General Motors Controls Energy Costs with Automation Software
General Motors, a 20-plus-year customer of GE Intelligent Platforms, has augmented its automation software solution to control the lights and other big energy-consuming equipment in its assembly plants, saving the major automobile manufacturer energy costs and considerably reducing its carbon footprint.
In a car factory, which has a few million square feet of floor space, turning lights off when part of the plant is not in use saves a lot of energy and money. General Motors realized that if they tied the lights to the schedule of the conveyor (outside of the security lighting), they could considerably reduce energy consumption in the plant. GE Intelligent Platforms’ Proficy CIMPLICITY controls the conveyor, so GM managers approved an application based on CIMPLICITY that schedules the lights to coincide with conveyor operation. This led to other discoveries of potential energy savings.
“Everything in a vehicle assembly plant is tied to the conveyor,” said Mike Durak, General Motors’ Global Information Technology Manager. “A hidden benefit was that once we scheduled the conveyor we had a good view into what the plant was doing, so we were able to schedule the on and off of big energy consumers in the plant like air supply houses on the roof, ovens in the paint shop, lighting, water and compressed air generators.”
The savings comes from being able to control millions of square feet of plant floor space with client/server-based HMI/SCADA software that allows operators and the management team to make more informed decisions with real-time visibility technology. In GM’s case, the team can manage certain parts of the factory or the whole plant from any location.
Employees are not affected by the automatic shut-off of lighting and equipment. Lights are turned on two or three minutes before employees arrive at their workstation. The general building lighting goes on a few minutes earlier. “We’ve also scheduled different turn on/shut offs on weekends,” said Durak. “For instance, ovens in the paint shop need two hours to warm up so we need to take that into account when we turn them off. Therefore, we have different times for end of shift, weekends, extended long production, lunch and end of day, just to name a few.”
The paint shop in automotive assembly is a significant energy consumer because in order to make sure that the car’s paint does not contain dust or other contaminates in the final product, it is important to have the optimum air quality and temperature. The software is used by General Motors to monitor the paint shop environmental conditions, alerting the paint shop staff when process circumstances begin to trend out of acceptable ranges.
With a less-than-six-month payback and low cost to implement, the solution is now rolling out to 20 plants in the GM family. Example one-year returns versus implementation costs at individual plants include:
- For weld water pumps/cooling tower/fans, chilled water and exhaust fans: 700%
- For hydraulic pumps, ovens, weld water pumps/cooling towers/fans: 400%
- HVAC and line lighting: 500%
- Ventilation, line lighting, air supply/exhaust: 500%
“General Motors has extended its application of Proficy software to further their goals of operational excellence,” said Erik Udstuen, Software Vice President for GE Intelligent Platforms. “This is a perfect example of what Proficy can do to connect the enterprise to execution systems driving real-time decision-making, enabling lean operations, and improving efficiency.”
Proficy CIMPLICITY is presently deployed by General Motors in 85 global facilities in the USA, South America, Europe and Asia. Proficy CIMPLICITY either provides or is the basis of GM’s 11 Global common manufacturing applications that include Production Monitoring and Control, Bank Management and vehicle routing and control in the paint process.