Green Automation: Getting There from Here

Are you committed to making your plant Green?

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Are you prepared to address the environmental sustainability and climate change issues confronting your industry? Are you concerned about how much it will cost to reach your objectives?

“Yes,” you say, “because it is good business and good for business”—a win-win: for your plant and for your bottom line. And it’s good for the planet. After all, Green automation is tied to the study and practice of efficient and eco-friendly use of systems, controls and related resources.

But where to begin? The answer is to assess your opportunities, identify your lowest hanging fruit, set priorities and implement change from the plant floor to the top floor. Perhaps your lowest hanging fruit is in a program to address your motor electrical efficiency, or perhaps you can get the most benefit from addressing an inefficient steam boiler system.

The benefits of taking a proactive stance are far-reaching, impacting total cost of operation, return on investment and continuous improvement practices, and expanding energy-saving opportunities, reducing carbon emissions and optimizing Lean Manufacturing practices.

Modern automation systems rely upon a complicated mix of people, products and networks, which means they must be systemic in nature, and address increasingly sophisticated problems.

Green automation solutions can make an impact across the board, addressing areas as diverse as:
• Energy efficiency
• Regulatory compliance
• Carbon output
• Total operational costs
• Product profitability.

Where to start?

As with all things, the hardest question is assessing where to start. It is an especially critical question in 2009, as companies eager to tackle Green automation are confronted by an uncertain economy, new regulatory compliance legislation and increased stakeholder pressure. It is a business landscape further complicated by an engineering staff depleted by worker cutbacks and, even more critical, the retirement of Baby Boomers, who are taking with them years of experience and knowledge.

How, then, to move forward, confidently, with a Green automation initiative? How to plan, prioritize and proceed, and monitor, manage and measure, to ensure your investment here? There are, certainly, many options outside your company, from automation vendors and distributors to architectural engineering and construction firms, and control system integrators. These options are influenced by companies’ understanding of how to find, evaluate, select and work with a partner for such a task.

For large and/or complex projects, a professional system integration company with expertise in Green solutions is probably a wise choice. Seek a partner that knows your process, your priorities, your local regulatory requirements, and that will listen to your needs. The top companies in this market have listened to their customers and have invested in ways to assist their customers.

At some integrators, in fact, Green energy solutions have become so pervasive that separate engineering teams dedicated solely to Green energy initiatives have been put in place. Along with general energy consulting services, focus areas may include disciplines such as Green steam system efficiency management, Green electric motor efficiency management and Green building automation systems.

However, while many control system integrators could be the best choice for your company to design, develop, implement and support an automation makeover, finding the right integrator who can do so in a Green manner should be done deliberately. There are Green “performers” and Green “pretenders.”

Martin Michael, mmichael@avanceon.com, is Vice President of Avanceon, an Exton, Pa.-based solution provider to industrial and manufacturing companies worldwide. Avanceon is a CSIA Certified Member.
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