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Every plant manager wonders how they can bring down costs. Energy is one way that is always being looked at, but without some help, a lot of potential savings (and costs) can be missed. Having spent many years working with and managing plants, as well as partnering with some of the best energy auditors in the business, I thought I'd share some of the most missed costs that are driving up energy bills in manufacturing.
  • Power Factor - This one is one of the most overlooked ones I've ever found. The reason is that it is easy to miss and can be difficult to understand. Basically there are two types of billing; kilowatts (kW) and kilo-volt-amps (kVA). Most folks pay attention to the kilowatts as that is the easiest to understand. But inefficiency can lead to a a lopsided ratio between the two and add a lot to your energy bills.
  • Compressed Air - We all have used compressed air for a variety of tasks. It can be used quickly for cleaning, saving us a bit of time. But what a lot of people don't realize is how it is used and maintained can have a big impact on your energy bill. A few simple changes in behavior and maintenance can deliver a lot of savings.
  • Lighting - You may think this one isn't so "hidden." Just change your lighting to more energy efficient bulbs and you are finished, right? This helps, but it isn't the end of the story. Lighting placement as well as timing and scheduling can have big impacts on your energy bottom line too.
  • Refrigeration - Not all of us have to deal with issues of refrigeration, but for those of us who do, it can have a big impact on our monthly energy bills. Under utilizing the latest in what available in refrigeration tech can lead to an increase of anywhere between 15 and 30 percent on what you are paying for keeping those things cold. An update can pay for itself.
  • Water - We have to pay to get water in our plant and we have to pay to get that same water out when we are done. This too can have a big influence on what we are paying in monthly energy costs. Because water costs are often assumed to just be "baked into the cake" many times efficiency improvements are overlooked. But in reality, making some basic changes can have an impact of anywhere 10 to 50 percent cost reductions in this area.
The truth is we often need to get some expert help to find out these areas where we can save on energy. I love connecting plant managers with people who help them find these savings. I also occasionally am able to help with funding to help conduct these audits.
The bottom line, though is almost all plants can find enough savings to justify at least taking a look at how they are using energy. I encourage you all to do so. Hope this helps you all get more efficient and save on your bottom line.
Troy Wildermuth
Director of Manufacturing, Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership