General manufacturing overview

By improving energy efficiency, manufacturers can reduce costs, improve productivity and increase predictable earnings in the face of higher energy prices. Many companies are also investing in energy-efficient processes and technologies as the most cost-effective way to reduce their carbon emissions and to meet corporate environmental goals.

Manufacturers can also improve their competitive advantage through designing and manufacturing energy efficient appliances and products to achieve greater product differentiation, market share and customer loyalty.

Opportunities to save

Although they have much in common, each sub-sector of the manufacturing industry has specific energy-efficiency opportunities. In addition to the general opportunities outlined below, also refer to the relevant manufacturing sub-sector pages for more information.

Optimise the use of existing equipment

Improving real-time process data monitoring and benchmarking can support optimisation of existing equipment. Significant energy savings can be achieved through minimising heat gains and losses, enabling greater control of process temperatures and shutting down equipment when it is not required. 

Improve the efficiency of existing equipment

The efficiency of existing equipment can be improved through proactive maintenance, reducing heat loss, and optimising the conditions under which equipment operates. These opportunities provide rapid return on investment.

Invest in equipment upgrade

Energy efficiency improvements can be achieved through upgrading and replacing old inefficient industrial equipment and ensuring it is sized correctly.

Undertake process integration

In manufacturing plants with multiple heating and cooling demands, process integration saves energy costs through linking hot and cold processes to reduce heat losses and identify heat recovery opportunities.

Implement heat recovery

There are heat recovery opportunities in many manufacturing sectors, especially those that have high temperature manufacturing processes (metals, chemicals, cement, ammonia and lime manufacturing) and those that require stream generation and the use of boilers (paper and pulp manufacturing).

Design products for high efficiency and low life-cycle impact

By designing products to be more energy efficient in their production and operation, a company can attract new customers, build customer loyalty and create greater market share.

Collaborate with your supply chains

A collaborative approach to energy and carbon management within the supply chain can bring large savings by optimising the entire production process. Supply chain management also addresses increasing customer expectations around sustainability and helps maintain a competitive edge.

Improve and upgrade core equipment and processes

Often the most significant energy-efficiency and productivity improvements can be achieved by making core manufacturing processes less wasteful, such as through process redesign and removal of bottlenecks.

For more information, see General manufacturing opportunities to save.

Innovations

Innovations in a range of technologies are enabling greater levels of energy efficiency in the manufacturing sector. 

High temperature insulation is increasingly being used in manufacturing applications, including for processes that reach in excess of 1000°C. Materials used in these applications include alumino-silica and mullite ceramic fibres, calcium silicate, and mineral wool fibres. Such materials are available in numerous grades, compositions and consistencies, all of which can affect maximum insulating capacity.

Innovations in heat exchangers have enabled efficient recovery of heat from manufacturing processes that were previously too extreme due to high temperatures, high pressure or chemically hazardous environments. This has been made possible through using new materials that are resistant to corrosion or able to tolerate higher temperatures and pressures.

Advanced ways to efficiently generate high-temperature fluids and steam are also showing promise, such as the use of solar thermal and heat-pump technologies. Other process innovations include the use of microwave kilns and dryers, and component manufacture using 3D printing.

Improved processes in composite fibres and light metals are making it possible to design transport vehicles to be significantly lighter than previous models to enable further energy efficiency improvements.

More information

Australian Energy Update 2018

Case studies Clean Energy Finance Corporation 

Case studies Sustainability Victoria

Manufacturing Australia