Manufacturing Our Future: Why Energy for Industry Matters

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 10:00 am EDT


Kevin Yates, President, Siemens Energy Management

Hannover Messe is the world’s largest industrial technology trade fair and it is fitting that the United States is serving as this year’s partner country as the U.S. and Germany deepen and broaden cooperation in shaping the new age of industry – combining Germany’s engineering prowess with America’s leadership in software. Siemens has been a Hannover Messe exhibitor since the inaugural fair in 1947, and with investments of $35 billion in the U.S. over the past 15 years, Siemens plays an important role in advancing the future of U.S. manufacturing. To learn more and for expert insights, sign up for our blog and follow @SiemensUSA.

At Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial technology trade show, energy may not always be the first topic that comes to mind. A lot of what we focus on at the show is how the industrial world is transforming from one of analog and static production lines, to what we call Industry 4.0, a digitally-driven, advanced manufacturing ecosystem.

But, the same shifts we’re seeing in how the industrial world operates are what we’re seeing in our energy landscape. There are tremendous changes in how energy is created, transmitted stemming from trends towards renewable energy availability, aging infrastructure, low natural gas prices, the need for greater power reliability and regulatory dynamics. Often, these shifts are being driven outside of a plant’s walls. But, industry has a significant opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of our 21st century power mix and the technologies and software that will power it. 

According to the Energy Information Administration, the industrial market accounts for about one-third of U.S. energy consumption. Up to 80 percent of the energy that goes into power systems is lost—which amounts to an estimated 60 billion dollars lost annually. Statistics like this are why the words “energy productivity” and “efficiency” are so important. And today, energy efficiency solutions are basically synonyms for two other words—technology and software.

Across the industrial market, we see customers facing the need to minimize production costs, ensure safe and reliable processes, while continuing to improve their brand and, ultimately, deliver value to their shareholders.  There’s a lot that can be done within a company’s walls to achieve these goals. For example, a new, digitized production process can cut go-to-market times significantly or more efficient motors can result in less up-time. But, we see energy, and more importantly, energy technology and software, as an essential means to achieving all of these objectives. Managing energy usage efficiently and finding new ways to harness opportunities in today’s energy marketplace can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line and an industrial customer’s ability to successfully serve their markets.

We’ve discovered this when we teamed up with a utility in Orangeburg, South Carolina that supplies power to the world’s largest Ibuprofen plant. The plant serves as an economic anchor for the region and has over 300 employees. But, it was continuously plagued with power outages due to transmission system issues. Each time the power went out the plant was required to shut down production, a costly process that resulted in serious production losses and waste generation. The options amounted to either looking for a new site, or working with the local utility to improve power reliability on the grid.

We provided the local utility with a Distribution Feeder Automation System, a type of intelligent grid technology that transfers power during an outage event so electricity can continue to flow. The project was a success, and even after a severe ice storm hit the area, the grid technology helped transfer power in 90 milliseconds, less than a blink of an eye, to an alternative source. The Ibuprofen plant didn’t notice a thing. They were able to avoid costly production shutdowns and keep operations, and power, flowing.

Making energy use more efficient by embracing the digital revolution means lower costs. It means the ability to reinvest in business and economies. And it means lowering the cost of compliance in greenhouse gas emission reduction. Technology and software will be the key to facilitating the transition to Industry 4.0 and a more productive energy economy.