Anyone who has opened an energy bill lately knows the cost of energy—especially natural gas—is soaring.
Manufacturers, who consume more than one quarter of the natural gas used in the United States, have been especially hard-hit. Lean manufacturing—a concept that eliminates activities or actions that add no real value to the product or service—is especially helpful in identifying and eliminating waste, including energy waste.
Lean manufacturing can help reduce inventory, both in-process and finished goods. This means less floor space and warehousing are required. Net result? Since less space, warehouse and otherwise, is required for operations, less energy is needed to build, heat, cool, clean, and maintain space.
Also, by eliminating superfluous space, companies expend less energy moving inventory from storage to use and back again.
Lean eliminates non-value-added activities, reduces set up times and helps to ensure parts are processed correctly the first time. The net result is energy is not expended reworking, scrapping, or disposing of products—all non-value-added activities that require energy.
Total productive maintenance, a key lean concept, provides a system to assure all machines and processes function at their highest efficiency.
Parameters such as vibration and temperature can indicate when a machine may either experience a catastrophic event like breakdown or may simply contribute to less efficient processing, nonconforming parts, and delays in throughput.
Lean practices, such as visual controls, reduce time typically spent seeking parts. These activities often require the use of vehicles, robots, machines—all of which are high energy/gas consumers.
Non-lean systems usually depend on overtime to meet fluctuations in demand. Overtime requires that plant systems are up for additional days, and may also result in machine failure because machines are not serviced properly.
In today’s competitive global market, manufacturers must scrutinize all elements of their price-sensitive products to maintain and increase market share.
An energy assessment is a close look at your company’s consumption of all power from all sources, at all times of the day and in all functions of your operation.
Energy assessments will help you determine how much energy is consumed for each purpose or function in a manufacturing environment, and how much of that energy can be saved at what price.
Analyzing energy usage regularly will minimize the non-value-added costs of production—because wasted energy costs can drain manufacturers of thousands of dollars each year.
For help in finding ways to reduce energy costs, small manufacturers can contact the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC). IBI