Energy Management and Sustainable Manufacturing: The Role of MES

Article
21 Apr 2023

Manufacturing execution systems (MES) have been used as a staple solution in automation management for decades. Although the focus of MES implementation always remains on the production management, its scope can be extended to meet modern sustainability standards in terms of waste and energy management, and this article illustrates how you can approach these issues.

Current state of sustainable manufacturing

Renewable energy use on the rise

Manufacturing industry is constantly expanding: world giants build new factories and plants around the world. This, in turn, requires more energy and resources to ensure the uninterrupted production process. 

Decades ago, the energy for the manufacturing process was obtained mainly from fossil-based sources: oil, coal, and gas. Most of those sources were obtained from countries like Russia, which created dependence on the fossil fuels and slowed down the transition to alternate and safer energy sources: solar, wind, or nuclear.

However, the 2022 BloombergNEF report shows slow, but steady incorporation of renewable energy sources into the global energy capacities. In 2021, solar energy power stations were the most common power-generating technology installed around the world.

The map from Bloomberg report showing the distribution of the alternative sources of eenrgy

The industrial sector remains the primary energy consumer: it accounts for 33% of electricity used in the world. 76% of that volume is consumed by the manufacturing and distributes as follows:

  • Chemicals
  • Coal and petroleum products
  • Paper and paper products
  • Primary metals
  • Food, non-metallic metals, etc.

Energy costs can be highly volatile, depending on the source, capacities, and even geopolitical climate. However, they are constantly rising because the fossil-based sources are finite. Only a few years ago, energy expenditure accounted only for 5% of the manufacturing costs, today the share is 10-15%. And increase in product price means you will lose your customers to competitors who manage their energy spending more efficiently and have lower price as a result.

That’s why most modern manufacturers aim to diversify energy sources to manage their energy consumption more efficiently. For example, in 2016, Tesla Motors opened a gigafactory in Sorey County, Nevada, that runs entirely on solar power.

Tesla gigafactory in Nevada

Tesla gigafactory in Nevada.

Carbon footprint reduction

Another consistent trend in sustainable manufacturing is minimizing carbon footprint. Greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing steadily since the Industrial Revolution. Today, the industrial sector remains the largest contributor to carbon pollution: one-fifth of the world’s carbon emissions comes from production and manufacturing.

Modern manufacturers that are leaning towards Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0 standards, focus on sustainable production. 

And that’s when integrating the MES comes in handy. Digitalizing the manufacturing sector can help collect the relevant data, analyze vulnerabilities and address the upcoming issues even before they arise.

Moreover, integrating MES at the multiple facilities allows syncing their data pools and create an ecosystem that can be used to train artificial intelligence algorithms and to support collaboration in complex networks that require increased transparency. Consequently, data sharing is a key enabler of multiple advanced data‑driven applications in manufacturing.

How MES can help you manage energy consumption?

The primary focus of MES integration on an enterprise remains within production quality improvement, traceability, and waste reduction. However, its scope can be extended towards monitoring and optimizing the energy consumption. Since more and more plants are required to comply with new sustainability standards, proper energy management increases the chances that a facility will meet new regulation guidelines.

The process of MES implementation for sustainability management is easy. Here’s how it works within the AGW Energy Management System (EMS) module:

  1. You connect your facility to the grid. We install our electricity counter at the place where the power line enters into your enterprise, and at every node of the grid, from the administration building to assembly lines.
  2. Every piece of heavy machinery or equipment gets the counter or sensor installed to monitor the energy consumption.
  3. AGW integrator monitors and collects the data from every sensor and counter and transfers it to AGW EMS cloud servers. You can now analyze your energy demand based on the production process, daily fluctuations, and the overall production capacity.
  4. AGW can build detailed reports on energy consumption, so you can see where your processes need improvement. For example, you can transfer energy-consuming operations to night shifts, when the energy costs are lower. This will help you reduce the overall production costs up to 30% in the long run. 

As for the renewable sources of energy, AGW EMS allows you to calculate the amount of electricity you get from installing solar panels, heat pump, or wind turbine, and repurpose it either by compensating your peak loads or by delivering the energy surplus back to the grid. 

You can also sign the PPA contract with electricity providers, who will use your power grid to compensate the peak loads to other consumers, so you can get additional revenue. 

Plant energy optimization with AGW Energy Management System

Plant energy optimization with AGW Energy Management System

Potential future implications of energy management systems

 

Using MES for monitoring energy consumption and adhering to sustainability guidelines is only one possible case of implementations. Using energy management systems along with technologies like AI or machine learning can create a sturdy foundation on the way to transitioning an enterprise towards Industry4.0 standards.

Here are only few scenarios where an AI-enhanced EMS can be used:

  • Syncing up with daily energy cost fluctuations to define the optimal way of adjusting the production chain
  • Creating renewable energy deposits based on weather forecast: i.e., charging solar power stations during clear sunny days, or using wind power stations more efficiently.
  • Forecast the energy consumption for new enterprises.
  • Grid management.

A diverse energy portfolio is therefore the best approach for manufacturers today. Solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric power are the way forward, with the potential for future factories to use new technologies such as green hydrogen.

 

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