Energy is everywhere and runs through everyone and everything that moves — business operations included. Whether it’s a small five-person office or a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing plant, energy holds the key to unlocking the stories unfolding within your business and factors of production. Doctor Frankenstein famously awakened his monster with a jolt of the good stuff and business owners all over the world are today taking a page out of Mary Shelley’s book — giving voice to otherwise inanimate assets.
As with EEGs and EKGs for people, there is a great deal of insight to be found through a careful examination of electrical activity patterns. Heating and cooling systems, operational machinery, overhead lights — every asset or component with an electrical pulse can communicate with its managers through the electrical data it generates.
Not only is energy an activist agent for change, it is also the historian who diligently chronicles those changes. It’s a story maker and story teller. It is this dual understanding of energy that is opening new opportunities, and it’s the corresponding dual appreciation for energy that allows those opportunities to be realized.
On the surface, the terabytes of data spell out how energy is being used and how assets are performing. On a deeper level, data nuances and anomalies tell the tale of what may be wrong with machinery. The more detailed the tale, the more actionable the upshot, the more immediate the returns. By following the energy trail, energy spend is transformed from a cost of doing business to a mechanism for tracking and ensuring operational excellence.
Not Just For Power: Tapping Into Big Data Generated By Energy Usage
When implemented properly, data-driven facility management provides colossal insight into operations that can’t be seen by the naked eye. If left unscrutinized, these unseen dependencies and subtle mechanical interactions can translate into considerable missed opportunity, if not serious problems.
The amazing thing about energy data is that it’s all already there. You don’t need to create it, you just need to capture it. This data — data that’s generated just by turning the lights on each day — can be put to work for the benefit of the operation as a whole.
By seeing in real time which zones, systems and machines are using energy at what rates, the information can be compared to general and device-specific historical benchmarks which shed light on all the parts of Facility Management which cannot be observed by the naked eye. Facility Managers can create a feedback loop to perpetually improve operational efficiency.
Using Energy Data to Achieve Operational Excellence
It’s not always obvious when something may be going wrong in a facility. And more importantly, the absence of a concrete problem in no way suggests that improvements can’t be made. This is important to remember. It’s also a fact that most of us usually disregard. While flickering lights and constant downtime are obvious signs of a problem with the electrical grid, little hiccups flying under the radar can be even more nefarious and sideline even more potential value.
Energy data — paired with information technology best practices — can pinpoint exactly where value is being lost, no matter how small. By virtue of the specificity of information, a conscientious manager will be set on course with direct interventional or remedial recommendations.
Once a Facility Manager establishes a normal holding pattern with the energy monitoring system, deviations from the normal pattern will jump out. Generalized industry benchmarks and comparable asset standards are also enlisted to make sure that your “business as usual” is objectively effective.
What’s more, with deep learning technology rolled into some platforms, performance expectations are set against hard limits rather than experiential norms. New configurations can be conceived, simulated and proposed endlessly with the goal of maximum performance.
As a civilization, we owe a tremendous debt to electricity. Ever since Italian physicist Alessandro Volta managed to produce a steady electric current over 200 years ago, electricity has done more than any other force to transform the Earth. Three industrial revolutions later and it seems that we’re still just scratching the surface of electrical potential. On the cusp of a fourth great revolution, perhaps that will all change, as we begin to redefine the role of energy in our lives.
Looking forward, it’s impossible to know exactly how these new capabilities will affect the trajectory of human enterprise. But that it will have a profound effect can hardly be denied.
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