Faced with an irreversible energy transition in line with climate policy, the need to reduce emissions, and increasing regulation, the industrial sector is under intense pressure to implement change. On this topic, we speak with Jakub Kaczyński, an expert in digital solutions for industry from Transition Technologies PSC.
You have been involved in Industry 4.0, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) for more than 10 years, what is the biggest challenge for manufacturing companies?
JK: Over the past two years we have seen, the focus of businesses on reducing costs related to the consumption of energy utilities. Now, after a relative stabilization in this area, the issue of ESG reporting is coming to the fore. An example could be the European Green Deal and the European implementing acts that follow it are imposing ever newer requirements on businesses to achieve specific sustainability results. In July 2023, regulations on reporting standards (ESRS) came into force in accordance with the CSRD. The European strategy in this area is ambitious, with a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. On the other hand, it is estimated that cumulative public investment in this direction will reach €1.7 trillion by 2030.
The future of industrial energy management is based on many variables. So are we able to identify trends and list innovations that are driving the energy market?
JK: Observing customer needs, I would identify two main aspects to consider and three technological areas that will affect energy management.
In running and growing a business, the most important thing is flexibility, “agility” – and data-driven decision-making. This makes it possible to identify necessary actions and implement them. Considering how quickly and often the business, regulatory, and social environment changes – all solutions in the ESG area must be characterized by high flexibility and adaptability. This allows them to fit perfectly into the specifics of a given enterprise, and not the other way around. It also allows for decision-making by connecting existing data silos within organizations.
The technologies that support systems to meet the above requirements are the Industrial Internet of Things, Machine Learning, and the public cloud. The former enables data from different sources to be combined and integrated in real-time, providing flexibility. Machine Learning provides more effective analysis and prediction based on collected data. The cloud gives access to scalable and flexible storage and processing of large amounts of data. Together, they provide the opportunity for even better business value realization.
An example of such synergy is the energy management system Energy Advisor for Manufacturing. This system enables manufacturing companies to control energy consumption and its costs during the production process. The tool not only collects the necessary data directly from production lines but also from production support systems. It allows them to be visualized from the perspective of historical changes. It’s a solution that not only supports entrepreneurs in the present, but also equips them with excellent, flexible tools that will help the organization respond better to changes in the energy market and new regulations.
The system you mentioned combines energy efficiency with the tenets of sustainability. What benefits does Energy Advisor bring to the energy management process at a manufacturing plant?
JK: At the outset, it’s worth noting that the results that can be obtained after implementing this solution depend on, among other things, the internal change management processes of the organization and the support of management. Benefits, on the other hand, can be divided into several areas.
First is awareness building – making visible where in the process, which lines, machines and which products are most responsible for the consumption of energy utilities. This helps avoid unnecessary costs, such as financial penalties for exceeding so-called contracted power.
Second is optimization. With all the necessary data, changes can be identified and planned, starting with the most important ones. Knowing the cost of utilities needed to produce a unit of a product, and the energy intensity of individual lines, gives you the ability to make decisions about changes to your product portfolio or production plan.
The third area is the “what-if” analysis on costs and energy carriers used, leading to diversification of the energy mix or tariff changes. This not only provides opportunities for further cost optimization, but also greater flexibility and streamlines the process of adapting to changing business conditions.
Fourth addresses change management in sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives. The ability to start targeted initiatives in a specific area, but also to measurably track their progress.
The fifth and final area is ESG reporting. Tracking changes and progress and collecting the data necessary to meet non-financial reporting obligations.
As an industrial digitization expert, what barriers or concerns, when implementing new energy management solutions, do you encounter most often?
JK: The first barrier is the multitude of options available. At every turn, one encounters numerous solutions presented as “modern” and “the best”. It’s difficult to find the right one in this thicket of promises.
The second barrier is the implementation process. If it’s not prepared in the right way, time is not provided for adaptation and handover of the system to key users – the whole venture may end in failure.
What is your advice to companies facing this challenge?
JK: Find the right technology partner who will adapt to the company’s requirements will not want to revolutionize the current state of production and will present a sensible plan of action. It’s important to remember that industrial companies are not technology companies. For them, the choice of a particular solution, tool, or technology is a secondary thing – in view of the business goal to be achieved. That’s why many such companies are looking for a trusted technology partner who can support them in selecting and creating the right solution that addresses specific requirements and challenges. It’s from such experiences that the Smart Factory: Explained series was created, during which we explain the principles of Industry 4.0 in the form of short videos.
In today’s dynamic business environment, digital transformation is already an integral part of companies’ strategies. Innovative technological developments are not only transforming business processes and models but also creating a new era of customer interaction, opening the door to endless growth prospects.
Featured image credit: Federico Beccari/Unsplash