Dying of Thirst in a Sea of Metrics
Metrics – no, not millimeters, liters, and hectares. Production metrics! Production lines can often be a maze of conveyors and large equipment performing many different processes while consuming tons of energy. Due to the high energy intensity, end users often target their production lines for efficiency improvement projects. But how can efficiency improvement projects be quantified when a production line consists of many different pieces of interconnected equipment? With so much equipment and potential data sources, where should customers even begin?
Due to the sheer number of components, production lines offer a vast ocean of data points to measure and track. However, it is difficult and expensive to measure everything. The key is to measure what’s actually important. Customers may track metrics to maintain desired productivity levels and minimize product waste. An added benefit is reduction in energy consumption through production efficiency projects. One of the first key metrics to track is the amount of production (e.g. linear feet, pounds, widgets, etc.) for each production line. Usually, overall production metrics are routinely tracked in facilities on a weekly or monthly basis; however, such monitoring practices may not be fully implemented at the production line level. The second step would include tracking each process by electrical or gas usage for each production line. This could be cooling tons, motor power, compressed air flow, hot water usage, among many others.
Utilizing the Metrics
Production metrics are especially useful when considering a production efficiency improvement project. Production efficiency can be defined as the energy input divided by the unit of output. Examples of production efficiency may include kilowatt hours (kWh) per unit produced or therms per unit produced.
Historical production data can be used to develop a baseline efficiency for the existing production line(s). A baseline production efficiency cannot be calculated if there is not sufficient historical production and energy use records to indicate what a typical year of production looks like. While it may seem detailed, it gives energy folks (both consultants and internal staff) the tools they need to be able to accurately monitor and asses energy usage. In addition to tracking energy usage, it also allows the internal staff to identify and quantify potential production efficiency projects.
Recording and monitoring production and energy related metrics also enables internal staff to identify any potential problems when the production efficiency significantly changes. If the production has been constant but the energy usage increased, it may indicate a potential equipment problem and corrective action can be taken in order to fix the problem.
Turning Metrics into Savings
Energy consultants find historical production and energy usage metrics extremely useful to calculate energy and monetary savings when determining the feasibility of a production efficiency project. The historical data can provide quantifiable savings because without hard numbers on dollar savings, senior management is unlikely to approve capital budgets. But the usefulness of this type of data for every day operations should not be overlooked. Facility managers are always looking for ways to improve their operations. Without a method to get the information they need, they’ll be unable to harness the vast quantities of data they float through every day.