New ways automakers are leveraging power monitoring to drive down manufacturing plant costs

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In automotive manufacturing, electricity makes up the majority of total energy cost compared to natural gas, water and other purchased fuels. Electricity is crucial for important processes such as painting, facility lighting, HVAC, compressed air and welding. When you also consider that it costs automakers on average $22,000/min for manufacturing downtime, it’s no wonder that these companies are looking for ways to keep their electricity costs down and to ensure their utilities provide reliable, high quality power.

Using metering to double-check utility bills

On average, 80% of companies are overcharged on utility expenses through calculation errors and discrepancies billed by the utility providers. Those most affected by utility billing mistakes are large industrial sites that consume a lot of energy, like automotive manufacturing plants. The financial impact can be significant. It has been found that utilities can easily overcharge these types of sites more than $100,000 in a single billing mistake. Unfortunately, companies that operate large industrial facilities typically pay their bills without any understanding that they may be overpaying due to billing errors.

This is what one international automaker discovered after implementing an EcoStruxure™ Power system that allowed them to audit their electricity bills each month, checking each line item for discrepancies.

The project combined both Schneider Electric hardware and software:Power Monitoring

  • PowerLogic ION9000 Class 0.1S revenue grade power meters were installed on the plant’s two main incomers to serve as “utility shadow meters.” They connect directly to the plant’s local area network via Ethernet TCP/IP communication ports.
  • EcoStruxure Power Monitoring Expert software was installed on an IT-managed virtual machine in the plant. The software collects highly accurate interval energy, demand and power factor readings from the shadow meters, and generates its own utility shadow bills, which are emailed to local staff.
  • Local staff was trained to modify and administer the shadow billing reports.

The software-generated shadow bills feature line items identical to those in the utility bills, so individual charges were easily compared for discrepancies. The installation paid for itself in less than two years, as staff identified issues with:

  • Double billing
  • Wrong multipliers
  • Inaccurately applied power factor adjustment surcharges

Monitoring the quality of utility-supplied power

In an effort to understand and mitigate both internal and utility PQ problems, one global automaker turned to EcoStruxure Power management system for 24/7 visibility into the quality that flows in and throughout the plant. This installation included:

  • PowerLogic ION9000 power quality instruments on both of the plant’s main incomers, connected via Ethernet to the plant’s production LAN. These devices are pre-configured to capture a range of PQ disturbances.
  • Power Monitoring Expert software installed on a VM computer in the IT building. The software sends alarm notifications to designated personnel if PQ anomalies are detected entering or leaving the plant. It also is pre-configured to automatically upload PQ events and waveform data, rendering it as meaningful PQ incidents.
  • Local facility engineering staff was trained to configure, administer and manage the meters’ PQ alarms, and in how to use a range of specialized software features.

With the utility now aware the plant has an EcoStruxure Power management system, the relationship with the utility has actually improved, and the manufacturing facility receives better service from them. The utility now notifies the plant’s electrical engineer before they perform any switching or maintenance in the nearby area –nd the plant has enjoyed less downtime because they are now able to proactively manage the quality and reliability of the power they receive from their utility.

How metering can help your plant succeed

Visit Schneider Electric EcoStruxure for Automotive and download our “Applications for Automotive Guide,” for more success stories and ideas for how our solutions can help cut your energy costs and improve plant operations.

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