Energy plays a major part in business success, and it has to be managed. Electricity has a cost. The amount of electricity used affects a manufacturing operation. The reliability of the electric feed is essential, too. Not just whether it is on or off, but its quality: voltage, frequency, and waveform. High-tech equipment in particular needs high power quality to properly operate.
Over the next few months we’ll talk with various facility and energy managers and learn how different companies approach energy use. Our first interview is with Kevin Poet, who manages a large plant, the Siemens Charlotte Energy Hub in Charlotte, NC. He focuses on manufacturing and customer support for the factory and its three product lines: Large Gas Turbines, Steam Turbines and Generators. These machines are at the heart of large power generation facilities.
We start our series with Kevin because he can look at energy in two ways – as an electric user and as a manufacturer that serves the electric industry. Here’s what we discussed:
Q: Is your operation energy intensive?
A: Yes. We have a large manufacturing plant where we make very large precision parts with very tight tolerances. To achieve these tolerances on a consistent basis, it is important we have a stable temperature in our facility; therefore the entire manufacturing plant (approximately 1.2M sf) must be air-conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. This consumes a great deal of energy. In addition, running our large machine tools for the precision cutting consumes a great deal of energy as well.
Q: Discuss the perspective you take on energy as a part of the manufacturing operation.
A: We work hard to reduce our energy consumption. Overall, Siemens has a goal of being carbon-neutral by the year 2030. To support this goal, we have implemented many large-scale energy efficiency improvement projects at our facility in Charlotte. These include converting overhead lights to LED, replacing large fuel-oil boiler with compact natural gas hot water systems, and implementing building system automation software to optimize our cooling and heating process.
Q: What kind of approaches does Siemens in Charlotte take to manage its energy use?
A: The Siemens Charlotte facility has relied heavily on the Siemens Building Technology division to develop and implement our energy efficiency improvement program. The building automation system which they have provided controls our equipment in an optimal way and allows our operators to monitor energy consumption on a real-time basis.
Q: What are the trends in energy management that manufacturers will need to consider in the future?
A: There are two facets of energy management. There is the hardware and software side. The most important trend is adopting building automation systems and software to manage the facility infrastructure systems in the most optimal way. Then there is a cultural side. Our campus follows LEAN manufacturing principles and is committed to a Zero Harm culture with respect to safety, quality, and the environment.
From Siemens Building Technologies: “The key to any smart building is integration: linking building systems together and then connecting the building automation system to enterprise systems. Integration is enabling facility executives to reap smart-building benefits, both in new construction and also by gradually transforming existing buildings into smart buildings.”
Q: You happen to manufacture power generating equipment. Is there a conflict in pursuing energy conservation?
A: Not at all, our strategy is part of a balanced approach to our business as well as the environment. As our industry changes we at Siemens are changing with it. Siemens supports legacy power generation needs with products and services, and also contributes to energy efficiency efforts and the increase of renewables and new technology. We can contribute in all these areas with state of the art products that increase efficiency, reduce emissions, and improve performance.
Wonder how a turbine works? Here are a few places online that explain.
How a Gas Turbine Plant Works. U.S. Department of Energy
How does a Steam Turbine Work? Video on YouTube
Turbines. Explain That Stuff