The Future of Energy Management in Manufacturing

By Steven Brand

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the energy consumption of the U.S. manufacturing sector increased by 3.7% from 2010 to 2014. The increase seems insignificant, but uncontrolled and further increases can pose additional challenges to energy management in manufacturing.

Integrating Data

Industry leaders are embracing data as the future of energy efficiency. Sharon Nolen, manager of Eastman Chemical Company’s Worldwide Energy Program, shares her data-driven energy program that helped the company improve its energy efficiency by 9% since 2008 and save $30 million in one year alone.
It has 5 components each extensively using data to monitor and analyze business processes for more informed decision-making:

  • Employee energy awareness
  • Data on energy efficiency measurement
  • Governmental assistance that allows firms to share energy-saving ideas
  • A centralized approach for uniform implementation throughout all departments in the company
  • Budget for energy projects


Robots, Sensors, Drones, Wearables, and Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT has gone mainstream in many operations and is making inroads in energy management for manufacturing. IoT energy monitoring devices require smart energy sensors and a fair amount of machine to machine (M2M) feedback for better analytics and consumption of human users. Wearables are convenient tools for managers to monitor their employees’ location and how they’re consuming energy.

Robots were first used in high-volume production, but are now finding more roles in small and medium-size industries. Together with sensors, wearables, drones, and other IoT devices, these machines are revolutionizing manufacturing by performing production tasks that humans are less capable of doing, such as improved precision, sensing, dexterity, memory, and programmability.

Aetos Group President, Aaron Cook, uses drones to monitor chemical plants as part of the company’s technology-enabled asset protection offerings. In a panel discussion at the 2016 eChemExpo, Cook boldly predicted that drones will make surveillance runs in plants to monitor energy consumption. Data collected is displayed in a visualized reporting engine that triggers the automated alerting system and recommends efficiency improvement steps that need to be taken.

Cisco has developed an energy management solution that provides full visibility into power usage, power analytics, and device management to reduce consumption according to demand changes, utility bill analysis, carbon emissions, and other relevant data.

The company recently launched a pilot project at Flextronics in Penang, Malaysia to monitor the energy consumption of diverse devices. This initiative is expected to save an estimated 20%-30% in energy usage for the company.

Investing in Renewable Energy

Fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal dominate energy sources, but efforts from all sectors are being pursued to add a mix of renewable energy into their energy systems. Energy management is not only about reducing costs, but helping to create a cleaner environment.

The EIA projects that solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources will account for 9% of total electricity generation in 2017. While sun, wind, and geological “hot rocks” are available in abundance at low cost, the methods of processing them for energy consumption may have some effect on the environment, but not as much as the impact fossil fuels contribute to air and water pollution, damage to public health, wildlife and habitat loss, and global warming.

Energy management in manufacturing is all the more important to optimize energy consumption by taking radical approaches in redesigning production systems and adopting transformative manufacturing strategies.

The future of energy management depends primarily on the strategies of energy managers, as well as all those involved throughout the supply chain.

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