Gambica’s Sector Head for Industrial Automation and Test & Measurement, Nikesh Mistry, explains how, with the support of products supplied by the association’s members, manufacturers can fine-tune the operation of their equipment to reduce costs and improve competitivity in the current challenging environment.
The UK manufacturing sector has faced significant challenges due to soaring energy costs. These increases have placed tremendous financial pressure on businesses, compelling them to seek innovative solutions to reduce energy consumption. As a result, energy monitoring applications, preventative and predictive maintenance sensors and technologies such as Variable Speed Drives (VSDs) and soft starters are gaining popularity across the manufacturing landscape.
The manufacturing process typically requires substantial amounts of energy to power machinery, equipment and facilities. As energy prices escalate, manufacturers face higher operating expenses, reduced profit margins, and heightened global competitiveness. The knock-on effects of these price increases began causing businesses to rethink their strategies and business plans, and with the UK’s Net Zero target also in mind, ensuring that manufacturers develop their processes to maximise energy efficiency.
For many manufacturing businesses, energy expenses now represent a significant portion of their overall costs. This has prompted companies to reevaluate their energy consumption patterns and seek ways to optimise efficiency. Implementing energy-saving technologies has become a priority to mitigate the financial burden and remain competitive in the market.
VSDs are pivotal for reducing energy consumption in manufacturing. They regulate motor speeds by adjusting the frequency of the electrical power supplied to the motor. By matching the actual demand of the machinery, a VSD is capable of reducing energy wastage by avoiding excessive power consumption.
Another technology gaining prominence in the UK manufacturing sector is soft starters. Traditional motor starts often require a significant amount of energy to initiate, leading to high peak demand and associated costs. Soft starters, on the other hand, limit the inrush current, reducing stress on the electrical grid and minimising energy consumption.
By mitigating the strain on electrical systems during motor startup, they help prevent voltage fluctuations and equipment damage contributing to a smoother operation and extending the lifespan of motors and other connected equipment.
Other technologies being implemented by GAMBICA members are preventative and predictive maintenance strategies. Manufacturers using these methods can efficiently reduce energy waste and prevent unplanned downtime.
Preventative maintenance involves regular inspections, servicing, and repairs of equipment to prevent breakdowns and ensure optimal performance. By adhering to a structured maintenance schedule, manufacturers can identify potential issues and rectify them before they lead to costly breakdowns or excessive energy consumption. Regular cleaning, lubrication, and calibration of machinery help maintain its efficiency and reduce unnecessary energy losses.
Moreover, preventative maintenance allows manufacturers to detect and replace worn-out components promptly. Faulty or inefficient equipment often consumes more energy than necessary, leading to increased energy costs. By proactively addressing these issues, manufacturers can optimise the performance of their machinery and reduce energy waste.
Predictive maintenance takes a data-driven approach to maintenance by utilising advanced monitoring techniques and analytics. By collecting real-time data from sensors and equipment, manufacturers can predict when maintenance or repairs will be required. This proactive approach helps prevent unexpected breakdowns and allows for more efficient scheduling of maintenance activities.
Alongside this, predictive maintenance leverages the power of machine learning algorithms, which then look at data patterns and help identify potential equipment failures. By detecting anomalies or deviations from normal operating conditions, manufacturers can address underlying issues before they escalate, saving both energy and downtime costs.
These solutions and other Industry 4.0 technologies allow manufacturers to optimise their equipment’s performance through the fine-tuning of operational parameters. Manufacturers should identify the areas in which they are consuming the most energy and then look at which technologies can be implemented most successfully with the greatest effect on reducing their energy consumption which will, in turn, reduce their costs and wastage, freeing up capital for other investments.
As energy costs continue to rise, the adoption of energy-saving technologies is poised to play a vital role in sustaining the competitiveness and profitability of UK manufacturers.