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Holistic approach needed to energy savings

SMC has a number of component-led processes in place that will deliver companies direct
savings through reduced energy on their compressed air and electricity use. Mike Wheeler explains.

Quick wins and long-term savings are as valuable as each other when it comes to energy savings for plant and machinery that utilises compressed air.

Electro-pneumatic and control system’s specialist, SMC Corporation ANZ, knows how much a company’s bottom line can be affected if the right kind of energy savings strategies are implemented.

“SMC has years in the business when it comes to energy saving,” said the company’s Australian and New Zealand director of sales and marketing, James McKew. “Energy savings don’t come from replacing one component in your factory. A holistic approach needs to be taken. We have developed an energy-saving roadmap that helps guide customers through the process. Our expertise in this area is put to good use as we can advise customers where the quick wins are, and how to plan for a long-term roll out in terms of saving on compressed air. Energy savings have to translate to cost savings for the customer and a healthier bottom line. That is the main objective we always keep in mind.”

One measure of how successful a roll out has been is how the market reacts. McKew is happy with the feedback the company has received so far. He puts it down to several things, including the work put in at the coalface of rolling the roadmap out. Also, they can customise to a client’s needs, which is proving popular.

“There has been a very positive uptake,” he said. “I think customers are finding it easier to implement energy-saving strategies because the technology associated with energy saving has advanced at such a rapid rate. For example, SMC’s R&D has been developing products that are smaller, lighter, consume less electricity or air while delivering the same or greater performance than what they replace. This helps customers select products more closely aligned to the usage and demand profile eliminating wastage. My feeling is that customers find the way that SMC does business is refreshing because we keep it simple. We take the thinking out of it and problem solve with the customer. Because we know our products
and always seek to understand the customer’s unique challenges we can offer valuable advice and correct product selections to make their job so much more efficient and the whole experience with us some much more customer centric.”

Another aspect that is not lost on McKew is the need for education. Not just that customers should and can save energy on their compressed air output, but that there needs to be an informed approach when doing so. This is where SMC can help out, according to McKew.

“The sum total of the components add up to the biggest saving,” he said. “There needs to be a systematic approach to how you approach energy saving in the factory. Replacing one item isn’t going to miraculously save you thousands of dollars. It needs to be an informed approach. Customers have a lot to deal with. SMC will supply electro-pneumatics, but they are dealing with so many other facets in the production plant. It is impossible to be an expert on everything from cylinders, to PLCs to gearboxes – that is where SMC comes in [and other suppliers] – we need to offer our expertise and technical service to our customers.”

Savings can come in many forms, which is something else that people can look at when putting a plan in place. It is not a matter of one plan fits every plant, but there can be some common themes. He also points out that it is a malleable process because companies should also be looking to improve on energy savings all the time.

“Choosing the right-sized product for an application, and in that choosing the most efficient product too, is a key consideration to optimum saving,” he said. “This is an ongoing process. You install energy-saving components but then you need to measure the output in order to monitor the condition and predict the leaks or failures. We make customers aware that we have the tools to get them there, but once you get there, you still have more to do to make sure you get the most efficiency out of your systems; and importantly to fully understand the value of, and retain, these benefits.

“Of course, energy efficiency products such as the ALDS (Automatic Leak Detection Systems) can be programmed into the customer’s Internet of Things solution and this
is also something customers should be aware of in their planning.”

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