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Achieve a low cost and low carbon future

04 August 2020

Ask a manufacturer for their thoughts on green business and, privately, they may tell you that it does not necessarily equate to good business. Probe a little deeper and they might even tell you that you can have one or the other – sustainability or profitability – but not both, asserts Graham Coats, Sales Director at CMCNV

Thankfully, this viewpoint is changing.

Firstly, there is the linear relationship between energy usage and cost; the more a manufacturer uses, the higher its energy bill – and as the cost of energy continues to increase, this symbiotic bond becomes even more apparent. On that basis alone, there is a clear incentive to limit energy usage to an essential level. In doing this, carbon footprint naturally decreases.

Secondly, there is a wave of new technology, primarily driven by cloud-based, IoT-led systems and that also includes control and monitoring products. These not only offer manufacturers forensic levels of data about the performance of their compressed air assets, but in many cases also facilitate the automatic adjustment of them, individual or grouped, to optimise performance where any operational gains or energy reductions can be made.

Lastly, there is a wraparound framework in the form of ISO50001, a global standard for energy management systems that was launched in 2011 and subsequently revised in 2018. The standard exists to help organisations, from SMEs to expansive conglomerates, continually reduce energy usage – and therefore cost and carbon emissions – through the provision of a structure that manufacturers can systematically follow and scale up and down accordingly.

A bird’s eye view

I have worked in the compressed air performance and monitoring industry for many years. I have also been behind the scenes of many successful organisations that rely heavily on compressed air, and it never fails to amaze just how much potential there is for manufacturers to make energy saving and performance gains – with relatively minimal effort, too.

More often than not, the reason for manufacturers not spotting and exploiting this potential is the absence of a coherent energy management system, or an organisation-wide lack of understanding of how to get the most from their assets.

a manufacturing facility without an energy management system is unlikely to get the best from its compressed air system

In the same way that a military unit without a commanding officer lacks a sense of purpose or structure, a manufacturing facility without an energy management system is unlikely to get the best from its compressed air system. If we think of ISO50001 as that overarching framework for an organisation to follow, then we can begin to see how the global standard can be used to get the best from a facility.

For an organisation to prove that it meets the standard it has to undergo a management system audit, either internal or external. The question, therefore, is how can those utilising compressed air effectively evaluate their assets’ performance as part of an ISO50001 energy management system and, in doing so, grow their bottom line and minimise their negative environmental footprint.

The road to compliance

The current ISO5001 standard guidance is a 42-page document, so in the interests of brevity I have distilled its essence into six clear areas. This is not meant as a substitute; it is essential that all manufacturers interested in implementing an energy management system that meets ISO50001 standards work through the guidance. However, this aims to provide a broad illustration of the main points that need to be considered when embarking on the journey.

Be clear from the outset

What are the drivers behind achieving ISO5001? Is it part of a cost cutting exercise? Is it a way in which to bolster your CSR programme? Or are you looking to add value to your business? By identifying what you really want from the outset, you are more likely to stick to the plan – and make it easy for your team to stick to the plan – as you move through the process.

Meaningful data is everything

Only by truly understanding your performance data can you understand where your compressed air system can be improved. Data is the bedrock on which your ISO5001 goals should be built. This is of particular significance to me, given how my organisation has created AIRMATICSTM, a cloud-based air compressor monitoring, performance and control solution that provides real time data, analytics and insights and can manage an infinite number of locally interconnected fixed speed, variable speed or variable output air compressors. Of course, there are other solutions that allow manufacturers to get under the skin of their compressed air systems. The key thing is to use them, not only to help you on your journey towards becoming compliant – but also remaining compliant.

Consistency is key

Gaining accurate, meaningful and actionable data is one thing. Ensuring it remains so at every tier of an organisation is another, particularly for global organisations with multiple sites. Making sure that there is standardisation of data and that nothing can be left open to interpretation as it passes from team to team – or even country to country – is essential for working within an ISO50001 framework.

Lead from the front

This is where the military analogy is relevant. As with all ISO standards, compliance follows dedication and hard work. If you are responsible for leading the journey to compliance and are fully engaged, great. However, given the work involved, you will need to ensure that everyone has bought into the standard and that the aims and objectives are woven into the fabric of the organisation. Make sure that everyone in the organisation is working towards the same goal or risk losing some troops along the way.

Call in the experts where necessary

Compressed air consultants may well equal cost, but if they can share knowledge and best practice – and ultimately get your organisation to where it is going quicker – then maybe it is a worthy investment.

Painting the Fourth Bridge

So, you have made it. Your organisation is now ISO5001 compliant. Time to ease off? Sadly not. ISO5001 is about continual improvement, so you should always be looking to review, refresh or even revamp your plan. Just as painting the Fourth Bridge is a never-ending job, as new compressed air technology and techniques become available you should be exploring where and how these can be implemented within your energy management plan.

As far as ISO standards go, ISO5001 needs little justification. It saves energy, cuts carbons emissions and provides a framework for manufacturers to achieve and maintain best practice. However, it is a living framework and one that must be tended to on a regular basis in order to remain relevant. The technology required to yield actionable data and improve compressed air performance exists. As long as the willing is there, too, then manufacturers across the world can expect to simultaneously future proof their organisation, increase their bottom line and improve their sustainability credentials.

A true win-win.