Industry Insights
by Mike Pemberton

The need for manufacturing jobs in the U.S. was a significant issue in the 2016 presidential election. Since 2000, the U.S. reportedly has lost about 5 million manufacturing jobs. In 2011, President Obama initiated the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to develop recommendations to improve manufacturing employment.

The council, led by GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, provided recommendations that have contributed to the formation of several government-funded institutes. The mission of these institutes is to provide a mechanism for research, development and deployment of new technologies and methodologies to transform energy-intensive industries.

Efforts that include the federal government’s smart manufacturing initiatives are expected to enable the next phase of industrial growth—touted as Industry 4.0—to achieve quantum leaps in performance.

As part of this latest industrial revolution, new and existing industries will become highly energy efficient while improving the reliability and sustainability of their operations. With these improvements, plants can reduce their environmental impact and carbon footprint.

In alignment with U.S. Department of Energy goals, for example, the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition has been selected to foster the next generation of advanced process control, which will support the implementation of advances in sensors, controls, Internet of Things (IoT) platforms, modeling and big data analytics.

An important component of this initiative is the development of new and improved variable speed motors and drives plus refinements in motor system assessment techniques. Pump assessment and online sensor technology also will support the implementation of predictive analytic modeling.

With up to 90 percent of fossil power plant energy lost because of inefficiency, significant improvements are needed in electrical generation, transmission, distribution and system efficiency.

While often viewed as separate domains within industrial plants, pump system energy efficiency, equipment reliability and process control are all interconnected. A more holistic approach will be required in order to achieve total plant process management.

With digital communication, pumps are increasingly becoming part of the automation architecture. Embedded intelligence in the pump itself, the use of variable frequency drives that act as a “brain” for the pump system, and the growing use of IoT and predictive analytics are integrating all three domains.

Intelligent motor systems integrated into software allows the distributed control systems and computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) to merge and eliminate what was formerly islands of information. With less staff to manage and maintain process assets today, this bodes well for the future by allowing more reliable production assets that self-report and, in some cases, self-correct.

The plant of the future will have, for the first time, fully integrated information systems within the plant and across the enterprise. Plant services—safety, regulatory compliance, life cycle, modeling and more—will be integrated with the process control system to allow rapid adaptation to change.

The energy-intensive industrial plants of today could see a reduction of 50 percent or more in electricity usage. More energy-efficient systems have greater reliability, which reduces energy costs by decreasing or eliminating human activities and related processes required by plant staffs to maintain process assets such as pump systems. Product quality will increase, and less waste will be generated. All of this is part of fostering clean energy enterprises and ushering in Industry 4.0.

See more Industry Insights by Mike Pemberton here.