Optimising equipment energy use key to navigating challenging manufacturing landscape

Published: 6-Sep-2023

Following reports of declining business optimism and manufacturing output, a sector expert is advocating the benefits of "back-to-basics" equipment maintenance strategies to optimise energy use throughout industrial processing facilities

The latest Business Trends report from accounting firm BDO demonstrated uncertainty for UK exporters, in part spurred by China’s faltering recovery and weak Eurozone growth forecasts.1

With supply difficulties cited as a key reason behind falling manufacturing output, businesses need to identify ways to do more with less and make existing equipment more energy efficient to ensure competitiveness.

This is the view of Andrew Peacock, Business Unit Manager – Energy, at Alfa Laval. Specifically, Andrew is highlighting the importance of proactive maintenance programmes for key operational components including heat exchangers to ensure optimal energy use throughout facilities.

Heat exchangers and other similar equipment can be perceived as being simple, but they are vital to the continued running of the factory environment, he explains.

Given their role in facilitating the transfer of thermal energy in plant operations, ensuring they are well-maintained and performing optimally is key. With energy provision and pricing remaining volatile, the cost of not doing so — and instead accounting for unplanned downtime within ongoing operations — may be too great and result in unnecessary cost and uncertainty.

These breakdowns can take company stakeholders away from vital day-to-day tasks to improve equipment performance, which is more important than ever given the current, challenging circumstances.

Working with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can provide greater peace-of-mind compared with potential component failure and expensive factory shutdowns, as supply chains and performance accreditations are guaranteed – something that isn’t possible with third-party parts.

Busy schedules continue to cause issues for decision makers and facilities management teams at processing plants, with time often lost to admin in terms of contacting disparate equipment suppliers for parts and maintenance works.

According to Andrew, a "one-stop-shop" approach, complemented by onsite supplier visual condition assessments informing planned preventative maintenance (PPM) plans, are well-placed to remove this burden.

PPMs are often the first casualty during economic slowdowns, but this arguably counterintuitive, he concludes. Keeping a plant efficient and operational is vital during these difficult situations, which can be exacerbated by unplanning downtime.

Leveraging the expertise and competence of larger suppliers can actually result in greater long-term energy savings, which may prove vital when weathering uncertain market conditions.

For instance, customers may find doing effective upkeep more challenging simply because of a lack of data on long-running parts and components.

However, data-informed planning, supported by frequent visual inspections from specialists, can result in greater energy efficiency throughout the plant, as well as more effective part procurement strategies and maintenance plans.

Everything comes down to a simple question: is the facility as energy efficient as possible? By engaging OEM expertise, greater clarity can be provided on performance issues or where overly stringent schedules can be pared back to ensure continued smooth running.

Given BDO’s latest report, processing professionals should act to bolster their relationships with manufacturers that are capable of providing extensive inspections and feedback on PPMs, especially if they are to protect their business’s bottom lines.


  1. www.theguardian.com/business/2023/aug/06/uk-business-confidence-falls-economy-slows-interest-rates-survey.

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