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Jacklin Altman07 Nov, 2019

How efficiency is like five-dimensional chess


Often, the average person will begin to daydream about cheesesteaks or start to review their weekend to-do list somewhere between the second and third syllable.

It's sad but true: most people don't find efficiency exciting. And that's unfortunate. Since the 1970s, California's per capita energy consumption has stayed relatively flat while ballooning by around 33% in the rest of the country, in part because of efficiency measures championed by Art Rosenfeld. Twenty years ago, experts predicted that data centers could swamp the grid because of increased internet usage: but for things like hot aisle/cold aisle, Moore's Law and PUE that awful future may have occurred. German households consume about 1/3rd of their U.S. counterparts and they aren't accomplishing that by shivering around a campfire. Instead, it comes from structures and appliances maximized for an input to output ratio.

And one of the more remarkable aspects of efficiency is that it plays multidimensional chess. Energy is one part but not the whole sandwich (still thinking about cheesesteaks…). Below are five ways that the PI System generates outsized gains in efficiency.

  • Energy Efficiency. Energy can be close to 30% of the cost of producing aluminum. By studying its processes and making minute adjustments, Alcoa saved $700,000 in a single plant in four months by reducing consumption and participating in a demand response program. The changes were rolled out to others. Similarly, Veolia reduced energy consumption required for producing the drinking water in Paris by 6%, tweaking the operations of its pumps and other devices. Roughly 30% of the cost of water is power, and often water producers are the largest consumers of water in their areas.
  • Water Efficiency. Maynilad (Manila) and Halifax Water (Canada) have reduced water losses by, respectively, 640 million 38 million liters per day by pinpointing leaks with the PI System. Plugging leaks is the cheapest way to produce water, costing less than half of recycling water and over 6x less than desalination.
  • Capital Efficiency. Extend the life of aging equipment (J.D. Irving) or increase the productivity and output of existing equipment.  The Global Edible Oil Solutions Group at Cargill was experiencing a rash of delays lasting less than a minute. In a single day, nearly 1,600 micro stops were recorded. By deeply parsing its data, Cargill has managed to cut the lost production time that previously ranged from 20 to 40 hours a month down to only eight per month.Capital efficiency will be increasingly important over the next decade in oil and gas, say experts in the New York Times, because investors-scared by declining prices and uncertain demand--will be reluctant to put forward the funds for new facilities. 
  • Material Efficiency. Tyson Foods was losing a million pounds of meat a year and faced regulatory scrutiny in a facility because its sausage patties were not conforming to spec. (And if you really want to cry, it was also losing an equivalent amount of corn dogs.)
  • People Efficiency. Often underappreciated, but time lost looking for information is a huge drain on productivity. IDC claims that the average employee spends 4.5 hours a week looking for lost files. Duke Energy reduced report prep by 200 employee hours a month, or 2400 a year, through automated data organization. White House Utility District reduced daily data prep from 6 hours to 10 minutes, or around 1500 hours a year. Lonza, a contract manufacturer for pharma producers, says its reduced data prep by 15,000 hours. Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Utility District cut overtime by 58% by using data to help manage maintenance and other tasks.

The average human lifespan is 630,720 hours. There's a good chance you could recover an entire lifetime by tightening the procedures in your company.

Jacklin AltmanDigital Media ManagerJacklin is the Digital Media Manager and local food critic at OSIsoft. With over 7 years of experience in marketing, software, and social media, she writes about all things tech, marketing, and the PI System.
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