Digital Power Management and Services Ensure Factories Run Efficiently in Challenging Times

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Power-critical and energy-intensive industrial businesses worldwide are fighting a battle unlike anything they have seen before. As they face these challenges, digitization, power management, and service partnerships can help keep electrical infrastructures running safely, continuously, and efficiently.

The pandemic has created a lingering global economic impact. In a recent survey of economists by the National Association for Business Economics, “almost half said they didn’t expect US GDP to completely rebound until at least the second half of 2022.” From food and beverage, to packaged goods, pharmaceuticals, and oil and gas, most industries have had to manage through an extremely difficult time. As restaurants and hotels were forced to close their doors, demand for those sectors fell. In cases where demand has been maintained or even increased – such as for medical products or consumer goods due to increased eCommerce spending – supply chains have often been overwhelmed. In response to public health need, some plants retooled to produce health and safety related products.

As pandemic cases decrease in some regions, restrictions have been relaxed and facilities are reopening under strict health protocols. As consumer and business product demand normalizes, manufacturing and processing plants are restarting or ramping up. Now the challenge is determining how to get going quickly and keep going.

Power management for factories

The New Factory Reality

Your organization may be contending with limited capacity to host employees on-premise. Many companies have lost experienced facility management or engineering staff through retirement or downsizing. You might also be forced to startup operations with part-time employees, while pandemic protocols may limit facility access, requiring some employees to work offsite.

These factors have resulted in fewer people with less expertise having to maintain facilities, sometimes remotely, while having an equal or greater scope of responsibility. In fact, the combination of surviving a recession and standing up to continued competition means you need to sharpen your focus on improving operational efficiency, sustainability, and resilience – while keeping your people safe. Because energy is the lifeblood of your factory, electrical power management is fundamental to achieving these goals while serving your customers and protecting your profits.

However, these initiatives can be a big challenge for the stretched resources of your facility team. Digitization offers a solution to this problem. As Kate Smaje of McKinsey Digital describes it, “the road to recovery is paved with data. Data is providing the fuel to power better and faster decisions. High-performing organizations are three times more likely than others to say their data and analytics initiatives have contributed at least 20 percent to EBIT (from 2016–19).”

Digitized, Simplified Power Management

For decades now, industrial automation has been experiencing a digital transformation. Automation is helping to drive efficiency, reliability, and safety for machines and people. Power infrastructures can also now be affordably modernized. Fully digitizing your electrical network will leverage intelligent, IoT-enabled connected devices that deliver rich power, energy, and other data from across one or more facilities.

This ‘big data’ is converted into actionable information by advanced power analytic applications, hosted onsite or in the cloud. These insights make it simpler for facility teams to protect people and assets, keep operations running, and save time and money. Here are a few examples:

  • Optimize reliability to achieve greater uptime. Receive mobile alarm notifications of abnormal conditions, then use power forensics to isolate causes and recover from outages quickly. Simplify power quality monitoring and analysis to comply with standards and protect sensitive equipment. Simplify testing and reporting for backup power systems.
  • Optimize safety. Remotely monitor and operate breakers to minimize exposure to arc-flash risk and avoid safety hazards.
  • Optimize equipment performance and maintenance. Monitor equipment performance to support proactive maintenance to save costs, avoid failures, and extend lifespan. Track system capacity to avoid overloads and failures and reveal unused capacity to help avoid unnecessary upgrades or overbuilding.
  • Optimize energy consumption and costs. Correlate manufacturing processes to energy usage (e.g. energy consumed during process idling, process starved of parts, etc.). Compare energy efficiency across buildings, plants, process lines, or loads, then identify opportunities to improve and validate savings. Avoid power factor or peak demand penalties. Allocate costs to departments or processes. Identify billing errors. Track energy performance indicators (EnPI) per ISO50006 and comply with energy efficiency and green building standards.

All monitoring and analysis functionality can be accessed remotely to support your offsite personnel. With this connectivity, cyber security is critical. Seek a power management solution provider that follows a comprehensive set of cyber security standards and best practices. Cybersecurity doesn’t stop at the link from the device to the cloud. It is dependent on solid design and testing that bridges the entire process from concept to long-term support.

Partnering for Success

These new digital tools will help a facility team keep on top of conditions, address risks, and take advantage of opportunities. However, if you have a small team, especially one with any knowledge gaps in regard to the applications above, you may need the support of a good partner.

Cloud-based power management applications can act as a portal to advisory services that enable you to do more with less. Expert service personnel will help you manage your infrastructure so you can focus resources on your core mission.

Advisors will help you to assess needs and set effective power management strategies. They will also validate that the integrity of the data coming from your digital network so you can depend on it. Using advanced analytic tools, experts will help you catch issues before they become problems, then propose solutions, prioritize actions to maximize the efficiency of maintenance teams, and follow up to ensure all issues are resolved. A true partner is able to link data with context about your operational priorities, producing actionable insights to help accelerate your business.

As part of our EcoStruxure™ Power platform, our award-winning EcoStruxure Power Monitoring Expert software is purpose-built to help power-critical and energy-intensive facilities maximize uptime and operational efficiency. EcoStruxure Power Advisor offers a proactive, analytics-based service for your power management system, combining expert advice with advanced algorithms to ensure data quality and help you achieve optimized energy performance and power reliability.

In future posts, we’ll dive deeper into some of the applications listed above.

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  • James DiLiberto

    4 years ago

    Very well-written article, especially when mentioning how important Cybersecurity is in Digital Power applications.

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