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More than 40 percent of the allocated electrical costs in an industrial environment is attributed to equipment support systems, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), compressed air, chilled water, boilers, and more. While equipment optimization and visibility are often things that many facility managers take great care in providing, it is not as often considered for these support systems, which product line equipment often depends on to maximize uptime. To ensure all systems are optimized and operating efficiently, more facilities are introducing a process and technology, better known as monitoring-based commissioning, which provides complete transparency and real-time updates on these various systems.

Monitoring-based commissioning systems use advanced fault detection (i.e., analytics) to shift facility management from a reactive structure, where support systems are fixed after an equipment issue or malfunction occurs, to a proactive approach, where it’s possible to identify and eliminate potential issues before they occur. These analytics, which can be viewed anywhere through cloud-based platforms, are able to diagnose equipment faults, prevent failures, and increase operational efficiency through faster time to resolution.

These systems are proven to save upwards of 10 percent of the overall electric bill, with a simple payback time of less than nine months. In many cases, it’s even possible to double these savings by working with your utility company to gain incentives for corrective action costs or even equipment replacement with higher energy ratings. Over the course of time, facility managers can experience exponential savings year over year, both in costs and energy, if continuously monitored by these systems.

Turning System Transparency into Savings

Monitoring-based commissioning systems are able to identify a number of areas and systems across a facility that are wasting energy and costs. Consider, for example, HVAC contribution, which on its own presents a significant opportunity for cost savings. Your typical building management system (BMS) does not drive utility costs down, for its primary job is to manage the control system. It takes manual intervention, hours of analysis, and a senior facilities BMS on staff professional to determine optimization and energy reduction opportunities. Often times, the control vendor is paid to take a look intermittently, but with no clear incentive to look at energy reduction or justify the change.

The new generation of monitoring-based commissioning systems look at the complex issues, like simultaneous heating and cooling, baseline optimization, economizer failures, and airflow equipment interactions, all of which impact environment, health and safety (EHS) of a facility. These issues are incorporated into intelligent fault detection findings, providing energy reduction savings and process optimization opportunities that drive less wear and tear to increase equipment life. This same type of analysis is applied across the plant, precisely analyzing data from the numerous systems and pieces of equipment. As long as there are sensors and data to be gathered from the machine, controller, or the BMS, they will all be connected and detected.

With compressed air and chilled water support equipment, utility savings can soar up to as much as 25 percent. Compressed air systems are used in every industrial environment and are typically key in product delivery. A monitoring-based commissioning system looks at the entire supply and demand process to drive not only equipment faults, but sequencing, scheduling and optimization. Some equipment vendors supply optimization software for these systems, but to determine the biggest opportunity for savings, you need to justify those optimizations. Monitoring-based commissioning systems not only amplify optimization and fault detection, but offer savings calculations that justify the changes to these complex systems.

One of the biggest benefits derived from incorporating these types of systems into your facility is increased reliability. For example, determining the optimization of blow off is typically not easy to begin with. Factoring in energy savings based on system demand is a tough task and usually requires the expertise of a technical consultant. In one real-world environment of 10 compressed air systems, a monitoring-based commissioning system, within four days of run time, determined that by adjusting blow off without compromising demand could save over $100,000 in electrical costs.

Getting the Most Out of Your Data

The question, “Do I even have the data to find these issues?” is often asked within the industrial space. The truth is, most building management systems have enough data to do your analysis manually. Some provide trends and others do not. Monitoring-based commissioning systems provide the trends and then use the history to determine the faults and conditions that contributed to the fault. This not only saves money, but helps improve operational efficiency and creates longevity in equipment life by proactively addressing maintenance issues through fault detection analytics. Monitoring-based commissioning acts like a 24/7 technician, instantly analyzing when the fault occurred, what caused the fault, and alerting staff to faults, even when no one is around. It also uses this history for determining the prediction of failure.

Picture a simple supply fan running constantly at 75 percent. What if you could take this fan down to 50 percent or 30 percent on average and still maintain the temperature and humidity requirements? This is one application of a monitoring-based commissioning system. You would not only save money, but also extend the life of the fan.

In labs and clean rooms, utility costs are high and a balance needs to occur between air turns, temperature, pressure and humidity. A monitoring-based commissioning system alerts you to savings and, more importantly, addresses EHS concerns immediately in these complex environments. When time to resolution is critical in a safety environment, casual analysis is key to the facility engineer, rather than spending hours on the BMS analyzing the issue.

The efficiency of your building’s energy consuming systems slowly deteriorates over time. Similar to how your vehicle needs a regular tune-up to run optimally, so does your building. Monitoring-based commissioning is a comprehensive study that serves to enhance the efficiency of an existing building’s equipment and processes through the identification of low to no cost operational improvements. These operational improvements are designed to decrease the amount of energy used by your building and reduce its overall carbon footprint.

Monitoring-based commissioning systems are the next generation of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology. They provide the facility director, energy/sustainability manager, and engineer with the tools to make better decisions. These are decisions that impact the comfort of people, the production of product and the sustainability goals of the company. These systems ensure the changes are permanent by continuing to watch them over time. And finally, the savings are not just allocated costs, they are pure profit to the company. 

Mark Pipher

Mark Pipher is the Vice President and General Manager of FacilityConnex. With over 20 years of experience, Mark has worked as the General Manager for GE’s Intelligent Platform division, COO for SQMWorks, Founder and VP of Engineering for West Ridge networks and VP of Engineering for Celox. www.facilityconnex.com

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