It’s time to put aside any data fears

20 November 2023

David Bean argues that data analysis holds the key to effective energy management.

Energy management has fast become one of the most pressing challenges for manufacturers across Europe. With volatile supplies and varying levels of government support, failure to grasp energy consumption at plant level can have serious knock-on effects on both profit margins and carbon emissions. Whilst data holds the key, demystifying it into actionable insight remains a stumbling block for many. 

In manufacturing, there is little room for assumption. While there are thousands of data acquisition points in any given facility, collating this data in a way that can deliver meaningful change remains a big problem for many manufacturers. 

One of the principal reasons manufacturers struggle is due to inefficient data analysis. If there are different data sources, limited access to historical data, or data stored in multiple file formats, it requires significant to untangle. Such an approach creates additional responsibilities for the workforce and is often prone to human error and imprecise measurement, neither of which is conducive to proper analysis. What’s more, if a long-serving team member leaves, they will take their experience and understanding of any bespoke data analysis processes with them. This then requires a new team member to be brought up to speed on a system which is already inherently flawed. 

Built-in connectivity
Fortunately, most modern hardware will have an element of built-in connectivity which can provide critical information and even perform an element of self-diagnosis. The key is creating an ecosystem which allows data – both real time and historical – from multiple different protocols and devices to be collected in a uniform way.  Once the collection process has been established at edge level, it is much easier to implement an effective digitalisation programme which aggregates and visualises data in a way that can lead to meaningful energy reduction decisions at enterprise level. 

While getting a more granular understanding of production data can help manufacturers make better energy management decisions, integrating building facilities data into one SCADA solution can provide a more holistic view on total site consumption. 

This may sound complex, but the reality is that an energy monitoring system could be as straightforward as installing energy meters and connecting them to a master PLC and SCADA system – it can be set-up in a matter of days. 

Given the current uncertainty surrounding the energy market, the real question manufacturers should be asking isn’t whether they can afford it; but whether they can afford not to. 

David Bean is Solutions Group Manager at Mitsubishi Electric Automation Systems UK.

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