A car factory has a few million square feet of floor space, which means turning off lights when parts of the plant aren’t in use can translate into giant energy and dollar savings. General Motors realized that if they tied the non-security-related lights at their factories to the schedule of the assembly line conveyors, they could considerably cut energy use. With GM already using software from GE Intelligent Platforms to control its conveyors, the two companies teamed up to marry the systems at 20 GM plants — with the payback on the investment being less than six-months.
As Environmental Leader explained in its story, after GE’s Proficy Cimplicity software was used to tackle the lights schedule, GM “then discovered other aspects of consumption that could also be tied to conveyer operations, including air supply houses, compressed air generators, water and paint shop ovens.” Mike Durak, GM’s Global Information Technology Manager, explained that “everything in a vehicle assembly plant is tied to the conveyor. A hidden benefit was that once we scheduled the conveyor we had a good view into what the plant was doing, so we were able to schedule the ‘on and off’ of big energy consumers in the plant.”
The annual impact is immense, with savings from heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting at each plant being up to five times greater than the cost of implementation. “The savings for hydraulic pumps and ovens will be up to four times greater than installation, and for chilled water and exhaust fans it will be up to seven times greater.”
Cleantechnia summed it up this way: “When you rub two green-transitioning corporate powerhouses together you’re bound to start something, and that seems to be the result of a new collaboration between GM and GE….The concept is simple but the results are impressive, which makes you wonder why nobody ever thought of it before.”
While most people know GE’s jet engine, healthcare, locomotive and appliance businesses, there is also a significant software solutions side. There are 4,000 software engineers and 9,000 software employees at GE helping to generate over $4 billion in software-related revenues each year. It makes GE the 14th largest software provider in the world.
In the case of GM, the software also monitors air quality for dust and lets the company manage the whole factory — or just parts of it — from any location. And because dust in the paint room can ruin the paint itself, the software helps alert the engineers when it begins to trend out of the acceptable ranges. The system also takes into account different timing needs. For example, ovens in the paint shop need two hours to warm up, so the computers factor that into the code. Shifts also end at different times depending on whether it’s a weekend, an extended long production, lunch, or the end of day.
The Proficy software also recently made the cut to be named part of GE’s ecomagination line of energy efficient technologies. All ecomagintion products have to provide a distinct, measurable advantage in reducing environmental impact while improving operational performance.
Some of the other ways in which it is helping businesses cut costs — and energy use — can be seen in a wine bottler in the U.S. that saved $5 million annually; a producer of cooling lubricants in Switzerland that cut energy costs by up to 45 percent; and a U.S. manufacturer in the steel industry that reduced scrap by more than 1,000 tons per year and improved machine uptime by approximately 1 percent, just to name a few.