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Power costs for industrial firms have nearly doubled in Germany since 2005. Energy now represents the second-largest cost factor in production, trailing only personnel. Efficient handling of electricity as a resource is more than just an alternative. It's a decisive competitive advantage.

Despite this, most companies instead choose to save money in this area, pursuing only a limited budget of innovative energy management. Medium-term investment can pay off, though: the amortization period totals just a few years ― and in some cases, months.

Network, analyzing, optimizing

One pioneer in this field is Weidmüller, a specialist in electronic interface technology and electronics. The company from Detmold, Germany was looking to make significant cuts to energy costs at its new production facilities. The goal of the "transparent factory" pilot project: quantifying all energy streams in the factory and making them controllable ― for optimized consumption.

Weidmüller opted for an approach known as bi-directional communication. Dr. Christian von Toll, Director of Strategic Development Energy Management at Weidmüller, describes it this way: "Intelligent production involves establishing communication capabilities at all levels of a factory, allowing the machines to communicate with each other from start to finish. The energy data isn't just recorded in one direction, but rather is returned back to production so that the machines can optimize themselves at the process and energy levels."

Communication in both directions

This means digitization of the machine park through the use of monitoring instruments recording energy flows. By analyzing that data, it becomes possible to optimize the base and peak loads and improve energy efficiency. It also becomes possible to precisely control and minimize energy consumption based on real-time information. When all was said and done, Weidmüller's transparent factory slashed energy consumption by 2.1 GWh annually.

Not all of that total can be attributed solely to digital machine management: the production site reclaimed the heat generated during production, eliminating the need for a dedicated eating system ― and even providing the neighboring building with warmth. The building features the latest in insulation technology, making heating unnecessary even in winter, with a free cooling system used to supplement the air conditioning. A system of cleverly positioned transformers and compressors also provide an optimized supply of compressed air and power.

All factors matter

A consolidated analysis of the energy data shows even more potential savings. But the contribution of employees must not be overlooked: consistent awareness raising on the topic also helped the company save power.

This is what intelligent networking looks like.

Energy , the largest global trade fair for networked and secure energy and mobility technologies, showcases the energy value chain in full as part of HANNOVER MESSE. A wide range of forums and conferences give visitors the opportunity to learn more about the leading trends in the energy sector. The Digital Energy special exhibition is also dedicated to the topic.