Preparing a Factory and a Production Plant for Success in the Evolving Energy Landscape

Many manufacturing and production plants are designed for continuous operations. This default setup is incompatible with leveraging the new energy demand flexibility markets. Therefore, reaping any benefits requires changes to manufacturing processes. What are the first steps?

A plant or production facility must fill specific prerequisites for utilizing new solutions in the transforming energy market. The first threshold is the leadership's willingness to participate in demand response programs. When the decision to engage in the market is made, it's time to assess the current situation thoroughly.

Technically, the prerequisites vary depending on the specific system and company. A typical implementation process begins with preparedness mapping or a prestudy. Its purpose is to determine what steps the company needs to take before joining some energy demand program.

A practical challenge that mapping often reveals is that a plant is designed for 100% operation around the clock. 

However, to take advantage of energy market flexibility, a factory must be able to optimize its production in line with energy prices and availability. The mapping stage could, for example, verify whether 20% of production could occur during the night to avoid peak demand hours. That would require overloading the production process.

A comprehensive plant design analysis is a vital part of the mapping phase. Several factors must be considered before implementing an energy flexibility management solution. These include:

  • Current energy consumption: Helps determine the size and type of energy flexibility management solution needed.
  • Future needs for energy management: Ensures the solution is scalable and can meet the plant’s future needs.
  • Budget: Helps to determine how much the solution will cost.
  • Technical capabilities: Helps to determine if the plant could implement and operate the energy flexibility management solution.
  • Maintenance engineering: Speeds up the transition from traditional calendar-based preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
  • Regulatory environment: Ensures the solution complies with all the applicable regulations.
  • Cybersecurity: Minimizes security risks that connecting assets to networks can bring.

Once the situation has been assessed, it's time to start making adjustments that support optimization and even measuring in a new way.