We the People … Can Save Energy

 

When we started thinking about building an energy management information system (EMIS) it wasn’t the act of building a software product that spurred our interest, it was the people using it.

We believe that, at its heart, industrial energy management is about people. And that a great EMIS should be built around supporting people with information, education, and motivation.

When we built SENSEI we had in mind that it would function as an information hub that would give people:

  • The ability to manage performance and cost
  • The opportunity to track progress with cause and effect visibility
  • A place to record or upload all manner of program or project documentation

We wanted SENSEI to be a place of collaboration, where people can learn by:

  • Recording or resourcing ideas and drawing inspiration
  • Tracking action item lists
  • Offering suggestions or help

And then we wanted our platform to be a place for motivation that would offer:

  • Benchmarking capability for a single facility, or between multiple sites across an enterprise
  • Potential for inspiring friendly competition between facilities or DSM program cohorts
  • Clear links between actions taken and savings achieved

Operators, engineers, managers, energy champions, CEOs—everyone, at every level of a company, needs to have the right information and tools to effectively manage energy.

People want to know where to go for information; they want to understand what’s expected of them and to be able to connect actions to energy savings. When people can see positive results derived from their actions, then there’s a much better chance of engagement, and alignment across a single team and the entire company.

Industrial EMIS Minimum Elements: Does SENSEI Have What It Takes?

Utility demand-side management programs are increasingly interested in energy management information systems (EMIS). Why is that?  One leading indicator is the number of strategic energy management (SEM) programs being piloted across North America. At Cascade, we are familiar with around 20 current SEM programs and pilot programs, up from the single-digits just a few years ago.

With SEM programs comes the desire to measure savings over and above that which is achieved from SEM-implemented capital projects. The problem is that claiming SEM savings is probably the biggest barrier to deeper adoption of SEM today. One of the ways utilities are recognizing SEM savings today is through EMIS software.

SENSEI has proven an effective SEM software platform – with support from nine programs and counting. One of the many reasons for this is SENSEI’s ability to robustly track savings. In industrial, a custom-fit top-down energy model must be created in order to “measure” facility-wide energy savings from SEM. Accommodating these models is one threshold for an EMIS to pass muster in industrial and large commercial applications.

Last week I attended the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) Industry Partners Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. There, the Industrial SEM committee discussed minimum elements required for industrial EMIS. I was honored to sit on the panel discussing EMIS in this context.

Framing the issue was a recently released study on industrial EMIS commissioned by NEEA (Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance). This study looked at 43 EMIS systems, narrowing the field down to six qualified candidates. The study is definitely worth a read, for anyone interested in industrial EMIS. The study outlined minimum requirements, and these requirements were in alignment with CEE’s draft minimal elements document. We all had the chance to consider what makes an EMIS successful. Here are some key takeaways.

The categories of value an EMIS should provide to SEM programs:

  1. Streamlined, lower cost tools for measurement and verification of savings
  2. Increased energy savings, and savings persistence from SEM
  3. Improved customer service and engagement
  4. Cost-effective scalability of SEM – to support more participants, over more time, at all facility sizes

During the discussion I suggested the scalability category – we have found it to be an important element that mature SEM programs see as critical to wide adoption of SEM practices. We’ll see if the broader group of CEE utility members agrees.

As EMIS meets these demands for programs, SEM will be easier to justify, and will be better prepared to pass muster with evaluators and regulators. This may lead to a wholesale rethinking of M&V. The SENSEI team and Cascade Energy are excited to see how this unfolds.

Energy Management in a Heartbeat

Energy Management EKG
A few days ago I was on the phone with a colleague, who mentioned an off-the-cuff comment he overheard our CEO, Marcus Wilcox make. Marcus was talking about a presentation we were putting together for a client. The presentation showed images from our energy tracking software, SENSEI’s user interface, including a screenshot showing interval data. Marcus said, “Look at this. This is the heartbeat of their company. They’re going to want to see this.”

At the time, I laughed with my colleague and agreed that it was a cool image and the data really did look like an EKG. Then, my own heart skipped a beat, when my co-worker said, “Hey we should come up with a new tagline for SENSEI. Something like: SENSEI—it’s the heartbeat of your company—or your energy management program…”

Long story, short, I ran the idea by our marketing manager, who pretty much shot it down, saying we already had a perfectly good tagline for SENSEI: Your Energy ROI Starts Here—and we shouldn’t go changing it up on a whim. But I can’t get it out of my head. I think the metaphor really holds true. After all, energy is at the heart of any industrial facility. If the health or success of a company depends, in part, on how effectively it uses energy, then energy monitoring becomes extremely important.

Traditionally many companies went to their utility bills to review their energy spend, which certainly painted a picture of the high cost of energy (probably giving more than a few CEOs heart palpitations.) But, the utility bill survey doesn’t come close to answering the question: How can we manage energy better?

Another approach involves energy monitoring in a spreadsheet and tracking meter data at regular intervals to get some idea of month-to-month or year-over-year trends. But, while that approach permits entry of multiple sets of energy data, it doesn’t drill down to specific information around what’s working and what’s not.

To gain deeper insight into the health of your facilities you need interval data monitoring. Interval data is the EKG equivalent, showing the heartbeat of your facility, while monitoring via monthly bill tracking is more like taking your pulse once a month.

Most basic energy tracking software solutions provide access to interval data and automated reporting features that make it easier to report and share data with key stakeholders. More information shared with more people with less effort is a good thing.

But then, once you get into interval data monitoring adding a predicative energy model, created through statistical analysis, can help you gain a much deeper knowledge of the true health of your energy management program.

Predicted energy modeling provides a valuable window into your facility’s energy performance and accumulated savings over time. The model helps to identify and account for key energy drivers, such as weather and production, so the impact of other changes can be measured to give you an accurate picture of the health of your systems and your energy savings tracked over time.

SENSEI takes the basic energy EKG and predictive model one step further by tagging specific events. (What doctor wouldn’t want to look at an advanced EKG and see the history of his or her patient’s actions? This is where you stopped smoking. And this is what happened after you ate that “Widow Maker” burger at Claim Jumper.)

energy tracking software

Integrating event tagging with facility interval data and a predictive model showing your cumulative energy gains offers a complete picture of your facility’s energy use. When all energy-saving activities are tagged on the graph like a time stamp, you can zero in on what’s driving the increased efficiency. Conversely, if specific actions have a negative impact on energy efficiency, they can be quickly identified and corrected.

This powerful view, combined with a robust energy management program that includes operations and maintenance (O&M) actions and capital improvement measures, is a tremendous motivational tool for staff. It also provides justification to upper management that you have an energy efficiency program worth investing in—one that will help your company thrive for years to come.

 

Energy Efficiency Made Visible

SENSEI Makes Energy Efficiency Visible

A recent article in Distributed Energy contends that if commercial and industrial buildings improved their energy efficiency by just 10%, “they could generate $20 billion in savings.”

The article, Innovations in Energy Management by Carol Brzozowski, goes on to talk about the importance of a corporate mindset shift that’s essential in order for industrial or commercial businesses to achieve consistent, ongoing energy savings, over many years. It discusses the considerable positive impact the latest energy software dashboards can have in supporting an effective energy management program. Cascade Energy’s energy-efficiency platform, SENSEI™, gets big props as a system that’s designed to not merely monitor energy, but to drive action and change behavior. Cascade’s VP, Dan Brown is quoted as saying, “The monitoring of energy use is used to track how you’re performing. But, then you have to find and implement O&M changes, such as get people to close dock doors on a refrigerated dock when they didn’t do that before. Very specific, tangible changes have to be made”—behavior-based changes.

While great strides are being made in the tools we use to support our energy management efforts, (certainly the SENSEI dev team is working hard to add new features every day) those tools really only function as effectively as the people who use them and the corporate structure that supports them.

To be truly effective an overall energy management program must establish a mindset and behavior shift. And, while that program will likely include metering hardware and a software dashboard that would help determine capital or O&M projects, it’s garnering company-wide commitment and collaboration that yields the strongest results.

Creating a foundation for energy management starts with establishing a framework for success–even before you begin taking specific energy-efficiency measures. So, how do you know if your company is ready to embark on energy management? Consider the following questions:

• Do you have executive support?
• Have you set specific goals?
• Have you assigned roles for an energy team or an Energy Champion?
• How will you establish accountability?
• What kind of budget and ROI criteria has been set?
• Are reporting mechanisms in place?
• What awards and affirmations will drive employee engagement?
• How will you handle employees who aren’t “on board” with the program?

Understanding what you’re doing well and what you need to work on will help build a solid foundation for a successful energy management program.

Although every facility is unique and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach, every company should take the time to lay the groundwork. Then, over the course of two-to-five years, the range and timing of program components, tools, dashboards, and projects should be tailored to meet your company’s specific requirements—which could very well turn that 10% savings into 12% to 15%. That’s energy efficiency you’ll not only see recorded in your dashboard reports, but also savings you’ll see on your monthly energy bills.

Achieve Double-Digit Savings With the Right Energy Information System

When it comes to selecting an EIS (Energy Information System), today’s corporate decision makers are spoiled for choice, given the numerous competing solutions available in the market. However, boundless choice can be a sure-fire recipe for decision paralysis. Vetting a range of solutions that all tend to sound similar is no easy task, for an already over-burdened energy manager. 

Lawrence Berkley National Labs (LBNL) recently released a comprehensive study on the use, cost, and energy benefits of energy information systems. According to their definition, an EIS is,the web-based software, data acquisition hardware, and communication system used to store, analyse, and display building energy data.”

The study included an analysis of 26 organizations which had implemented an EIS. The median savings across individual sites and entire portfolios was 17% and 8% respectively. 

Given that an EIS or energy management platform is an “enabling” process-oriented tool vs. a widget or device that directly saves energy—quantifying its ROI is tricky. It is difficult to separate the benefits of an EIS from the benefits of other concurrent energy projects and activities. Despite these ROI hurdles, 90% of survey respondents in the study said the EIS was a critical component of their energy cost reduction efforts and that the performance levels achieved would not have been possible without the EIS in place.

The study highlights three primary ways in which an EIS helps organizations save energy and reduce cost. Evaluating candidate platforms against the following three key criteria can help make your software platform shortlist even shorter:

1. Operational Efficiency: An EIS provides visibility into energy performance, and insight into instances of energy waste that can be eliminated through low- or no-cost measures such as scheduling, commissioning, and occupant or operator practices.

Questions to consider:

  • Beyond basic alarm and push reporting functionality, does the platform make exploring trend data a delightful experience (not unlike exploring a neighborhood on Google Earth)? Is it easy to add additional days to a today vs. yesterday view? Can you scroll through multiple years of data with a simple click-and-drag?
  • Once a low- and no-cost opportunity has been identified, to what extent does the platform aid in the “enabling” aspect of an EIS? Does the platform provide a work-flow management tool to record and track identified energy projects? Does the platform provide integration between the graphics and the project tracking for crystal clear visibility into the effects projects have on energy performance? Does the platform help in driving action and getting things done?

2. Measure Identification: An EIS may be used to identify and justify capital improvement opportunities that increase energy efficiency.

Questions to consider:

  • Beyond basic historic and comparison graphs, does the platform offer enhanced reporting capabilities and data visualization functionality to help identify opportunities? Does it offer heat maps and KPI comparisons across multiple sites in a portfolio?
  • Can the platform handle time-of-day rate schedules? Seeing your cost-of-use overlaid with your use patterns reveals ways to better manage how and when energy is consumed.
  • Is the platform vendor capable of providing additional energy services beyond software, in order to further enable cost savings? Can they offer opportunity identification assistance, project economic analysis, staff training, and energy coaching?

3. Persistence of Savings: An EIS can be used to ensure that energy performance improvements and efficiency gains are maintained over time.

Questions to consider:

  • Beyond simple KPI target setting, is the platform capable of employing an accurate baseline model to ensure that high production levels or weather conditions do not mask true energy performance? Can the platform provide clear visualization of savings achieved to date?
  • Does the platform also provide means to store and manage all energy project documentation, operations and maintenance opportunities in detail, and energy-using equipment set-point recommendations to ensure institutionalization of energy efficiency practices? Effective documentation is essential to a successful energy management program. You don’t want your energy program to lose steam because of employee turnover and a lack of shared historical data.

The above questions should help you hone in on the platform that will fit your needs. If you can answer “YES” to the majority of the questions posed, then you are likely headed down the right path.

Energy Efficiency Isn’t Always Easy for Industrial Companies

industrialenergyefficiency

Even though energy is one of the biggest expenses for industrial companies, pursuing energy efficiency projects to drive consumption and cost down isn’t necessarily a top priority. Stephen Lacey from greentechmedia recently sat down with Cascade CEO, Marcus Wilcox to explore the complexity behind the key factors that make industrial energy efficiency a challenging proposition. Read Lacey’s article to get a clear picture of Why Efficiency Is So Much Harder in Industrial Facilities Than in Commercial Buildings.

Top Industrial Energy Drivers: Which Ones Impact Your Facility?


Click to enlarge infographic.

Industrial Energy Drivers

When it comes to energy efficiency in an industrial setting, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of accomplishment with an unexpectedly lower-than-usual utility bill. A temporary reduction in costs might have you thinking, “I must have done something right last month.” In reality, you could be mistaken. In fact, you could be headed in the opposite direction.

Getting at a facility’s true energy performance—or its energy intensity—doesn’t have to be a mystery. The first step involves being able to identify your facility’s energy drivers.

What Are Energy Drivers?

Energy drivers are factors that can cause energy use to vary. They generally fall into two camps: Those you can and should manipulate and others you usually can’t or wouldn’t want to. For instance, you can’t control the weather and you likely wouldn’t slow production simply to save energy. But you can (and definitely would want to) determine the efficiency of the equipment you purchase, or recognize the positive influence of operations and maintenance (O&M) actions on the energy efficiency of the systems at your facility.

The point of identifying energy drivers is to remove the ones you typically can’t or wouldn’t want to control from your facility’s overall energy-use equation. In the grand scheme of things, this group of energy drivers blurs the true picture of energy consumption at your facility. All of the other drivers that you can and should control constitute the purview of energy efficiency.

Factoring out this first group of energy drivers from your facility’s energy data is done through sophisticated statistical regression analysis. Don’t worry; we’re not about to get stat crazy. Our objective for the remainder of the post is to help you understand which of the drivers you can’t control, are in play at your facility. As you identify them, you’ll be more prepared to pinpoint your facility’s true energy performance with the help of statistical modeling (and the data geeks that do the analysis). Gaining insight into your facility’s energy drivers won’t make you an expert in screening every potential variable, but an increased familiarity could help you save time and money in building a viable statistical model that accounts for them.

Common Industrial Energy Drivers

Rather than examine an extensive list of all possible hard-to-control energy drivers, we’ll focus on four we find most frequently in an industrial context: weather, production, schedule, and the quality of raw goods.

1. Weather:

Does your energy use vary seasonally (over the course of the year)?

You might guess that thermal systems work harder to heat in the winter, while refrigeration systems use more energy to keep product cool during the summer. If your facility’s industrial process requires maintaining the temperature of a space, product, process, or tool, then weather will play a hand in how much energy the facility consumes. In fact, the same driver is in play for human-occupied spaces when an HVAC system keeps office temperatures comfortable, in spite of the scorching summer sun.

Temperature plus humidity play a role in energy used for drying processes. Before a lumber mill finalizes its production of dimensional lumber, roughly cut wet timber is kiln-dried then run through a planer to achieve its final dimension. Colder, wet weather affects how much energy is required to dry the lumber.

And, wouldn’t you know it—inclement weather (read: rain and snow) in some climates even determines how much energy is used to process wastewater. Precipitation, snow accumulation, storm events, and saturated ground conditions can increase influent flow substantially during non-summer months or a monsoon season. The extra water in the system means more energy is required throughout the collection and treatment processes.

Ask Yourself: Is Weather an Energy Driver?

  • Check your utility bill history for a pattern of seasonal peaks and valleys—a strong indication that weather is an energy driver at your facility.

 

2. Production:

Does energy use vary based on long-term production volume? Does your facility have high re-work or scrap-work rates?

For all industrials, energy is simply a means to an end. You’ve got a product to make, and you need energy to do it. Your business is about converting raw materials into something that meets customer needs. Though every facility would love to slow the rate at which their meter spins, you certainly wouldn’t turn down orders for finished goods to do it.

But production as an energy driver isn’t just about volume or the rate at which product is moving down the a conveyor belt. Energy use per product will jump if the product doesn’t meet customer specifications after the initial run and must be reprocessed. In extreme cases, you can double the amount of energy that goes into a product by processing it again. More likely, you might have to repeat a portion of the process again. For example, food processors of seasonal frozen products are often at the mercy of the harvest. As a result, a facility could be up to its eyeballs in raw goods all at once. The pressure to process more quickly creates the potential for inadequately frozen products that need to be reprocessed. From an energy-per-finished-product standpoint, maintaining a proven production process is a more efficient approach.

Ask Yourself: Is Production an Energy Driver?

  • Do you have equipment that operates intermittently, with significant idle time? For example, do you ever have to fire up additional equipment at a certain capacity, or use a different process for a given product line? If the answer is “yes,” it will be easy to identify how your production process influences your energy data.
  • If your operation runs 24-7 with infrequent variance in production levels, it might be hard to detect a production influence. You may need to look at energy data over a much longer time horizon and compare a 12-month rolling average of production with energy use in order to determine any long-term trends.
  • Bonus Energy Tip: Re-work or scrap work is the bane of efficiency (based on the amount of energy used to produce one unit of finished goods). If your “do over” rates seem high or erratic, consider having staff or third-party experts take a second look at your facility’s process. You could save not only energy, but also time and money.

 

3. Schedule:

Does your energy use vary throughout the week?

Schedule has to do with the normal daily and weekly patterns of production activity at a facility. Because operators run equipment, the amount of energy consumed is typically tied to the number of employees on the floor. Whether you realize it or not, employees make energy efficiency decisions every day by powering up and keeping equipment running, or turning it off when it’s not needed.

If you have an office located within a facility that is closed while the facility operates over the weekend, you might notice that the energy per unit produced (energy intensity) decreases. Since no one occupies the office on Saturdays and Sundays, overall energy use at the facility drops. This doesn’t mean that firing your accounting staff will make you more energy efficient. (Try explaining the overdue power bills to your utility!) It does mean, however, that an energy model created for your facility may need to account for the missing personnel on the weekend.

Ask Yourself: Is Schedule an Energy Driver?

  • If you have access to energy data, compare your energy use during week days with weekends or compare shifts with more personnel on the clock to lighter shifts. If major differences exist, schedule could be an energy driver at your facility.
  • Bonus Energy Tip: It’s important to examine energy use when a facility is idle. This is the “base metabolism” of the facility. If your facility shuts down on weekends and holidays, comparing energy data from the two could be beneficial. Suppose your facility uses 25 percent less energy on average over the weekends than on weekdays. Now, what if holiday use is 50 percent less than your average weekday use? Since you don’t manufacture on either weekends or holidays, comparing your shut-down procedures on weekends to your procedure before holidays could help you save more energy.

 

4. The Nature or Quality of Raw Goods:

What factors constrain your processing time and/or the amount of saleable output? Is the same amount of energy used for operating systems regardless of the rate of manufacture?

Raw goods entering a facility aren’t always of uniform quality, which may cause your production process to slow down. Since most facilities have multiple fixed loads that are on when producing, a slowdown in the process increases the amount of energy cost per unit of finished goods. At a lumber mill, for example, when the head rig handles logs that are comparatively small in diameter, the process slows and energy intensity climbs. In the food industry, cold storage facilities often blast freeze their product. If the temperature of incoming food products is higher than normal, the process may take longer and require more energy to get product down to final temperature.

In some cases, the same amount of energy is expended with diminishing returns. For example, in solution mining an underground cave is flooded with water to dissolve water-soluble mineral deposits, so they can be pumped out for more processing. Over time, the concentration of soluble minerals decreases and the mine realizes less saleable product for the same amount of energy.

Ask Yourself: Is the Nature or Quality of Raw Goods an Energy Driver?

  • Pay attention when product yields fluctuate despite the same per unit input of raw goods or despite employing the same process. If you don’t have an indication that this is a driver already, chances are personnel close to production know which characteristics of raw goods influence output levels. Ask them.

 

Disentangle Your Drivers

Looking at your utility bill history to get a read on your facility’s energy efficiency is kind of like sorting through a crowded power strip to locate the cord belonging to a particular device. It’s messy, the cords are interwoven and indistinguishable, and you might unplug something important before finding the right cord. Energy drivers are like the jumbled tangle of cords. By taking the time to tease them out, you can get a much better sense for your facility’s overall energy picture. Better still, by accounting for your energy drivers in order to track your facility’s true energy performance, you can then turn your attention to lowering energy intensity knowing that you now have an accurate measure of progress. And when you see the resulting cost savings on your utility bill (or the avoided cost from your energy model), then you’ll really have cause for celebration.

Check out and save our energy driver infographic (above) to use as a quick reference. Share it with colleagues whom you think would find it useful, too.

Energy Software: Do You know What You Need?

One thing became quite clear from my tour of the tradeshow floor at the 2012 World Energy Engineering Conference in Atlanta: There is a sea of energy monitoring software and systems out there. I don’t envy those of you fishing for the right one.

I’ve been in your shoes. At Cascade, we’ve used a few different systems over the past seven years, and evaluated many more. It’s been a real challenge figuring out which system would fulfill our needs and our clients’ requirements. Part of the problem is that even after looking at feature lists and grilling the software folks about capabilities, the truth is, you pretty much have to use it to know how it works and determine if it’s the right fit. That’s even truer when you’re considering how it works from a client perspective. It’s not easy to change to a different platform once you decide that what you have isn’t up to the task. So, how do you settle on the best energy management software for your organization right out of the gate? I think, the best way to start hinges on answering one key question: What do you want to use it for?

Pretty Basic, Right?

If your answer is, “I want to use it to monitor energy use,” then your field is wide open. There are dozens of software packages, such as eSight and Northwrite, which can help you track interval data and provide basic reports.

If your answer is, “To track Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions for my enterprise,” then there are a few packages we know of that do that quite well. Hara’s software platform is one example of an enterprise system designed to track carbon and energy based on utility bills and other monthly data sources. You might also look at C3‘s solutions that also help clients manage their greenhouse gas emissions.

If your answer is, “Lower my energy costs,” then I think, (and yes, I am biased) Cascade’s new platform, SENSEI, is worth a look.

Born from Energy Efficiency, Raised by Code-hounds

Cascade has been in the business of saving companies money through energy efficiency for almost 20 year. Whether you’re a corporate client or a utility, we’re great at achieving 10-30 percent in energy savings. We’ve helped our clients save hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. When we set out to build SENSEI, we focused on a design and feature-set that would meet our customers’ end goals, to save energy and money. And we made sure SENSEI would be something an energy engineer would appreciate using every day out on the floor by:

  • Providing access to energy information in a few clicks
  • Offering the functionality to save favorite views
  • Allowing you to view the information you want, the way you want

Connecting the Dots

Visit energySENSEI.com and you’ll see that by “connection” I’m talking about people getting down to the business of saving energy—together. The SENSEI platform supports that process by giving you the ability to interact around real-time events, to assign tasks, troubleshoot problems, and document actions taken.

We wanted to create a tool that provided corrective actions, because we believe that connecting actions to energy performance provides invaluable intelligence. And connecting people around a common efficiency goal ensures the job gets done.

We’ve only just begun

Yeah, I know it’s the title of that Carpenters’ hit song (hey, I grew up on 70’s folk/rock) but, it’s also a battle cry of sorts. Cascade is committed to giving SENSEI the resources to expand and improve at a rapid pace. We have a great roadmap brimming with ideas based on our years of experience. And we’d love to hear from you and get feedback about what you need to be successful.

If you’re trying to locate that “just right” platform that will help you lower your energy costs, SENSEI just might be your answer. Check it out!

The Future of Energy Tracking Software: What’s New for SENSEI

SENSEI

SENSEI, Cascade Energy’s, new industrial  energy efficiency platform launched in 2012, and as soon as the launch-party punch bowl was drained, we got busy working on new functionality and fine-tuning existing features. Here’s a look at what we’re planning for SENSEI:

  • More efficient site setup and improved scalability to make the onboarding system for new customers and facilities easier and faster.
  • Streamlined data handling that generates quicker, more robust imports and exports, so that it takes less time to upload and access utility bill, or production data.
  • Improved plot titling for a better landing page experience. Now, you can rename and order your saved views, and select the default landing page view of your choice.
  • Enhanced action item accountability. You’ll be able to categorize and organize your team’s action items in more ways. For example, it will be easy to separate actions related to O&M activity from management-specific tasks.

Intelligent tracking of system data leads to more informed decisions

Behind a strategic increase in energy efficiency stands a defined process that includes establishing performance through data collection, identifying issues and assigning actions, and tracking energy savings and improvements, as well as any backsliding events. SENSEI was uniquely designed to drive this process, and now we’re working to improve it through:

New capital asset tracking. We’re adding functionality that allows companies to easily inventory their major energy-consuming systems. For example, if your company has multiple facilities and you want to see which plants have completed installation of variable frequency drives on their refrigeration system screw compressors, that information will be accessible in a few clicks. This tool allows corporate energy managers unparalleled intelligence regarding remaining capital energy projects across their portfolio of 30, 100, or 1000 facilities.

More calculated meters based on more complicated and advanced formulas will make something like calculating your facility’s kWh per pounds of production, a snap. You’ll have access to plus, minus, divide, and percentage functionality directly through the user interface without needing to rely on administrative support to build these metrics. And administrators will be given power to more quickly input complex regression formulas that predict facility energy use from key energy drivers.

Enterprise roll-ups will aggregate facility-specific data into a single graphical or tabular view for your entire enterprise. This way you can view key energy performance metrics for all your sites in one place.  And you can rank and compare their performance quickly to see which facility is performing best and which one still has opportunity to improve.

Expanded report section that lets you add and name report images (created in our powerful reporting engine) and then share them with selected users. Easily select the most important reports to regularly share with your stakeholders, so that everyone gets the same clear information every month.

A Better-Trained Workforce Leads to Increased Productivity

Cascade has undertaken a long-term initiative to build a learning management system of online training videos. We’re beginning the process of creating a roster of relevant courses that will eventually be made available to SENSEI users and accessible directly from the SENSEI interface.

We have a lot on our development plates in the coming months. We’ll keep you posted as we release new SENSEI features and functionality.

Tackle Industrial Energy Management Projects with Ease

low cost no cost maintenance

Operations and maintenance (O&M) activities don’t have to be a drain on an industrial energy manager or facility operator’s time when energy monitoring software, connecting data to action, is in place.

If you’re a plant energy manager, you know your facility operators have To-Do lists a mile long. When operators are charged with keeping a large facility running strong and maintaining the machines that drive productivity and profit, they may have little time left to spend on mastering energy consumption. Yet, from an energy manager’s perspective O&M is a very important activity.

Sometimes not everyone has a clear picture as to just how much O&M affects energy efficiency. In many cases facility maintenance staff either may not know what measures to take to increase energy efficiency, or maybe they do know, but see too many barriers to accomplishing O&M improvements. The bottom line is that everyone needs to get involved in supporting an O&M effort.

Driving Success for O&M Efforts

So how does an energy manager promote O&M activity to drive energy efficiency, so that all of a facility’s energy stakeholders understand the benefits and agree it’s a priority?

First, it’s important that everyone recognize the benefits of O&M actions as low-cost, no-cost ways of achieving significant savings on a facility’s energy bills.

Second, in addition to energy and resource savings, everyone should understand that a well-run O&M program can:

  • Increase plant safety
  • Ensure that the life expectancy of machines and equipment is achieved
  • Facilitate compliance with local and federal energy management legislation

Third, you need to figure out how to gain traction on those O&M efforts without compromising productivity. A big part of that answer lies in the tools your company uses to monitor and analyze energy consumption. With the right tools—tools that get you the exactly the information you need, and that facilitate a collaborative approach—O&M projects don’t have to be a drag on anyone’s day. In an ideal situation your energy monitoring program should provide your team with clear information, leading to specific actions and reasonable deadlines that are delegated to team members. That way everyone knows what the plan is, who’s doing what, and when tasks are due to be completed.

O&M may sometimes be seen as a distraction, but when your team is “all-in” and you have the right tools in place, your O&M accomplishments will feel like a big win for everybody in your company. In fact, your plant may become the model that the rest of the enterprise looks to for best practices in meeting industrial energy efficiency goals.

For More Information …

If you’re in the process of selecting energy monitoring software, check out our blog post on Energy Tracking Software: Do You Know What You Need?

For detailed O&M information, including a chapter on O&M for specific equipment types from boilers, chillers, and cooling towers to fans, pumps, and motors, download the U.S. Department of Energy’s Operations & Maintenance Best Practices guide: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/pdfs/omguide_complete.pdf