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  EFFECTIVE ENERGY MANAGEMENT PROVIDES KEY TO SURMOUNTING PRESSURES IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY

22  May  2013

  Increased competitive pressures, tighter margins and rising energy costs are forcing manufacturers to alter their methods of operation. At the same time, new ways of managing energy consumption and quality through sophisticated power monitoring tools have emerged – providing the information that companies need to be able to take action to reduce energy usage. In short, effective energy management is no longer an option; it is a strategic business necessity. Mark Staples, food and beverage segment manager for Industry at Schneider Electric highlights the approach to integrated energy management.

By 2020 it is predicted that the earth’s population will have swollen to around 8 billion people1, meaning that food and beverage manufacturers are facing a significant challenge of producing enough food to meet the world’s growing need. To add to the pressure, the UK’s manufacturers have also been tasked with reducing their energy consumption by 20 per cent. 

Mounting pressure to become more sustainable means that many manufacturers are now seeking solutions that will enable them to lower energy usage but maintain flexible production standards – all while meeting health and safety guidelines. 

So what solutions can energy management specialists, such as Schneider Electric offer to alleviate this pressure on manufacturers?

Within the industry, the term ‘Overall Equipment Effectiveness’ or OEE, is a recognised key measurement of efficiency and is based on three main factors: performance, availability and quality. With the increasing focus on reducing energy consumption, we believe that there is an argument to now include energy within the equation – resulting in what could be termed Overall Equipment Effectiveness plus Energy Management (OEE+E).

In today’s tough economic climate, end-users now expect control systems to go beyond functional and regulatory performance. They have now become a tool to manage the plant while reducing energy and overhead costs, cutting carbon emissions and providing quick and precise information that moulds both production and business strategies. Additionally, increasingly complex software, such as Schneider Electric’s Ampla Express, can now be introduced to a plant, enabling end-users to collate all of their energy related data onto a single platform, offering them an easier way to analyse energy consumption. 

As a way of improving efficiencies, manufacturers should consider automating processes that currently operate manually. By doing so, it is possible to reduce human error and make significant cost savings for the company; a vital consideration in today’s challenging market. Further to this, automation allows for better repeatability, so particularly for the food industry, both the recipe and the actual production process can be automated and controlled, ensuring that all products look and taste the same every time, therefore helping to reduce food waste as raw ingredients become scarcer. 

Over the past decade, the adoption of Ethernet-based control networks and commercial off-the-shelf hardware, components and operating systems have improved the way the systems in place communicate. This provides end-users with the flexibility, choice and predictability necessary to achieve a truly energy efficient manufacturing plant. By upgrading to a fully integrated solution - incorporating both the energy management and automation system with the operation management applications - it is possible to make vast improvements to a site’s OEE+E.

Finally, for a food manufacturer to lower running costs while reducing energy consumption, they must employ a flexible automation system that is capable of reacting to changing energy costs. The price of energy can vary significantly at different times of the day, as well as geographically. While manufacturers may be using a process automation system to manage energy consumption, if they are using too much energy at the wrong times of the day, both costs and emissions will remain high. 

In response to market demand for a collaborative system, Schneider Electric introduced PlantStruxure - a process automation system which includes a range of production management software solutions. Once implemented, a solution such as PlantStruxure can help to keep unexpected downtime to a minimum, lower production costs, and help to ensure that energy reduction targets are met.

This effectively reduces waste and helps companies comply with the heavy environmental regulations which govern today’s food and beverage industry. Businesses that operate an open and collaborative production environment that embraces standards can enjoy significant energy efficiency benefits. It is time for manufacturers to look to a top-down approach to achieving a high OEE+E rating, to ensure that their systems are flexible, sustainable, energy efficient and withstand the test of time.

For more information please visit www.schneider-electric.com/uk
   
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