The current energy crisis has made it abundantly clear that manufacturers must quickly find a way to be smarter and more efficient with their energy consumption.

With gas and oil prices soaring and wreaking havoc on inflation rates and the global economy – and threatening to continue doing so in the coming weeks, months and even years – manufacturers risk seeing their bottom lines whittled away by both rising costs and falling demand for increasingly expensive products.

Governmental policies, and other external factors that we can’t even predict yet, will continue to affect the cost and availability of energy, as well as other factors that have a direct impact on key manufacturing objectives.

Manufacturers are now in the hot seat and have no choice but to find innovative ways to manage costs and enhance their capabilities when it comes to handling their production objectives in an environment that is far more dynamic and uncertain than what they’ve been used to.

Managing energy costs has always been a challenge for process manufacturers

Rising energy prices in manufacturing

Even when things are fairly stable politically and economically, managing energy efficiency in alignment with other objectives is a complex challenge for process manufacturers.

Particularly in energy-intensive industries such as cement, steel, glass and chemical production, manufacturers rely heavily on dependable energy sources at costs that must be manageable.

By using renewable and alternative fuel sources, and constantly optimizing processes, manufacturers are constantly at work to stay efficient. But the cost of energy can be hard to balance against other objectives such as yield, throughput and in some cases, quality levels.

So what has really changed?

As seen by these recent events, fuel availability and government policies have a huge effect on energy costs, and manufacturers are at the whim of these external factors. This is an added complexity – the volatility of the energy market. Or in other words, the potential of major factors such as fuel costs, government regulations and market demand to change drastically over very short periods of time.

For example, the current energy crisis may force western governments to dial-down their emission reduction targets. On the other hand, it might also accelerate the need for alternative fuels. How will this uncertain, highly fluid environment affect industries like cement, glass and steel, who have spent many years painstakingly adapting their processes and facilities to meet targets and regulations that may radically change or even no longer apply in a few months? How will they react without hurting their bottom line other than hiking prices, which may itself lead to pushback from the market?

How to approach the problem

So how can manufacturers take back control in such a volatile, unpredictable environment? How can they react quickly and adapt their processes to consistently meet their production objectives and maintain profitability and sustainability goals – no matter what external challenges come their way? What manufacturers need is the ability to simultaneously consider and optimize all their objectives, even those that might sometimes seem conflicting. We need to be able to view the manufacturing environment with enough oversight to identify correlations between a vast number of factors, and prioritize, adapt and optimize manufacturing objectives quickly and efficiently.

In this way, we can meet “conflicting” challenges such as increasing throughput and yield, while reducing energy costs and meeting emissions reduction goals – without sacrificing other objectives such as quality.

This calls for a multidimensional objective – a state of production that can meet all the parameters involved in the manufacturing environment.

Success depends on the ability to adapt – fast

Of course, not only do we need an overview that includes all our objectives (multidimensional) we also need this overview to be dynamic – to be flexible enough to handle sudden and drastic changes, particularly in external factors beyond the control of manufacturers: from the weather to energy prices, from emissions regulations to market demand, and more.

The current crisis has shown us that companies that have the ability to adapt quickly to changes – raw material variances, hikes in energy costs, new emissions regulations, surges in demand – will be the ones to emerge as leaders in their markets.

For this reason, the most accurate description of this new goal is the dynamic multidimensional objective.

Process-Based Artificial Intelligence is perfectly suited to address this challenge

The concept of business, technology, the Internet and the network. virtual screen of the future and sees the inscription: Continuous improvement

Process-Based AI can create multidimensional objectives by providing a unified view of the manufacturing operation within its real-time environment – with its constantly shifting priorities and goals.

These dynamic multidimensional objectives can then be used to create Operating Envelopes, which recommend the ideal set points and process values to achieve global optimization, across multiple production objectives (e.g. quality, yield & throughput vs. energy costs, emissions & alternative fuel rates) that would have previously seemed like they were in conflict.

Process-based AI allows manufacturers to adjust these envelopes with ease, as the consequences of production decisions can be clearly ascertained. This also means changes carry a far lower risk, and production losses, energy costs and emissions levels are kept to a minimum.

This system also allows for manufacturers to program envelopes that suit a variety of production configurations, enabling a new level of control over objectives to meet the uncertainty of changes caused by external factors, but with the security of knowing how changes will affect production ahead of time.

Process-Based AI software empowers manufacturing teams

While we’ve focused mainly on the technical aspects of what the current energy crisis means to manufacturers, it’s crucial to remember that manufacturers ultimately rely on their teams on the factory floor to perform at a high level – particularly the process experts and engineers, and operators.

To consistently achieve optimum efficiency, production teams need to know how to act, and when to act, to maintain operating envelopes that are in line with the objective.

This requires real-time alerts that supply teams with timely actionable insights across the entire production process.

Learn more about how dynamic multidimensional objectives can empower your manufacturing teams to overcome the energy crisis: