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Efficient processes need sound data

04 September 2012

Steffen Kügler of TÜV SÜD Industrie Service, discusses the importance of accurate data for the success of any energy management system and looks at the different energy data management systems (EDMS) available.

A comprehensive energy management system allows organisations to identify opportunities for improvement of energy efficiency and design measures to optimise processes. However, it is important to accurately record and analyse the energy demands of the individual processes. This is where energy data management systems (EDMS) come in.

The product landscape of hardware and software systems is as varied as the application range and the processes in the chemical industry. At present, there are over 100 energy data management systems (EDMS) available, making it hard to compare the different products and to find the system that best meets requirements. In addition, not all products are equally suitable for ensuring compliance with the statutory energy management standards. An EDMS covers roughly three functional areas – recording and checking of raw data from various sources; recording, analysis and display of individual and combined data histories and trends; delivery of reports and other more complex analyses and possible extra features.

Situation analysis
Complex production facilities in particular often deliver large data volumes from automation systems, which are used for the control of production processes. The majority of this data is transmitted via the bus systems of process engineering and building services systems. In light of this, an EDMS that offers optimum implementation must be able to use the information from existing systems, while also enabling smooth integration of additional measurement sensors from a variety of vendors.

Because some of the measured values significantly impact both current process control and longer-term process and facility planning, the system must also subject the recorded data to a plausibility check. An EDMS should be modularly structured and enable problem-free expansion. For many organisations, the option of inputting data from processes, invoices and other information marks the first important step towards systematic recording and saving of data. The system should further provide portable and flexible communication equipment to simplify data handling

Data processing
To find out whether, and to what extent, processes and costs can be optimised, energy demand must be analysed in relation to other parameters and over time. To ensure informative energy demand data, the organisation must be aware of the production volume and other related conditions at any time and must be able to set them in relation to the energy demand data. By doing so, organisations may also be able to reap other benefits, such as adjusting the tariffs of electricity suppliers or consistently moving load peaks to low-cost periods.

For short- and medium-term process monitoring, thresholds for specific parameters must be defined and it must be ensured that the EDMS triggers a warning when these thresholds are exceeded. These warnings must be communicated without delay to enable suitable control and regulation measures to be implemented.

The results
In spite of the various complex processes in a plant, a good EDMS will offer its users clear, flexible and informative visualisation of the data analysis results. This covers both current performance over time and derived and processed information. Important system features in this context include ease of combining different data in a single graphic display, straightforward selection of various time periods and effective recognition of deviations and threshold violations.

Many EDMS programs provide an on-screen graphic display as well as allowing data and information to be exported to other standard applications. In addition, programs for automatic preparation of reports are available and could be useful for decision-makers in both technology and business. In line with this, the EDMS should also allow for the introduction and monitoring of key performance indicators. These indicators set energy demand in relation to production (e.g. energy demand per cubic meter of liquid gas or energy input per litre of distillate), demonstrating the impact of different production conditions on energy demand.

Selection of an EDMS
Many manufacturers of EDMS offer trial versions to give prospective purchasers an impression of the handling and user-friendliness of their program. Because lasting functionality is imperative for user benefits, customer service and support are critical factors in any product comparison. What is the mean time of response to failure reports? Are the required spare parts delivered quickly and repairs carried out without delay? Does the manufacturer provide regular downloadable software updates? In addition, training of the organisation's own staff plays a central role. Staff that receive good training will be able to solve many issues in-house without the need to call in customer service and support. Qualified seminars and regular refresher training are useful complements to online help and manuals.

TÜV SÜD's ‘Certified Energy Data Management’ standard offers clients 'first aid' in selecting the right system. Key certification criteria include successful implementation of the EDMS at reference customers, interoperability of the system with standardised bus systems and measurement instruments of other manufacturers, display of load cycles, consumption trends and actual and threshold values, and management of virtual meters. Most EDMS that meet these minimum requirements enable reliable process optimisation measures to be developed in the organisation. With an EDMS, the implementation and cost-effectiveness of these measures can be accurately analysed. In this context, organisations should also take into account the far-reaching effects of modernisation on productivity, maintenance processes and plant availability. Many investments in more energy-efficient technologies start to deliver a return on investment within a few years, while also improving the maintenance programs of their technical facilities.
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