Energy Management Made Simple

June 15, 2016 11:08 am
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In recent weeks I’ve visited some real large-scale production sites. Prior to my visits I wouldn’t have been surprised to find their annual utility bills amounted to a hefty sum, made up of a fairly traditional mix of compressed air, fridge plant, steam boilers, water and waste water treatment. The true spend surpassed my initial ideas when it turned out that all 3 sites were actually spending upwards of £5m per annum; the reality was that all 3 were making an annual profit of less than their utility bill.

What surprised me most however, was the fact that there wasn’t any form of utility management programme in place, and in none of the cases was there any evidence of any accountability for utility spend. In addition, there was little or no understanding of the key energy efficiency measures.

A typical production site is connected to the grid to purchase electricity and gas. Whilst some of the electricity will be used direct to power electric motors for example, in many instances it will swiftly be converted into compressed air and “coolth”, through a refrigeration system. Likewise, whilst gas may be used directly to supply heat, it is often first converted into steam. Steam and coolth are then distributed around the site before being consumed. With this in mind, in order to manage the energy spend we need to understand how the energy flows around the site:

  • Procurement from the utility company
  • Conversion to a different energy form for distribution
  • Distribution around the site
  • Usage
  • Recovery of residual energy

Like all activity on a production site, there are a number of key metrics that give us the key management information we need to effectively manage this process. Focusing on frozen food manufacturers in this example, consider the conversion of electricity into “coolth” in a refrigeration system…

Fridge Compressors

In a frozen food business, the fridge compressors are likely to be a significant part of the overall electrical consumption for the site – in a recent example they represented 80% of their circa £1m per annum electricity bill. They are, also, a badly understood asset. Often maintained by third parties through contracts with no efficiency measures, filled with toxic gases and housed in locked rooms for which the Site General Manager has no key, they are shrouded in mystery and, at best, ignored. At worst they are operated in an inefficient manner, substantially increasing site energy bills.

Refrigeration systems have a low profile until they fail, causing product to defrost and an ammonia release into the atmosphere.

A typical fridge plant will be a mechanical vapour compression (MVC) system utilising the latent heat of evaporation to lower the temperature. The refrigerant gas is compressed, increasing the temperature. It is then condensed to a liquid, still at high pressure, and the waste heat rejected to atmosphere through a cooling tower or evaporative condenser. The liquid then passes through an expansion valve thus reducing the pressure. It then passes through a heat exchanger where it boils off, extracting heat from the surroundings and reducing the temperature. At this point it is passed back to the compressor and the cycle begins again.

The coolth is often distributed to the process through a secondary refrigerant system. Assuming this to be the case, the main energy consumers in the process are:

  • Compressor
  • Condenser
  • Secondary refrigerant circulation pumps

The key performance measure of the fridge system is the coefficient of performance (COP). This is defined as:

COP = energy removed from the process in the evaporator/energy to the fridge compressor

Whilst this does not tell the whole story, it is a good starting point. The COP depends on many factors, not least the target temperature. It is the COP that is often badly understood, or not understood at all. This is particularly relevant at this time. R22 refrigerant is now banned, and many older refrigeration systems have been converted to alternate gasses such as RS52. However, this was often done with consideration for the capital cost only, with no visibility of the reduction in COP and the consequent increase in a site’s electrical bill.

Summary

If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it! Refrigeration systems will make up a fundamental part of the cost base in any site where temperatures need to be reduced. The efficiency of these systems is often not known as it is not built into the measures for the service contract. In order to control this major cost, you need an efficiency measure. Once you have this, you can start to discuss with your service partner how to increase it.

For additional information on Coriolis’s Energy Management Capability and how to use it to enhance your business, please contact us.

 

Written by Richard Jeffers, Coriolis Ltd

Why do we still write lists in an age of voice memos and iPhone notes?

June 7, 2016 2:01 pm
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It may sound melodramatic, but the paper notes and pens in my hall alongside my trusty work notebook are my lifeblood. Be it a shopping list, things I need to pack, a work to do list, unplugging the iron or putting the bins out, there tends to be a memo lurking somewhere.

When I rifled through my bag this morning and found yet another ‘to do’ list on a post-it note I decided there had to be some science in it. In a digital age where voice memos and iPhone Notes are literally at our fingertips, why do we still find it necessary to put pen to paper?

Unsurprisingly there are a vast amount of psychological studies which focus on the function of handwriting, style and form and basically why many of us have an inherent need to write things down. As it happens there are key differentiators between writing things down by hand and typing them on a word processor, with one article even suggesting handwriting makes you smarter!

We don’t write longhand as quickly as we type today, meaning that handwriting slows you down and forces you to a more refined decision on which words to use. You are therefore already thinking about the content in more depth and memorising it. Researchers have found that children who know how to write by hand learn to read faster. They are also better at retaining information and coming up with new ideas. “Word-processing is a normative, standardised tool… paper allows much greater graphic freedom” said Claire Bustarret, a specialist on codex manuscripts at the Maurice Halbwachs research centre in Paris.

The benefits of handwriting aren’t just seen in the acquisition of reading skills. Research also found that taking notes by hand could help you learn faster and more effectively. It is suggested that this is due to a need to process and reframe all of the information before writing it down. There are cognitive benefits to handwriting in old age too, with handwriting identified as a way to improve your memory by encouraging an active link between the brain and motor skills.

Most of us have experienced sleepless nights with a whirling to do list running through our minds, and psychologists often recommend keeping a notepad and pen handy by your bed, encouraging you to write things down that you find yourself thinking about in the small hours. You can then rest in the knowledge that you can’t forget what you were thinking about. For me, this is absolutely key to a restful night’s sleep.

In the workplace, my lists help me to prioritise more effectively – they facilitate a productive day and I can’t deny a certain satisfaction comes from striking off a completed task… So if you’re not one for writing things down by hand, give it a try. It might even make you smarter!

http://news.bitofnews.com/writing-things-out-makes-you-smarter/

http://mentalfloss.com/article/33508/4-benefits-writing-hand

http://www.sciencealert.com/neuroscientists-want-handwriting-back

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/dec/16/cognitive-benefits-handwriting-decline-typing

 

Written by Nicky Redfern, Coriolis Ltd

Lessons from 300 BC: Effective Communication

June 1, 2016 7:48 am
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What is effective communication? How do you facilitate it and, more importantly, how do you get others to effectively communicate? The APM BoK defines communication as “The means by which information or instructions are exchanged. Successful communication occurs when the received meaning is the same as the intended transmitted meaning”. Translated as: effective communication is when the message received is identical to the message given.

A message is not just what you say, it is translating what you mean into a format that the other party will understand and accept, and so the message received is not just “have they heard me?”, but “have they understood everything which I understand the message to be?” This includes the context, urgency, priority, and so on.

So if we are able to shape our message to convey our meaning, how do we conduct the most important step; getting the recipient to receive and understand.

The first effort in effective communication is persuading the audience that the message is worth receiving. For this, we can take a lesson from around 300BC, when Aristotle wrote that persuasion comes from 3 elements:

Ethos the credibility of the speaker

Pathos the emotions and psychology of the audience

Logos the patterns of reasoning and logic

“The speech can produce persuasion either through the credibility of the speaker, the emotional state of the listener, or the argument”

Ethos – The credibility of the speaker

This boils down to the audiences’ perception of you, your experience, education, position in the company, capability, character, and integrity. It is key at this point to note that it is not what you actually have, but what your audience actually knows. How can you influence this perception to enhance your credibility? Before you begin to transmit the message, the audience will have some prior perception of you which will affect your credibility and ability to persuade before even speaking (think of your most/least favourite political figurehead as an example of this).

The earlier we establish credibility, the greater the impact we can have on the audience, and establishing this can take the form of email signatures, prior conversations, introductions, LinkedIn, reputation, contacts in common, or the way we dress to name just a few.

Pathos – The emotional connection with the audience

Pathos is the connection you have with the audience to give them belief that what you’re saying will matter to them. For this, the audience must have emotional investment in the message, the role that they have, or in the speaker. Messages in this way must matter to the audience and hold their interest, as such the message must be tailored so that it is relevant and thus has a significant impact on them emotionally, so that they can invest in it.

Logos – Appealing to the audiences’ sense of reason

Presenting a logical and reasonable message is the final but major point of effective communication. You can have the audience’s confidence, respect, and emotional investment, however without bringing the audience to a reasonable conclusion, they may not understand what is being presented to them.

Show strategic thinking; what is the plan? Why is this being presented? What is the end game? This enables and empowers the recipient to see the impact they will have on others and their surroundings.

Analytical methods can be used to take the recipient on a journey in order to be able to convert the available data into intelligence and enhance your message.

A strong logical conclusion gives the message credibility, and provides the recipient with the justification to accept the message.

Effective communication is key if we want to guide, inspire or lead others, and the opening gambit is a fundamental part of this. Therefore, before the message is communicated, the recipient should be aware and receptive of the speaker and credibility should have been established.

During the message, a logical argument must be put forward in a logical and credible way that is relative to the recipient and creates an emotional response.

After the message has finished, the recipient should have accepted the message and have some level of emotional investment in it.

 

Written by Richard Winfrow, Coriolis Ltd

References:

https://www.apm.org.uk/knowledge

https://hbr.org/2013/01/three-elements-of-great-communication-according/