Recent industry coverage has lamented the slow, discouraging uptake of lean methodologies within the Life Sciences industries. There clearly remains much room for improved efficiency in the reduction of materials, effort, space and time wastage used in processing, manufacturing and handling operations.

However, is it not reasonable to suggest that some industries, like some animals, require a certain amount of protective "fat" to survive and prosper in particularly hostile, challenging environments?

Life Sciences facilities are among the most energy intensive of all building types. Energy costs and global demand are expected to rise substantially while supply availability and reliability inevitably become increasingly uncertain (refer to Diagram 1). In light of these pressing issues, many Life Sciences companies have found the application of lean thinking to the more efficient, responsible and sustainable use of energy to be considerably more fruitful.



Diagram 1

Indeed, taking the animal analogy one step further, many species native to severe, sub-zero conditions have physically and behaviorally evolved to make the most of their energy.

So, how does one practically apply a lean energy philosophy to the Life Sciences industries?

Numerous organizations are conducting energy efficiency programs in partnership with progressive suppliers of their utility and control infrastructures. The results of these activities include identification of the highest potential energy conservation measures, along with detailed financial justifications and proposed implementation plans.

Initially, it is important to comprehensively appreciate how and where energy is consumed in a Life Sciences facility (refer to Diagram 2). Unlike most other industrial buildings, HVAC systems account for the vast majority of Life Sciences facilities’ energy consumption. As much as 80% is used in R&D, bulk manufacturing and formulation, packaging and filling facility areas.


Diagram 2

Metering, Monitoring and Targeting

The old adage that, "You cannot manage what you do not measure" is often quoted in relation to energy efficiency - and rightly so. Although an analysis of the energy bill is a worthwhile exercise, the information provided is highly aggregated and invariably outdated. In order for any meaningful assessment of energy consumption in a plant to occur, the data needs to be timely and all-inclusive in relation to key energy consumption points.

Metering and submetering provide a foundation for the collection of data on which an effective energy efficiency program is based. Meters should cover all primary water and energy types, as well as any other appropriate utilities. These might include steam, process gases, compressed air and chilled or processed water. Modern network infrastructures facilitate the collection of all meter data into either a Building Management System (BMS) or a dedicated Energy Management System (EMS).

Meter information presents operational benefits aside from energy, such as provision for electrical power quality information. Poor power quality, typically only of interest to electrical engineers, impacts both energy costs and plant reliability. Uncorrected power factors result in penalty utility charges, increased distribution losses and reduced plant capacity. Increasing use of harmonic generating loads pollutes the network and results in additional losses, equipment stress and malfunctions. Fortunately, a comprehensive range of power factor correction solutions are available from the leading electrical distribution equipment suppliers.

All data collected by meters, from which multiple valuable energy management functions can be derived, is useful for "keeping score" in energy accounting. These include utility bill checking and cost or energy allocation, important for delegation of responsibility and driving behaviour. Reporting typically includes energy dashboards, KPI monitoring and trend reports and comparisons. Reports can be automatically generated and distributed via email, or produced on demand with the data presented as the user subscribes. Alarm conditions can be designed to warn users of out-of-limit conditions. For example, reaching 90% maximum electrical contract demand, above which high tariff cost penalties may exist.

The real prize of harder to reach energy saving opportunities requires a deeper analysis of the data.

Energy accounting functions are a vital part of the energy management program. However, to truly understand the energy performance of a plant, it is essential to identify and correlate the variables that affect its usage. For Life Sciences plant HVAC systems, invariably, the weather will have an impact on energy consumption in terms of the varying heating, cooling and humidification requirements.

A correlation of the appropriate variables in energy consumption results in a powerful model, used as a tool to witness what is actually happening. Plant utilization and occupancy also plays an extremely important role.

Implementing integrated HVAC and security based BMS control strategies, founded upon a real-time understanding of how, when and by whom facility areas are being used, can yield very significant savings while introducing little compliance risk.

Modern monitoring and targeting software provides analysis tools to build such models. These tools may vary from simple regression analysis to multi-variable models with step functions. The step function is particularly suited to correlating energy usage with outside temperatures, changing in complement to external heating and cooling. This can reveal how well HVAC systems controls are functioning and how effectively control deadbands have been set.

Having established a model for the plant, this provides an independent baseline for future energy management actions. It provides a basis for targeting and monitoring energy savings. Departmental energy saving targets can be set, tracked and monitored. This normalization allows accurate tracking of savings when making "before and after" comparisons of energy improvement implementations.

Most important of all, you can monitor plant behaviour and identify unwarranted increases in energy consumption which might have otherwise gone unnoticed. You become well informed and armed to root out and rectify any problems which may arise, whether from plant failure, control settings or operator-based behaviour.

Motors – The Real Power (Ab)Users

In a typical Life Sciences manufacturing facility, motors account for 60%-70% of all electrical consumption, the majority related to HVAC fans and pumps. In R&D and primary manufacturing facilities, this proportion can increase to 80% or more. It is essential to have a good understanding of the installed base of motor assets and their application within the system in order to control energy costs. A comprehensive audit of motors must be undertaken to achieve this, starting with an identification of the motors’ rating plate information. Application, rewind history, starting method and protection, speed control and environment and running hours are also important.

From there it is possible to benchmark motors against current high efficiency standards and to examine the viability of exchanging motors for more efficient designs. The lifecycle costs of a typical motor are such that it may consume the equivalent of its own capital cost in energy in a matter of weeks. Thus, a few percentage points in efficiency gain can be valuable for a motor running long hours. A 37kW (50Hp) motor running for 4,000 hours will consume around 160MWh in a year, or $16,000 at 10c/kWh compared to an initial capital cost of around $4,000.

During audits, the possible application of a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) should be explored. In many cases, the savings possible with a VFD can greatly exceed that of replacing the motor alone. The application of VFDs for energy saving is particularly well-suited to fans and pumps in HVAC systems. Where mechanical restrictions are used for speed control, such as a damper in an HVAC system, savings of 30% or more are often achievable. In the example of the 37kW motor, this could equate to an additional annual savings of nearly $5,000 with a single drive. VFDs can easily vary flow rates according to changing conditions, such as reduced air flow requirements at night, or allowing improved control regimes to reduce flow based on pressure or temperature.

While electrical savings can be significant, there can also be reductions realized in thermal demand.

Energy savings opportunities may become clearly evident with a non-intrusive examination of the plant. In other cases where further evidence is required, it may be necessary to arrange for the temporary monitoring of the plant. Energy consumption may be directly measured by electrical metering, or indirectly, by measuring air flow and temperatures. This approach can be very powerful when used both before and after the intervention. Real evidence of savings can help further attract investments founded upon this concrete proof-of-concept.

Risk Management

Naturally, all proposed changes need to be considered from a risk management perspective. In some cases, system re-commissioning and re-qualification may negate the economic benefit of proposed changes. Fortunately, the techniques and tools required to make such assessments are well established and widely available. Furthermore, within many organizations, the Heath, Safety & Environment and Quality Assurance functions are converging (see Diagram 3). This leads to a greater degree of cooperation and understanding of shared and complementary responsibilities.


Diagram 3

Fostering synergistic relationships, rather than accepting sometimes antagonistic status quos, accelerates the identification of the right balance of regulatory compliance, economic and environmental concerns.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Improving energy efficiency in support of broader corporate responsibility efforts clearly delivers its own benefits. According to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, "the annual share performance of sustainability leaders exceeded that of sustainability laggards by 1.48 percentage points during the period 2001-2008".

These compelling facts strongly suggest that engaging in such activities can form part of a virtuous cycle, creating increased shareholder value, improved public perception and reduced environmental impact.