How to Select the Right EMS: 10 Essential Features

by | Sep 16, 2013

The industrial and manufacturing processes are generally non-linear and complex. Consumption of energy in an industrial plant is dependent on multiple factors, both process and environmental related.  Collecting information on these factors becomes essential in order to effectively analyze and interpret the state of the energy efficiency in such environments.

There are 10 essential features that the energy managers of an industrial corporation should look for in selecting an enterprise energy management system.  Below is a review of these features.

1. Process monitoring

Typical energy management systems monitor the energy and provide a consumption trend.  More sophisticated systems take into account environmental factors such as ambient temperature in order to create consumption models.  These systems may be sufficient for managing buildings where consumption patterns are recurring and predictable. However, in an industrial environment, the key to effective energy management lies in the ability to monitor a process.  And better yet, doing so in real-time.  An industrial energy management system should be able to provide analytical information on whether or not a “process” is running as efficiently as possible.  To do this, it needs to gather not just energy consumption data but detailed data related to the production process.

2. Data Collection capabilities

An enterprise energy management system must have a robust and reliable data collection management system.  Aside from meter data, it may be required for the system to capture production, cost, temperature and other data.  Therefore the data collection system should be configurable and versatile to provide such capabilities.  A capable data collection system can capture data from mediums such as:

–        Meters

–        PLCs

–        Databases

–        Websites

3. Enterprise architecture and robustness

The architecture of an enterprise energy management system should allow the system to easily manage all energy data from across the enterprise.  This means remote data collection units located around the globe, sending all collected data to the central data repository and doing it reliably and consistently.  At the same time, the system architecture should allow it to grow with the enterprise.  This means that it should be scalable to adapt to the organization’s growing size, scope and sophistication.

4. Versatility and Configurability

A global enterprise consists of multiple business units in various locations.  Each location may be a manufacturing plant, a warehouse, an office building, etc.  An enterprise energy management system should be configurable to manage these units which have varying functions and processes.  It should allow the energy managers to categorize these different units based of their process so they can be managed accordingly.

5. Usability

There is a wide variety of users for an energy management system across an organization.  Operators, supervisors, process engineers and managers all have different information and analytical requirements.  For this reason, such system should be designed to create a user friendly experience by focusing the right information and tools for each type of user.  The system should be intuitive and easy to navigate in order to allow all users to perform their tasks regardless of their technical skills.

6. Analytical power

The effectiveness of an energy management system comes down to its ability to convert all gathered data into useful information.  A successful system not only provides useful and relevant information, but does it using efficient and easy to understand visuals.  The users should be able to navigate through the information with great ease and view the data in various dimensions in order to perform truly effective analysis.  Forecasting and interpretive tools are also extremely important for the users to envision and justify efficiency project with transparent ROIs.

7. Visibility and Awareness

A successful energy management system should provide tools to enhance the visibility and awareness amongst the users.  Various forms of overview screens, dashboards and scorecards help inform users of the information that matters most.  Automated alarms and email notifications are also essential in keeping the key users informed of any abnormal events that may need attention.

8. Corporate Reporting

The energy management system should be capable of generating reports covering the entire organization’s data.  The system should be able to generate corporate wide GHG and carbon reports as well as all KPI figures such as total energy and cost intensity figures, cost avoidance reports and more.

9. Interface into the corporate business system (ERP)

The corporate ERP usually requires receiving a summarized report related to energy cost and performance as well as carbon and GHG reports.  The enterprise energy management system should be able to send summarized energy reports to the corporate ERP system.

10. Software and technical Support

An industrial or commercial organization that implements an enterprise energy management system needs to ensure that the vendor has the capacity and infrastructure to provide on-going support to all units of the organization.   The vendor should be expected to provide the following services as a part of the on-going support activities:

  • Customer care services
    • Live technical support
    • Assistance in disaster recovery
    • Training
    • Enhancement requests
  • Continuous software updates
    • Bug fixes
    • Requested enhancement delivery
    • Keeping up with the technology
    • Keeping up with latest energy management trends and techniques
    • Best in class functions and processes

Hooman Fazlollahi is director of development for Energy Methods.

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