This article was first published in the Summer 2014 issue of Prime
Rising energy prices, increased emissions regulations, consumer demand for cheaper and 'greener' products, and even power usage limitations are all factors modern manufacturers must deal with. As a result, optimising energy efficiency in manufacturing facilities is becoming more and more important. However, even those companies that are willing and able to optimise processes are having a tough time.
Many industries have an extensive history of using simulation in support of test programmes and enhancing simulation models, but this is often not extended into energy efficiency. Energy-oriented simulation can be used to optimise existing processes and tools or to improve the design of new sites or production lines. In the first instance, it provides a platform for testing power usage optimisation strategies without affecting the real system. For new installations, it can be used as an integral part of the planning and design phase to simulate different strategies and layouts for energy optimisation.
One key element of optimising production, particularly in the automotive industry, is to look at the movements of robots. Making just small adjustments to how individual machines and robots operate can lead to significant power savings, and simulation allows these theories to be analysed and tested without interrupting production. But simulation plays, arguably, an even bigger role in the design of new plants and lines
When building a new production plant – or bringing a new line on board – there are many aspects that need consideration. When planning plants, there is no standardised procedure for achieving energy optimisation. New technologies and materials can also sometimes mean the energy used in production actually increases.
When simulation is incorporated into the planning phase, it can help balance production quality, speed, safety, cost and energy efficiency. Further gains come from not just making each machine work efficiently, but making the plant or line as a whole work more effectively. The predictability of energy consumption and load peaks and the increasing ability to plan costs, are other reasons for energy-oriented simulation.
Energy profiling and simulation can help reduce the consumption of existing lines, but also the planning of new ones. This was the driving force behind Siemens PLM Software developing an industry application enabling users to simulate, analyse, visualise and optimise energy consumption based on the accuracy of discrete-event simulation. Furthermore, by integrating energy-oriented simulation into its Tecnomatix Plant Simulation software, the simulation of the energy flow in complex manufacturing plants is now possible.
When a manufacturer is able to look at all power consumption elements the overall impact can be massive. Companies can save costs, meet carbon emission targets and extend the life of existing systems. This ensures they can gain competitive edge while meeting ‘green-minded’ customers' expectations.
Mirko Baecker is marketing director EMEA of Manufacturing Engineering Solutions at Siemens PLM Software
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