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Making Manufacturing Greener: 3 Innovative Technologies for Boosting Energy Efficiency in Production

There is no denying that energy efficiency is an issue of increasing strategic importance in all sectors of the economy. Mechanical engineering companies are no exception and may even be key in the transition to a more sustainable economy. According to the recent BCG (Boston Consulting Group) study on the Green Factory of the Future, industrial operations are responsible for around half of global greenhouse gas emissions from fuel consumption, with 40% coming directly from production and 10% from logistics.

(Image courtesy of Boston Consulting Group)

New developments like the European Green Deal, revisions to the EU directive on non-financial reporting, and updates to ISO 50001 (the standard for energy management systems) place even more pressure on manufacturing firms to collect comprehensive data on the environmental impact of their operations and to take concrete steps to minimise this impact. Luckily, investments in greener practices also have economic benefits, as highlighted in joint research from the VDMA (Mechanical Engineering Industry Association) and the BCG entitled “For Machinery Makers, Green Tech Creates Green Business”. They estimate the market potential of decarbonisation for machine makers at €10 trillion up until 2050.

In this article, I will discuss three innovative technological solutions, which can support companies in the mechanical and plant engineering sector in their journey towards more sustainable operations.

1. Smart energy storage system

When it comes to energy-efficient solutions, storing and reusing energy is key. The Gerotor HPS (High Power Storage) is a cutting-edge energy storage solution, which utilises flywheel technology to store mechanical energy in the form of rotation. While flywheel technology itself is nothing new, Munich start-up Gerotor GmbH has created a truly innovative solution by integrating kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) technology, best known for its use in Formula 1, into their product. It works as follows: When braking is applied to an electrical axis in a machine tool, the Gerotor HPS stores the braking energy and reuses it if the machine tool resumes operation. There are three core operating principles to the flywheel accumulator: recuperation, uninterruptible power supply, and peak load management.

(Image courtesy of Gerotor GmbH)

The company are also developing intelligent, AI-powered control software which will reduce the time required for application and enable automatic adaption to dynamic industrial settings. If implemented into industrial equipment, the energy storage technology has the potential to cut energy consumption in half, resulting in significant environmental and economic benefits. Specific application areas mentioned include CNC machines, robotics, intralogistics and DC industry plant grids. Even the design of the system itself is eco-friendly, as it is recyclable and durable, with an expected lifespan of 20 years. The company have already won a multitude of awards in recognition of their pioneering technology, including the 2020 German Innovation Award for Climate and Environment (IKU) and the 2019 Industrial Energy Efficiency Award at the Hannover Messe.

2. Integrated energy management software

Having a comprehensive overview of energy consumption is crucial for energy efficiency efforts. Only in this way can detailed analyses be conducted and data-based decisions made. The SIMATIC Energy Suite from Siemens makes it possible to aggregate energy consumption data from multiple sources, including Siemens and third party devices, and to generate reports based on key figures. The energy management software is highly scalable, facilitating transparency at both production-level and company-level. The suite includes the S7 Energy Efficiency Monitor, which allows for standardised evaluation of machine efficiency and visualisation on a HMI device. This procedure is in line with the VDMA standard 34179 on measurement instruction for determining the energy and resource demand of mass-produced machine tools. With SIMATIC energy management software, which is ISO 50001-certified, vast reductions in CO2 emissions and energy costs can be realised.

(Image courtesy of Siemens)

Many manufacturing companies have already availed of Siemen’s state-of-the-art energy management solutions. At Coca Cola’s site in Edelstal, Austria, the SIMATIC Energy Manager Pro has recently been implemented, with the aim of further increasing their energy-efficiency. Due to its user-friendliness, the solution allows employees to carry out energy management independently. Reports can be generated quicker and easier than ever before, with no programming required. They can now also determine exactly how much energy is required for each individual product. As a result, the plant has succeeded in reducing its CO2 emissions to 17.5 g per litre of beverage, which is half the amount recorded in 2010.

3. Modular energy measurement device

Before any analysis can take place, it is important to have accurate measurements of energy consumption. Collecting data from different sources around the factory environment can be challenging, mainly due to varying standards, interfaces and communication protocols. The UMG 801 measuring device from Janitza solves this coordination problem by offering various communication interfaces and enabling direct data transmission to higher-order systems through OPC UA, a standard for machine-to-machine communication.

(Image courtesy of Janitza electronics GmbH)

The device has eight current measurement channels but with click-in modular extensions, it can measure electrical parameters on up to 92 measurement channels with a high degree of precision. It is multipurpose in that it can be used for energy management, residual current monitoring and power quality monitoring. Furthermore, the high sampling frequency (up to 51.2 kHz per channel) enables fast performance, and it includes a generous 4 GB of memory for storing the measurement data. The data can be visualised and analysed with the aid of Janitza’s GridVis® software, which also complies with ISO 50001. Janitza, a Hesse-based company, is a leader in the field of energy management and has conducted projects all around the world.

The technologies mentioned here only scratch the surface. More and more companies are developing innovative solutions to lessen the harmful impact of manufacturing on the environment. Availing of these solutions can help plant and mechanical engineering firms to minimise carbon emissions, reduce energy costs, meet legal requirements, and gain a competitive edge in the field.

Still not sure how the latest technologies and Industrie 4.0 innovations could help solve problems like energy management in your production environment? If so, feel free to send us a message at with details of your problem. Drawing on our industry expertise and AI-enhanced search methods, we conduct extensive research and suggest the best technology solutions tailored to your specific situation.


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Thomas Kinkeldei


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