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  • Improve energy efficiency in pharmaceutical manufacturing

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Achieving an active energy management model starts with data collection.

Up against stiff competition and pressure to make product pipelines deliver, pharmaceutical manufacturers need flawless performance in every facet of their organization, including energy systems.

Why energy efficiency is so importantAddressing rising energy costs is an immediate issue. And as energy becomes more expensive, governments are enforcing carbon taxation and energy levies that create indirect costs associated with energy consumption. Pharmaceutical manufacturing, like so many industries, is facing increasing pressure for social and environmental corporate responsibility. Implementing an energy management program is a strategic way to control these costs, improve overall efficiency, and be seen as a good global citizen.

Introducing the energy management lifecycleIn pharmaceutical manufacturing, maintaining critical environments and the associated energy use represents both significant operational costs and a mandatory investment in quality and compliance. Successful energy management programs follow this four-part life cycle approach:

  1. First step: Audit and measure energy use Achieving an active energy management model starts with data collection. Pharmaceutical plants should monitor all utility types—gas, electricity, steam, hot and chilled water, and compressed air—each with associated energy costs and CO₂ footprint. By gathering accurate and relevant information through metering and audits, a foundation for an effective plan is created.
  2. Second step: fix the basics The next step is to use that data to reduce energy waste. Many pharmaceutical plants start by using passive energy efficiency measures to reduce losses from energy-consuming devices. This can be accomplished through low-energy lighting, low-loss transformers, and high-efficiency motors.

    Energy management programs must also address people’s activities and actions that impact energy consumption. Awareness programs, incentive contests, and formal training are all valuable ways to engage occupants and earn their cooperation.
  1. Third step: optimize through automation and regulation Passive measures alone are not fully effective. For example, a high-efficiency motor without appropriate control will not be optimized. Automated control of speed can deliver significant additional savings. 

    Active energy reduction can be particularly challenging in pharmaceutical manufacturing, where maintaining the proper environment is critical to product quality and compliance. However, with careful measuring and auditing, it’s possible to find energy waste that can be safely eliminated without harming compliance or quality.

    Sometimes basic maintenance can yield significant benefits. For example, during a walk-through audit, an air handling unit heating value found to be stuck open was calculated to be wasting $10,000 a year. The cost of replacing the valve is less than $1,500. Despite the energy waste, there had been no complaints or problems with maintaining conditions.
  2. Finally: monitor and maintain for continuous improvement While robust automation and control can deliver up to 30 percent energy savings, evidence suggests that 8 percent of these savings are lost annually without appropriate monitoring and maintenance.
    To ensure the continuing efficacy of a facility’s energy systems, management must commit to a vigorous program of actively monitoring data from the plant, analyzing and identifying anomalies, and then acting upon this information in a timely way.

Getting to the next levelPharmaceutical plants striving to excel in energy efficiency, whether for cost savings or meeting environmental goals, will reach a point when significant capital expenditure is necessary. This can include higher efficiency chillers or boilers, a combined heat and power plant, or renewable energy generation technology.

Energy demand reduction strategies and measures are essential to ensure these significant CapEx decisions are based on optimized and sustainable plant loads. In this way, unnecessary CapEx can be avoided and companies can realize predicted investment benefits.

Watch how Schneider Electric is helping build an innovative and intelligent research facility for the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.
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