finally, ensure that your plant, factory and industrial buildings are serviced and maintained regularly. Any infrastructural defects, such as door and window seals, can compromise the efficiency of your whole operation – so regular maintenance is critical to keeping costs and wastage down.
Simple changes like these may sound rudimentary, but they could hold the key to energy savings for manufacturing organisations.