Control system integrators (CSI) provide many of the technology solutions for automation that make an industrial plant or commercial building sustainable. The solutions range from realizing cost savings and getting the most production from operating assets, to extending the life of those assets. End users and owners understand the requirements of production and plant/building operation, but may not know the most efficient way to make it happen. CSIs do, and therefore are a key ingredient to greater sustainability.
Using assets wisely, reducing operating costs, increasing throughput, using less energy, using alternative energy sources, and having low impact on the environment are just some of the many components of a sustainable plant. CSIs have a unique skill set to help end_users improve plant assets and accomplish their sustainability goals. From gathering intelligent data from the plant_floor to installing equipment to reduce energy consumption, CSIs enable successful sustainability initiatives in all industries.
Bob Lowe, executive director of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) says, “Once they take care of low hanging fruit, then CSIs look at ways to further cut energy costs.” Lowe worked in the metals industry for 18 years before owning a controls system integration company for 19 years that focused on industrial automation. “A key thing for them to understand is where energy is being used in a building. Energy management systems help building owners and managers see actual progress. It could be in the way they operate heating and cooling systems, it could be with operational procedures, or even with improving efficiencies during peak demand times.”
Lowe said renewable energy such as solar power is still hard for building owners to justify because the return on investment simply takes too many years right now, although he believes solar energy will become more efficient in the near future.
“Building owners (install solar panels) because they believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Lowe. “A 15- year payback is a long time.”
CSIs ultimately can help building owners and managers:
• Utilize energy efficient products such as motors and motor controllers. Using variable frequency drives (VFD) is a common method to accomplish this.
• Implement control methodologies to reduce energy consumption and resultant costs. An example is to automatically stop or reduce the speed of conveyors, blowers, pumps and so forth when there are no products in the system.
• Minimize events that undermine capacity and reduce equipment effectiveness. Properly implemented equipment and software will identify bottlenecks and provide reasons for short term stops and production slowdowns.
• Enable flexibility in plant assets to increase the number of products that can be produced from the same asset, with quick changeovers between products
• Track and trace products as they are produced.Time and energy are saved in locating items produced and also enable an efficient response if recalls occur.
• Measure process parameters to create baseline data, and then be able to identify issues that lead to poor product quality.
• Monitor and document asset performance to identify when equipment effectiveness is eroding.
• Remote monitoring is easily implemented so equipment and machines located at a distance can be intelligently interconnected.
• Monitor and analyze asset components (i.e. motors, bearings, pumps, blowers) to enable intelligent preventive maintenance and predict machine or process failures so action can be taken to preempt a failure that leads to downtime
• Determine when, where and how energy is being consumed. Identify continuous and peak energy consumption in buildings, departments, processes, and so forth that impact energy bills. This knowledge can enable adjustments in production practices to save on energy costs.
• Management is capable of making informed decisions on asset improvements. The decision may be to either upgrade existing assets or purchasing new ones.
In 2010 there are new considerations for end users. The “Clean Energy Economy” is one of the drivers of the economic recovery in the U.S. and around the world. The primary components are using less energy, tapping into renewable sources, and above all, reinventing today’s power grid to handle a revolutionary new two-way conversation between supply and demand. As the largest consumer of power, the role of industry is vital.
CSIs can provide value to industries by providing assessments, process redesign, and business case analysis for industrial customers taking their first steps to joining the Smart Grid.
The Control System Integrators Association is committed to the business development of control system integration companies and their implementation of best practices in order to provide a healthy, low-risk channel for the application of technology to their industrial clients. CSIA can be contacted at (800) 661-4914 or at www.controlsys.org.