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Standards-based Data Systems Drive Energy Choices

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When it comes to manufacturing, smart energy use is just like many other cost-saving best practices. The low hanging fruit are usually obvious: don’t leave the lights on and HVAC running all night without a third shift on; cover up heated open tanks, like those for chroming or anodizing; minimize the open door load/unload times for furnaces, etc. With modern sensors and computer controls, standards like MTConnect can give visibility to other energy choices that are not so obvious.

Consumer-grade smart thermostats are quickly establishing a foothold in the market, and the driving force behind their adoption is not just low-cost sensors. In fact, much of the value of these products isn’t in the devices but in the associated software and networking. Modern algorithms, feedback loops, cloud hosting, and mobile apps put energy choices in plain view of thermostat operators and household managers and reveal energy savings opportunities that were not obvious without the new, integrated system.

Manufacturers have a huge head start in sensor, control, and automation technology. The platforms being developed now for consumer energy savings are generally data source agnostic, meaning the software and networks don’t see a difference between household and factory data. Combine these two factors, and it’s reasonable to expect considerable commingling of consumer and industrial tech in the not too distant future.

MTConnect and many other standards serve up data in formats that are predictable, consistent, and easy for modern systems to digest. For single machines or cells, proprietary data formats don’t create much difficulty. As you go from a machine or cell to a full department, factory, or multiple factories, though, translating data across brands or types of equipment gets expensive very, very quickly.

Open, standards-based systems can expose inefficiencies that were previously hidden – a paradigm shift with obvious implications that was on full display at IMTS in 2014. For a deeper dive, updates on newly rolled out projects, and to meet the companies and people at the cutting edge of digital manufacturing, come to the [MC]2 Conference in Chicago, April 28-30. Registration is open now!

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