Nowadays, selling energy efficiency is a challenge along with sustainable manufacturing and green initiatives. The innumerable oil and gas supplies coupled with moderate pricing don’t make it easier either. Hence, utility companies and regulators continue to encourage industrial users along the efficiency path, through relevant offerings.
Energy consumption is barely factored as a consideration when utility items are installed in organizations to improve worker comfort. Utilities like fans consume immense electricity compared to a compressor. Comfortable workers likely are more productive workers, although quantifying gains attributable to better air circulation is as challenging as calculating throughput improvements from better lighting.
Industrial fan manufacturers don’t endorse the energy features of their energy. Instead, they focus on reductions in heating costs, specifically in the kind of high-ceiling spaces common in food and beverage production and warehousing.
Food manufacturers generally prefer insulating and sealing the cube off than other industries. But a tight building doesn’t trump basic physics, and the thermal stratification that occurs in a high-ceilinged building means that the air at the top is quite a bit warmer than the air at the bottom. Forcing the ceiling air back to where the humans congregate can cut winter-time heating costs up to 30 percent.
Adequate air circulation often is a quality issue in food production; whether it involves a cheese aging room or an ice cream freezer, and that reason is enough to homogenize temperatures that otherwise would stratify. Energy efficiency from an operations perspective is almost incidental.
Energy efficiency is an apparent driver in lighting projects, though better illumination also translates to more productive workers and less product waste. Last year, BAF hitched its star to the LED bandwagon, leveraging the talents of its 65 in-house engineers and a direct sales network to work directly with industrial clients.
The significant shift is from product efficiency towards system efficiency. Instead of mixing and matching pumps and motors, for example, manufacturers need to look at the interplay of the drive and motor in the application.
Service life is another concern in food production environments. Protecting the VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) investment is driving a growing number of manufacturers toward water-cooled drive components. Besides extending VFD life, water-cooled components require considerably less space than air-cooled drives.
Automation is bringing more electronic devices into the production environment, increasing the magnitude of the EMI problem and the need for filters. That’s almost incidental to the impact on initial purchase cost and long-term energy savings and efficiency that will result from the systems approach that is being implemented eventually.
Production managers are more concerned with today’s output requirement than tomorrow’s electric bill. Motor OEMs recognize that and pour R&D money into designing more robust machines that also meet higher energy efficiency standards. As a result, manufacturers are able to lower energy inputs per unit of production while also keeping production lines humming.