Energy 4.0

Lee Sands examines how energy companies are harnessing the latest technologies to enhance their asset management, boosting efficiency right across the business

In a UK energy sector worth £32 billion, there are now over 70 active domestic energy suppliers, all competing for their share of the market. It’s easier than ever for customers to vote with their feet, switching supplier at the click of a mouse, which, in combination with a volatile socio-economic climate, makes it harder than ever for energy companies to stay profitable.

There’s a real need for energy businesses to improve performance, minimising customer churn while maintaining that all-important competitive edge, meaning that energy companies are under greater pressure than most when it comes to optimising efficiency levels. In an effort to increase efficiencies, more businesses are turning to technology for help, making more use of sensors to improve asset management and with Industry 4.0 innovations in particular proving to be a welcome addition to underpressure businesses.

Industry 4.0
The dawn of Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution as it’s also known, really couldn’t have come at a better time for the energy industry. With its focus on establishing networks of machines, devices, sensors and people that communicate freely with each other, Industry 4.0 increases automation and facilitates the application of data-based business insight to all business decisions and processes, driving efficiencies right across businesses. It mirrors the gradual shift that we’re seeing from analogue to digital monitoring of assets, as well as the improved speed and reliability of data capture. Sensors are cheaper and smarter than ever before, and the birth of the Internet of Things to connect this everincreasing abundance of smart devices has meant that many businesses are well on the way to becoming the highly automated, intelligent organisations that lie at the very heart of the concept of Industry 4.0.

The sheer amount of assets at play, not to mention the complex interdependency that’s vital to keeping things running, mean that solutions to effectively manage assets are vital. The fact that more and more of these assets now produce data make it a necessity to have systems in place that can make full use of the information generated, automatically analysing the data to provide not only in-depth performance insight, but to signal failure warnings before they occur, preventing the inevitable negative effect on service.

The right systems can automatically capture and analyse the huge amounts of data that energy businesses need to take into account, analysing multiple measurements from multiple sources, such as visual inspections, smart devices and operational data. This allows the business to build-up an accurate picture of the location and condition of their assets, as well as providing in-depth insight into their performance too, highlighting any inefficiencies and pain points and paving the way for remedial action to be taken. good Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system such as Infor CloudSuite EAM will readily identify where performance improvements can be made, measuring performance against KPIs to highlight what changes need to be made to boost productivity across the board.

Preventative maintenance
Such systems also enable a move away from corrective and interval-based maintenance and a move towards preventative maintenance. It’s possible to identify looming faults and take the necessary action before it impacts on service, as well as scheduling maintenance so it’s in-sync with the strategic priorities of the organisation as a whole. Maintenance activities can be carried out at optimal times, minimising downtime and causing minimal disruption to operations. What this does is to boost uptime, increase customer satisfaction and maximise the longevity of your assets, for a greatly improved ROI. Not only this, but a comprehensive preventative maintenance programme enables you to focus time and resources where they’re most needed, deriving maximum value from the business.

Reap the benefits
By harnessing the right technologies, energy businesses can secure the all-important efficiency savings that enable organisations to do more, for less and more effectively. The automation and in-depth data analysis that are crucial components for all Industry 4.0 initiatives lie at the heart of the best EAM solutions on the market today, providing the information and insight needed to underpin valuable efficiency savings. Those businesses who embrace the technology available will soon reap the benefits, with more focused maintenance and engineering efforts and the end of the break-fix cycle making a real, tangible difference to the bottom line.

Sapphire Systems
Lee Sands is EAM Practice Manager at Sapphire Systems, a leading global provider of enterprise software, delivering cloud-based industry specific solutions. With over 1000 customers worldwide, Sapphire partners with market leading software authors, develops unique customisations, and offers unrivalled customer service and support. Headquartered in London with offices across the United Kingdom, United States, Latin America and Asia, Sapphire offers 24-hour support and has extensive knowledge and experience in helping clients to achieve a measurable return on investment.
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