How Can Industrial IoT Lead to Energy-Efficient Factories?

In the manufacturing and development industry, energy consumption is responsible for a large portion of operating costs. In fact, the industrial sector uses more energy than any other industry, consuming 54% of the global delivered electricity. In addition, non-energy-intensive manufacturing—such as pharmaceuticals—and energy-intensive-manufacturing are posed make up 70% of the estimated 228 trillion gross output by 2040. So basically, regardless of energy cost fluctuations and an oil prices, the industrial sector is and will continue to be one of the largest contributors of electricity use. Naturally, factories and plants are consuming and wasting tons of energy so managing output and usage could have remarkable cost returns. This is where industrial IoT, or the Internet of Things, can have a major impact on the industry.

What Is the Internet of Things?

In short, the Internet of Things refers to connected, smart devices that have access to a wider network. Most often that connection is the open internet, but it can also be to other sensors and devices, or reporting systems. In a factory, for example, a power sensor that transmits wireless alerts when the hardware is turned on, malfunctions, or turned off again can be considered “connected” or IoT-enabled. Consumer IoT can include anything from appliances and electronics, to vehicles. Yes, smart cars are coming. Industrial IoT, on the other hand, is remarkably similar, but of course the connected devices are tied to operations and maintenance. An autonomous factory tool, for instance, might have the option to check-in and control it remotely from a smartphone or computer system.

How Can IoT Reduce Energy Consumption?

You could argue that modern machinery is made to be more efficient than retro tools and hardware. This is true of nearly all electronics, tools, and hardware that are continuing to improve over time. But while that does contribute to energy savings, the returns are minimal at best. Machinery may be using less power overall, but when they operate endlessly for hours, days, or weeks they’re also consuming an inordinate amount of electricity. IoT sensors and IoT-enabled hardware can make the biggest impact in regards to savings. For starters, most plants and factories are so fast; measuring energy use is a demanding and time-consuming task. To make matters worse, that information is almost never consolidated in one convenient location or database. Provided you do have the skills to monitor this information, and effectively, it’s not even being delivered in real-time. This makes it seemingly impossible for energy managers and plant administrators to identify problematic energy areas and take action.

When it comes to tracking and monitoring of energy usage and plant performance, IoT can improve insights considerably. Data is delivered in real-time, through one central system or dashboard, and offers a variety of sorting and filtering conveniences. Managers could hone in on hardware and devices using up the most energy, for example. But it can also be used to develop and power more advanced operating profiles. Machines can be made nearly autonomous, with IoT sensors measuring when they need to power on and operate, and when they can conserve energy by powering down. More importantly, they can measure when a system is malfunctioning or experience low-efficiency phases so problems can be addressed sooner. This allow you and your team to keep machines operating at full capacity and efficiency at all times, without wasting excess resources. Then there are the outlying problems IoT can solve.

Most plants have emergency and backup systems to keep the plant in operation in the event of a major power failure. This especially helps during tight deadlines and production schedules. Despite all that, the size of the backup generators and power systems can determine whether the plant is wasting resources in those moments, or doing things just right. Even when consuming gas and fuel to run generators it’s possible to waste a lot of resources. During regular operating hours, IoT enabled sensors and machines will allow you to collect data about hardware and power requirements, so you can find the right generator or backup system for your needs.

The Future of Industry Lies with IoT

In short, IoT and connected sensors or hardware can collect and process incredibly useful streams of data. This information can then be used to improve processes, eliminate waste and reduce energy usage, and keep machines operating well into the future. All it takes is a modernized approach, and access to the necessary systems for monitoring. In most cases, you can simply use a smartphone or remote computer to check in, which is great when you have limited resources anyway.

This article was written by Guest Contributor Nathan Sykes. He enjoys writing about the latest in technology and its effects on business. To read more check out his blog, Finding an Outlet

Photo Credit: Nanalyze

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