Inside Extreme Scale Tech|Sunday, December 28, 2014
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DOE Chips in for Energy-Efficient Manufacturing 

While the focus of the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative (CEMI) has so far focused on the development of green energy technology such as solar panels and electric cars, energy expenditure within those factories is one side to the movement that can be easy to lose sight of.

But with a recent announcement from the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC), it’s clear that the push for greener factories still has a lot of weight behind it, thanks to a $7.8 million award from the Advanced Manufacturing Program at the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE).

With the 2013 Clean Energy Manufacturing contract, the SMLC plans to design and demonstrate a common platform for data modeling and simulation technologies that will actively monitor a plant’s energy use alongside its production systems.

“For the past two decades, most U.S. manufacturers have managed energy efficiency in their factories and plants passively instead of actively as part of their production systems,” said R. Neal Elliott, Director of Research at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and a coalition board member. His research estimates that “We can reduce U.S. manufacturing energy intensity by more than half in the next 20 years as we begin to integrate smart technologies that actively manage energy use across entire manufacturing systems, plants and ultimately supply chains.”

While big data is exploding both in volume and exposure, it can still feel like a massive undertaking for anyone except large manufacturing companies. The SMLC’s goal for its platform is to streamline energy use and inform business decisions across small and medium-sized manufacturers just as much as in large companies. And with the recent funding from the DOE adding to the project’s $10 million price tag, the future is looking bright for green manufacturing.

The collaborative project has already brought together companies such as Emerson Process Management, Honeywell Automation and Control Systems, Invensys and Rockwell Automation, all of whom are helping to ensure compatibility across multiple process control software systems and energy applications.

In turn, these apps will have standard metrics for energy productivity developed by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Nation Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), who will also help to promote the platform to SMMs.

“Together, we intend to transform industrial productivity and energize a new era of innovation by empowering manufacturers with real-time, plant-wide workflow intelligence needed to deliver higher levels of game-changing competitiveness,” said Dean Bartles, SMLC Chairman and SVP, General Dynamics. “Smart Manufacturing infrastructures and approaches will also let operators make real-time use of ‘big data’ flows from fully-instrumented plants to improve safety, environmental impact and energy, water and materials use.”

To help determine the industry’s needs, the SMLC platform will be developed with the help of industrial testbeds that will provide key data and applications from each specific location. Both of the first two testbeds are funded by the DOE Clean Energy Manufacturing contract. The first, at a General Dynamics Army Munitions plant, will fine-tune heat treating furnaces, while the second will optimize steam methane reforming furnaces at a Praxair Hydrogen Processing plant.

Ultimately, these plants should help to demonstrate how U.S. manufacturers nationwide can reduce annual CO2 emissions by up to 69 million tons and heat waste by 1.3 quads, which is equivalent of 1.3 percent of the country’s total energy use.

Thomas Edgar, principal investigator for the Smart Manufacturing Platform and director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas said the SMLC’s plan is to combine new, specialized sensors with high fidelity modeling to achieve its real-time monitoring and energy reduction goals.

“21st Century Smart Manufacturing is manufacturing in which all needed information is available when it is needed, where it is needed and in the form it is most useful” said Jim Davis, vice provost of information technology at UCLA. “The SMLC encompasses the essential collaboration for bringing the massive potential of today’s digital information to America’s plants and factories asthe speed of business is accelerating. There is an unprecedented convergence in the ability to work with big data, to simulate, model and predict with game changing fidelity and to access previously unimaginable information and markets.”

Denise Swink, CEO of SMLC, believes that this project is about a lot more than energy use, and could free up manufacturers to worry less about costs and more about unleashing ingenuity. “Ideally, progressive business leaders will soon view their plants and factories as innovation hubs and profit centers to be invested in rather than just cost centers to be cut with such little strategic value that they sometimes have been outsourced overseas.”

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