Management by measurement
"Achieving optimum efficiency has always pre-supposed the ability to measure existing consumption and then to set realistic targets for the future," states Stephen England of Datum Solutions Ltd. "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it", is the well-known saying. Manufacturing plants will meter most processes for raw material consumption. However, electricity, gas and steam often fall outside this strict monitoring process, being regarded as 'operational overheads' rather than separate ingredients. Even where they are considered, the metering may only be application specific, with total consumption and costings being factored in from the bills received from suppliers.
"The availability of comprehensive data on consumption and costings is not only useful for fault reporting. It also allows plant managers to plan ahead, shifting load patterns to take advantage of cheaper tariff rates, for example. It is also useful when the time comes to negotiate the next power supply contract. The more detail that can be given to potential suppliers, the less commercial risk they have to absorb and the keener the prices they will feel able to offer.
"It should be noted that, although half-hourly metering is only mandatory for those with maximum demand in excess of 100kW, it may be advantageous for many businesses that have sites operating below this level. What matters is the potential for efficiency savings compared with the set-up costs of installing the metering. There are annual fees for meter operation services as well, but everyone pays these even if they are disguised in the overall standing charge.
"However, the last few years has seen the convergence of all the separate gas, water, steam or oil systems into an integrated approach to utility management. All the data streams from fiscal metering, check metering and sub-metering can be gathered into a single unified system to monitor and report on utility usage. This can be done on a single-site basis or across a number of different plants and office complexes. The data can either be delivered raw into a business's own systems or it can be supplied in the form of prepared reports by a bureau service.
"In either case, the management team can see at a glance how the company is performing: in terms of the efficiency of raw material use (be it electricity, gas, water, oil or steam); the cost to the business of each utility; the cost of each utility for individual processes; the amount of emissions due to each process; and how each of these areas relates to the targets set for the business.
"The ability to draw on accurate figures for each utility will also enable a company to produce accurate greenhouse gas estimates using the Government's new calculation methods outlined in the recent Environmental Reporting Guidelines. With many businesses now embracing environmental management standards such as ISO 14001 and an increasing number subject to environmental regulation like the new Pollution Prevention and Control Act, the need to publicly demonstrate compliance can only increase. Having a robust, quantitative approach to environmental management will aid compliance in the present and provide a way of demonstrating continuous improvement over the longer term."