The Energy Management Value

March 20, 2017
With a careful plan-do-check-act methodology in place, you can achieve continuous improvements as well as bigger long-term goals.

It is not so easy to understand what people mean with when they talk about energy management software—what its scope is, what people’s expectations are, and how the software could help companies generate value.

To explain Autoware’s approach to energy management software, it’s useful to start from the international ISO 50001 guidelines on energy management. Working toward the goal of continuous improvement, the approach focuses on achieving continuous small upgrades in short periods of time to achieve more, and more important upgrades happen in the long run.

This cycle is realized with the plan-do-check-act methodology:

  • Plan: At this stage, we analyze the current state of the company energy usage. We identify areas for improvement and define plans of investment.
  • Do: We start implementing this plan on a small scale. For example, if we want to replace pumps or motors with new technologies, we do that in a test factory or department.
  • Check: Real energy performance improvements, CO2 emissions, cost-effectiveness and more are monitored during the trial period.
  • Act: If we achieve positive results, then we plan to deploy at full scale what we have done during the Do step (for example, we plan to change all pumps and engines).

The plan-do-check-act cycle is repeated several times, creating continuous improvements (as noted above).

How does the energy management software become part of this approach? What can it do? The software is necessary during Plan and Check stages, but can also be useful during the Do and Act stages.

During the Plan phase, it’s important to collect electronically the energy consumption data, which can be accessed with powerful and easy-to-use graphic tools. The availability of graphics, tabular reports and pivot tables makes it quick and easy to identify areas you need to pay more attention to. You can compare data from different sites, break down information based on the different data types (lighting, utilities, air conditioning, etc.), and analyze energy KPIs by integrating production data (kilowatt-hours per unit of production).

The availability of automatically generated, preconfigured reports makes it possible to access the information in the most common and effective format, making it easy to promptly analyze them as needed.

During the Do stage, reporting tools allow you to monitor the results of the tests and tune them to your the goals.

During the Check stage, it’s important to compare the energy usage data from before and after the Do stage. It’s also important to have data in a digital format so that you can analyze with graphic tools, using trends and pivot tables, to evaluate how they changed and estimate the savings achieved and compare with your goals.

In the Act stage, reporting allows you to monitor energy usage variation while you deploy on a large scale what you tested in the Check phase, to monitor continuously the progressive achievement of the targets.

An example of this approach is a project we implemented for a well-known Italian food company, where we monitored about 2,000 energy meters (electricity, water and gas) installed in 12 different sites. The device types are different, requiring different acquisition methodologies and fault management strategies.

A central server hosts the software infrastructure, both the application and historian, which stores the data coming from each plant in a single central database. These data are elaborated and, using Microsoft SQL Server, stored in a structure that is optimized to access and analyze them starting from the plant level, and moving down to the area level, line level or single device level. All the data can be analyzed up to a 15-minute resolution, but typically are reported on a day or shift basis. Energy usage can be correlated even with production data.

Using a standard web browser, the data can be accessed from all sites, through an HTML5-based application and Microsoft Reporting Services. Each user can set up its own reports and save the templates to facilitate access to the most commonly used reports or make them available to everybody.

In every plant, there’s a local data concentrator to communicate with the devices and store them locally in case of a fault in the geographical network, which connects each site to the central server. From this station, users can access an application that allows both data analysis or system configuration.

Last but not least, an important exception management system allows the data to be filtered and/or retrieved automatically when a measurement device is changed or any other technical problem occurs. In case automatic retrieval is not possible, it notifies users and enables a manual recover operation to guarantee that energy managers have access to reliable data, and maintenance managers have tools to diagnose and manage technical issues in the field.

Marco Faltracco is senior software engineer at Autoware, a certified Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) member based in Vicenza, Italy. For more information about Autoware, visit the Autoware profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.