Smart manufacturing, the integration of all facets of manufacturing through the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), is set to transform the industrial sector and its use of energy, raw materials, and labor over the next twenty years. Everyone in a company will have the information they need to make informed, data-driven decisions in real-time. Executives will have will have a panoramic view of productivity and managers will have an in depth view of their production costs, including energy. Given such significant economic potential, it is important for policymakers, economic development organizations, and the energy efficiency community to understand what smart manufacturing is and how it will change energy management in the industrial sector.
Our new report, The Energy Savings Potential of Smart Manufacturing, is designed to show businesses leaders, utility program administrators, and energy managers how to make U.S. manufacturing more energy efficient, productive, and competitive. Picking up where our last report on intelligent efficiency left off, and continuing our examination of the supply chain that was started with a recent white paper on smart freight, we identify the components of smart manufacturing and define terms, connecting them with the potential to manage and save energy in a new and innovative way.
Integration of devices and systems in a network empowered with predictive and anticipatory capabilities will produce new savings from manufacturing equipment, systems, processes, and facilities. These same analytical capabilities have the potential to simplify and automate the evaluation, measurement, and validation of energy savings—an important development for utility energy efficiency programs. These data gathering and analysis capabilities can also create new opportunities for firms to realize value from utility demand response and energy efficiency programs.
Before smart manufacturing can transform the industrial sector, though, the cost must come down. That will require the adoption of common communication and network protocols and standards. It will also require improved data security and appropriately trained workers who know how to develop and use smart manufacturing tools. Fortunately, industry and government are coming together in efforts to address the details and develop new frameworks that will enable easier and broader adoption of smart manufacturing.
With those partnerships the challenge will likely be overcome, and because smart manufacturing puts more power in businesses’ hands to reduce their costs, its widespread adoption is almost assured. In a few decades it will transform the industrial sector and fundamentally alter the way products are manufactured. This is great news not only for our nation’s industrial bottom line, but also for public health, the environment, and the economy at large, as we produce more and more goods for less and less energy.