European Threat Perspective

Putting real-time data at the heart of decision-making on energy efficiency

Author : Anastasia Khatuntseva, NMIS

26 May 2022

Anastasia Khatuntseva, NMIS
Anastasia Khatuntseva, NMIS

Anastasia Khatuntseva, a Digital Manufacturing Engineer within the Digital Factory at the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) Group, explores using digital technologies to support businesses to make informed decisions on their energy use and net zero targets.

For businesses currently navigating their emergence from lockdown and beginning the recovery process, one of the major challenges they face is deciding what their priorities should be while they approach, what is hopefully a post-pandemic landscape.

No matter what sector they operate in, most companies are confronting a range of issues as they continue the return to work and address supply chain shortages. Those concerns have only been exacerbated due to the recent surge in energy prices and a shortfall in the supply of gas across Europe. For manufacturers, specifically those running factories with a high energy demand, now is certainly a challenging time. 

At the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), which is operated by the University of Strathclyde and part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, we work with manufacturers of all sizes to help them overcome challenges, seize new opportunities and innovate, and our teams of engineers and researchers are supporting many businesses as they explore growth plans while recovering from the pandemic. 

An additional pressing need for many of these businesses is to ensure they are working more sustainably. However, for many companies in the manufacturing sector in particular, the drive towards net zero is one that they believe is littered with obstacles. Our aim is to make it easier for them to embrace new technologies while, at the same time, de-risking innovation and supporting them in their efforts to transition to a low carbon economy.

Digital technologies have a key role to play, both in terms of reaching sustainability targets and overcoming challenges. By embracing Industry 4.0 and harnessing data from operations, businesses can gather a fuller picture of their entire processes and take remedial actions, supporting them as they look to future growth. 

Digital connectivity will be key to reaching net zero ambitions 

A key element of industrial sustainability is exploring how products can be designed, manufactured, and repurposed to offer a more continual life cycle. As the UK works towards its ambitious targets of net zero emissions before 2050, and Scotland by 2045, the need for more sustainable manufacturing processes has never been greater.

Achieving these targets, which are not only crucial to the future of business but to the planet itself, must be based on a data-driven approach and at NMIS, we believe that digital connectivity and targeted data acquisition and analysis can contribute towards data-driven decision-making.

But where to begin? The key to effective energy optimisation and carbon footprint reduction of factories and businesses is to draw the most realistic picture of current energy performance. 

As part of our ongoing Resource Efficient Supply and Manufacturing Environment (RESuME) research project, we are engaged in targeted data acquisition for building, machines and equipment operations, which involves collecting data from both legacy plant and machinery and fully digital enabled technology. This data is providing us with enormous insight, resulting in robust and informed decision making on attaining net zero and other operational and manufacturing challenges. 

We’re carrying out this project on an NMIS testbed, which is one of 16 across the UK and part of a pilot scheme delivered by the HVM Catapult. Each testbed is a research environment that specialises in a specific technology identified by Made Smarter, a national movement to drive growth amongst UK makers, as key in driving future manufacturing performance across the country. 

A key focus of the RESuME testbed is the construction of our flagship NMIS facility in the heart of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland (AMIDS) in Renfrewshire, scheduled to open later in 2022, which will include our Digital Factory, Manufacturing Skills Academy and a publicly accessible Collaboration Hub. 

Anastasia Khatuntseva, NMIS
Anastasia Khatuntseva, NMIS

In partnership with the Energy Systems Research Unit (ESRU) at the University of Strathclyde, stage one of the project involves creating a Digital Factory building energy model – which will be populated to eventually become a digital twin of the facility – allowing us to measure and analyse the building’s operations against the approved design specification.

The second stage will capture the energy performance of the equipment and systems located within the building. We’ll use the model as we move towards achieving certain net zero targets, adjusting the building as necessary, introducing new energy systems and assessing the impact they might have on improving energy performance.

A key element is data acquisition from every piece of kit for analysis and storing it within a central database. By installing power monitoring sensors on every machine, where required, we can get data on live power consumption, producing real time equipment, zonal and whole building demand profiles.

The potential opportunities for the future 

So, what could the benefits of this be for wider industry? Life cycle analysis – assessing the environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life cycle – is an increasingly hot topic but for many businesses, it remains a manual process.

With real-time power consumption data, it’s possible to tell how much power each machine consumes to make a single part, which delivers very significant benefits in terms of more accurate carbon footprint calculations.

We see real potential for demonstrating all these technologies in the new NMIS building and rolling them out into the industrial sector, particularly for buildings and manufacturing sites with a high energy demand, of which the biggest component is thermal energy. 

There are great opportunities to improve energy performance by effectively providing companies with a benchmark or the equivalent of a home buyer’s report, which shows how much energy is being spent and where it is being wasted, for example where machines not in use remain switched on, as well as what improvements could be made and their impact.

While existing Energy Performance Certificates provide information on how energy efficient a building is and how it could be improved, dynamic modelling is far more representative and much more closely aligned with a building’s actual performance. 

By putting data at the heart of decision-making, we can help companies develop a better – and much more accurate – understanding of their carbon footprint and avoid some of the potholes on the road to net zero.

Visit and contact the team at NMIS to get involved or find more. 

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European Threat Perspective

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