How Many New All-Electric Machines Does It Take to Equal an Older Hydraulic Machine?

If you’re looking at energy consumption, quite a few.

If you’re looking at energy consumption, quite a few.

 

For February’s upcoming Processor Edge feature, I spoke with Cleveland-area custom molder Automation Plastics Corp., about its use of EnerNOC’s energy information software. EnerNOC works by measuring power intake of a plant at the main meter and then sending that data to the Cloud for analysis. In addition to consumption figures, it includes the ability to set alarms and compare/contrast overall energy usage to previous periods.

 

Apart from real-time insights into plantwide energy usage, Jerome Smith and Chris Miller of Automation explained to me that the EnerNOC data let them see how much energy specific machines use as that total plant power consumption figure adjusts during startups.

 

Those disparate levels of consumption came into clearer focus when a job had to be moved from an electric press to an older hydraulic machine, and Automation had to temporarily reshuffle its machine deck.

 

“We found that we had to shut down—I think it was like three electric presses—to kind of equal that one hydraulic press,” Miller said. “It was kind of a neat experiment to see how much difference there is in the technology from ‘70s and ‘80s, to a lot of the electric machines we have today that use hardly any electricity at all.”

 

Miller noted this gap is especially apparent when molding thicker parts that require longer-than-usual cooling times, during which the pumps on an older hydraulic machine keep on running.

 

To gain further insights into the power consumption of various cells in its plant, Miller and Smith said Automation is planning a test event where it will stage its start ups—basically start up a cell; note power levels; wait 15 minutes; and then start up another cell to see how the power level changes. This, in turn, could inform its pricing for machine time.

 

“One thing we’d like to know what is the cost to run that that cell,” Miller said. “What energy does it take to run that cell. That would help us with costing as far as, ‘What does it cost to run that cell if we were to sell it to someone to make parts for them?’”

 

As a EnerNOC spokesman told me, this level of insight can allow processors to more accurately quote machine time based on a specific press and its power consumption vs. simply dividing plant-wide power consumption by the total number of machines.

 

“Instead of spreading energy like peanut butter across all the product lines, shops will actually be able to understand it more accurately and more competitively price some of the different products,” the representative said. “It’s actually a pretty cool indirect benefit to gain that more competitive knowledge into their actual costs.”

 

Automation Plastics shop floor in Aurora, Oh.