Did you know many US manufacturers can get a completely no-cost energy audit from experts in energy conservation techniques for industrial applications?
The assessments are available courtesy of the US Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center program. This was formed in 1976 with the goal of conducting research into energy conservation techniques, as well spreading ideas related to industrial energy conservation. Today, the program’s recommendations focus primarily on reducing wasted energy and increasing energy efficiency.
The audits are made through one of the program’s Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs), which are located at universities in the contiguous United States.
To qualify, businesses must be a US manufacturer with an annual energy bill between $100,000 and $2,500,000, and must be within 150 miles of an assessment center. To apply for an assessment through the program, use the “Apply for Assessment” form on the program’s website.
Meet Georgia Tech’s Industrial Assessment Center Team
One of the centers is staffed by faculty and student engineers from Georgia Tech, Florida A&M, and Florida State University. The center serves the state of Georgia, as well as parts of North Florida.
Since the program’s inception in 1982, the center has performed over 900 assessments, with recommended energy savings of around $80,000,000. In 2017, the center performed 15 assessments and proposed electrical savings of 20,300 MWh, equivalent to about $1.84M. The center currently has a total of 10 students, and has trained 168 students since its inception.
Sinan Sinharoy, the center’s Assistant Director, says that energy is a major cost for manufacturers. “If companies can bring energy efficiency into their management practices, they can eliminate waste while saving money. We recommend a lot of operational control changes as well – these can result in savings beyond energy, like increased equipment life and better maintenance practices in the plant. Because manufacturing consumes so much energy, the IAC program provides real environmental benefits that impact pollution and public health,” says Sinharoy.
Ecogate: How do you see manufacturing developing in the US in the near future?
Sinharoy: “The future is bright for US manufacturing. We have some of the best engineering schools and students in the world. They want to work for innovative companies that push the limits in technology deployment and waste reduction. From my experience, manufacturers understand that competition is high, so they want to take advantage of the resources available to them. The IAC is just one of many State and Federal programs out there to help manufacturers grow and improve their competitiveness.”
Ecogate: What do you see as the competitive advantage of the US in manufacturing? How do we maintain or extend that advantage?
Sinharoy: One advantage is the access to a highly skilled workforce. Georgia Tech just had their fall career fair – over 400 companies and 5,000 students attended the fair. Our students are eager to work, and some of them already have manufacturing experience because of internships and programs like the IAC. From my experience the biggest challenge for manufacturers is getting quality employees. Manufacturing doesn’t have a great reputation with many students – the industry needs to keep promoting itself as advanced, innovative, and well-paying. I’d like to see some types of manufacturing start moving back into cities, where it was historically concentrated – real estate is pricier, but the access to skilled labor is unparalleled.
Ecogate: What do you like best about your role in the program?
Sinharoy: Student involvement is my favorite part of the IAC program. Students are able to get out of the classroom and into factories, meeting with a range of employees from C-suite executives to maintenance technicians, and using their engineering knowledge to develop savings recommendations for real manufacturers. I enjoy guiding them through the process and helping them gain valuable experience for their careers.
Ecogate: What skills and values do you teach students in your program?
Sinharoy: Communication is important – we work as a team and have tight deadlines. We have found that nothing beats in-person communication while working on our reports. We have a dedicated area in our office for students, and require them to work together in person, as opposed to sending emails back and forth. We encourage them to ask questions to get a full understanding of how systems and processes work.
The Georgia Tech / Florida A&M – Florida State University Industrial Assessment Center’s brochure is available here. Manufacturers in Georgia or North Florida interested in getting a no-cost assessment from the center can apply through the center’s website.
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