Smart Building Solutions for Manufacturing Facilities

A connected smart building is built to support the diverse production activities with better energy efficiency, safety and security, and sustainability. With the integration of the Industrial Internet of Things, manufacturers are moving towards a digitalization opportunity to build a smarter, more optimized and manageable manufacturing facility. Facilities are now being connected to deliver operationally efficient, safe and profitable manufacturing processes.

Identifying areas for energy savings is a common first step when creating a smart building. In fact, energy management is crucial for modern manufacturing facilities, as they can consume more energy than traditional plants due to the added automation and cloud computing equipment. Despite this, smart technologies are still preferred because they connect the production facilities, data center, lighting, HVAC, etc., to energy monitoring systems which will increase overall efficiency by making adjustments based on predefined needs. More specifically, by connecting sensors, meters, protocol gateways, and IIoT gateways to production facilities (machines, pumps, boilers, air-compressors), the data center (networking devices, UPS, power distributing unit), EV charging, lighting, elevators, HVAC and refrigerators, managers can monitor the energy consumption of the entire building and the health of all factory assets from the energy management systems based in the control room.

With the information collected, the manager can identify problems (e.g. power consumption anomalies in the data center) and deploy a smart energy management plan, such as designing the cool/hot aisle strategies for the data center, adopting geothermal heat pump technologies, auto-detecting outdoor luminescence/temperature to adjust indoor lighting/AC, regenerating power from elevator movement, or shifting energy usage with an ESS (Energy Storage System). Incorporating any one of these techniques contributes to increased energy efficiency and lower operational costs. In many ways, all this is similar to designing a connected home that is optimized for energy saving. The difference is that in a commercial building, there are a lot more components and connected devices to consider. Additionally, the potential cost savings are much higher than a residential application.

By connecting IIoT gateways to multiple production sites, managers can monitor and compare the energy consumption and health of all factory assets through cloud applications. Additionally, they can deploy different smart asset management strategies to the connected facilities or find alternative plans that increase asset performance and efficiency. 

To close the loop with energy efficiency for a smart building, you need to create your own microgrid. A microgrid is a self-contained power system that has the ability to locally generate, distribute, and store energy. It also has the option to work in parallel with or independently from the main grid. This provides reliability for your business should anything happen to the main grid such as a blackout. When a microgrid is created for a manufacturing facility, it provides the energy for factory systems to operate. Depending on how much power generation the microgrid is capable of and the energy demand of the factory, you might be able to create a fully sustainable building. If this is achieved, your smart building becomes a Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB), which is a building that produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements. The renewable energy supports normal factory operations and the ESS ensures consistent operating power and provides the flexibility of peak-shaving with the grid. Peak-shaving helps commercial businesses save money because it reduces the peak demand penalty charged by utilities during high-usage periods.

Behind the scenes, the components of the microgrid work together by connecting inverters, meters, protocol gateways, industrial computers, and wireless networking systems to solar inverters, ESS and PCS (power conditioning systems). Managers can monitor the renewable energy generation, storage, transmission and distribution of power between the grid and the factory. The status of the factory can be monitored remotely and power flow can be adjusted to accommodate operational needs.

In the diagram shown here, we’ve illustrated how the inverter and energy storage system can be connected through networking equipment to provide operation managers the information they need to run an energy efficient factory.

To create an energy efficient smart building, start by looking at areas that will bring the greatest impact to your business. To help narrow down what to look, watch our video that covers key considerations for energy efficient buildings.

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