Fluid Power Journal

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Fluid Power’s Role in Our Nation’s Energy-Efficient Future

Part 7: Getting Engaged with the U.S. Council of Competitiveness

nfpa-eric-lankeBy Eric Lanke, CEO, NFPA

This article is seventh in a series of articles describing NFPA’s actions focused on the development of a program within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that can fund and focus on energy-efficiency improvements using fluid power technology. The envisioned program would be partly research-focused, helping to develop new energy-efficient fluid power technologies, and partly education-focused, helping to improve the design and maintenance of existing fluid power systems with current technologies and techniques.

If you’ve been following this series, you know that we have been successful in establishing that fluid power research and education represent significant opportunities to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the United States, especially in the industrial sector. Several interactions with what is now the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have resulted in two areas of possible cooperation—getting fluid power engaged on the U.S. Council of Competitiveness, where future structures and private/public partnerships were being discussed to address energy efficiency, and seeing if fluid power could be better incorporated into the AMO’s existing industrial energy assessment programs. My last two posts have been focused on seeing if fluid power could be better incorporated into the AMO’s existing industrial assessment programs, so it’s time to loop back and talk about getting fluid power engaged on the U.S. Council of Competitiveness.

The U.S. Council of Competitiveness is a non-partisan, non-governmental organization, composed of peer corporate CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders, and national laboratory directors. It works to set an action agenda to drive U.S. competitiveness while generating innovative public policy solutions for a more prosperous America. One of its core principles identifies sustainable energy—exploiting domestic resources and using energy efficiently—as foundational to U.S. prosperity, and under that principle the Council has entered into a partnership with the U.S. DOE. The partnership is called the American Energy & Manufacturing Competitiveness Partnership (AEMC), and its focus is currently on something the DOE is calling the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative (CEMI). Together, the AEMC and the CEMI aim to increase U.S. manufacturing competitiveness across the board by increasing energy productivity and by investing in technologies and practices to enable U.S. manufacturers to increase their competitiveness through energy efficiency. There’s a lot of acronym soup going on here, I know, but this is where fluid power could possibly come in—as one of the technologies that will enable U.S. manufacturers to increase their competitiveness through energy efficiency.

nfpa efficiency

To begin exploring that possibility, NFPA and other fluid power representatives participated in a series of regional summits where the AEMC sought input on how the CEMI could best achieve its aims. At the October 2013 summit I attended in Santa Clara, Calif., the focus was on some proposed public-private partnership models that could be carried out to increase the competitive production of clean-energy, energy-efficient, and advanced manufacturing products in the United States. One of those proposed models was focused on facilitating the transition of prototypes to deployable products, and I was able to participate in the dialogue around it and propose fluid power as one of the technology zones that could be ripe for that kind of investment.

As most NFPA members know, the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) has been working for eight years now to explore pre-competitive research projects in fluid power and connect talented bachelor, masters, and Ph.D. students to our industry. In doing so, the seven universities that make up the CCEFP have made some pre-competitive research discoveries that could be translated into energy-efficient fluid power products for our many end-use industries, including manufacturing. However, pursuing product development work is out of scope for the CCEFP, and the discoveries, although promising, are a long way from commercial deployment. Connecting fluid power and the CCEFP to a new public-private partnership model, where government money would be used to ease the risk and burden associated with start-up or established companies pursuing the development of these new technologies could dramatically accelerate the impact fluid power could make on energy efficiency and U.S. competitiveness.

It’s an exciting idea, and one of many that was offered and discussed at these regional summits. The AEMC’s plan was to take all of the input received at the summits and use it to develop an action plan that they would present at a national summit held in Washington, DC in December 2013. I attended that event as well, and I’ll provide a description of what happened there in my next post.

The intent of this series is to keep NFPA members better informed about efforts in this regard and also to seek their help in advocating for the envisioned program. Please watch this space for more background on this issue, as well as regular updates on the NFPA’s progress. If you would like to become more involved, please contact Eric Lanke directly at (414) 778-3351 or elanke@nfpa.com. Getting industry leaders engaged in this effort will be critical to its ultimate success.

Fluid Power’s Role in Our Nation’s Energy-Efficient Future

Part 6: Detecting and Correcting Inefficiencies in Hydraulic Systems

nfpa-eric-lankeBy Eric Lanke, CEO, NFPA

This is the sixth in a series of articles describing NFPA’s actions focused on the development of a program within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that can fund and focus on energy-efficiency improvements using fluid power technology. The envisioned program would be partly research-focused, helping to develop new energy-efficient fluid power technologies, and partly education-focused, helping to improve the design and maintenance of existing fluid power systems with current technologies and techniques. To read the full series, go to www.nfpa.com.

If you’ve been following this series, you know that we have been successful in establishing that fluid power research and education represent significant opportunities to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the United States, especially in the industrial sector. Several interactions with what is now the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) of the U.S. Department of Energy have resulted in two areas of possible cooperation—getting fluid power engaged on the U.S. Council of Competitiveness, where future structures and private/public partnerships were being discussed to address energy efficiency, and seeing if fluid power could be better incorporated into the AMO’s existing industrial energy-assessment programs.

Last time, I talked about our interactions with the leaders of one of those energy-assessment programs—the Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) Program, where teams located at 24 universities around the country conduct no-cost energy assessments for small and medium-sized manufacturers. We were asked to provide them with information on how to detect and correct inefficiencies in existing fluid power systems and, working with the two content experts we had recruited with the help of our sister association, the International Fluid Power Society, we have begun to develop exactly that.

Our hydraulic expert, for example, has since produced a white paper on the subject, which suggests that assessors look for the following potential indicators of hydraulic system inefficiency:

  • A large heat exchanger: One advantage of a hydraulic system is that the fluid has the ability to carry away the heat generated by mechanical inefficiency to a central location where it can be dissipated. A large heat exchanger indicates that a large amount of heat needs to be removed. However, a large heat exchanger is not a litmus test for efficiency. There may be explanations for the heat exchanger that do not include inefficiency. The reservoir may be sitting in the hot sun or snuggled up to another heat source. The heat exchanger may be oversized because it was readily available and is not being used to its capacity. A large heat exchanger is an indicator, but will require more research.
  • The temperature of the fluid: The temperature of the fluid in the reservoir can be an indicator, certainly if it is above 45° C. However, the reservoir temperature can be deceiving. If it is a nice cool 35°C, it may only indicate an efficient heat exchanger. The fluid may be traveling across relief valves, through restrictive flow controls, and undersized conductors just before it passes through the heat exchanger. So, hot fluid is certainly a problem, but cool fluid may result from a cover up.
  • Dark Fluid: Another indicator would be dark fluid. This is likely fluid that has been oxidized due to high temperature and water contamination. If the fluid is dark, even if the reservoir is cool, you need to hunt down the heat source in the circuit. Knowledge of component symbols is important here. It may allow you to determine the heat-generating culprits while looking at the circuit diagram. If you are not comfortable with your circuit-reading ability or if the culprit is elusive, a heat gun is a handy tool for finding the hot spots. The source could turn out to be an inefficient pump, motor, or leaking cylinder, which would not be obvious in the circuit diagram.

These and eight more indicators are described in the white paper, as well as steps that can be taken to correct the inefficiencies. A full copy of the white paper can be obtained by contacting NFPA. Similar information is also being developed for pneumatic systems.

The hydraulic document has already been forwarded to our contacts in the AMO, with the hope that we can re-engage on the question of how this information can be best brought into their assessment programs. When one considers that roughly 3% of all the energy consumed in the United States is consumed by a fluid power system—and almost half of that in the industrial setting—finding ways to improve the efficiency of these existing systems should become a compelling priority.

Next time, I’ll loop back and talk about the other opportunity that came out of our discussion with the AMO—getting fluid power engaged on the U.S. Council of Competitiveness, where future structures and private/public partnerships are being discussed to address the commercialization of new energy-efficient technologies.

The intent of this series is to keep NFPA members better informed about our efforts in this regard and also to seek their help in advocating for the envisioned program. Please watch this space for more background on this issue, as well as regular updates on our progress. If you would like to become more involved, please contact Eric Lanke directly at (414) 778-3351 or elanke@nfpa.com. Getting industry leaders engaged in this effort will be critical to its ultimate success.

nfpa series

Understanding NAICS Codes

by Eric Armstrong

If you’re involved in manufacturing, there is a good chance you have or will encounter NAICS codes. Depending on your position, you may be, or will need to be, very familiar with these unique series of numbers. I thought I would share a brief overview of the NAICS codes for those interested in learning more.

What are NAICS codes?

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes are the identifying numbers used by the federal government to identify and classify companies by industry for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy.  Working with the United States’ counterparts from Mexico and Canada, the U.S. Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC) wanted to create common industry definitions for use across the three countries. NAICS replaced the now-obsolete Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system in 1997.

Why Use NAICS Codes?

NAICS codes help provide uniformity and comparability in the classification of business establishments and presentation of statistical data, so many statistical agencies (including most government agencies) use NAICS codes to collect/organize statistical data and generate reports.  Such a widely used classification system makes market analysis and data resource identification much easier and more representative.

How Are NAICS Codes Structured?

The NAICS numbering system employs a six-digit code at the most detailed industry level. The first five digits are generally (although not always strictly) the same in all three countries. The first two digits designate the largest business sector, the third digit designates the subsector, the fourth digit designates the industry group, the fifth digit designates the NAICS industries, and the sixth digit designates the national industries.

For example, lawn and garden equipment manufacturing would be NAICS code 333112. Here is the breakdown:

33 stands for Manufacturing.
333 stands for Machinery Manufacturing.
3331 stands for Agriculture, Construction, and Mining Machinery Manufacturing.
33311 stands for Agricultural Implement Manufacturing.
333112 stands for Lawn and Garden Equipment Manufacturing.

NFPA organizes many of its market information programs by NAICS codes. Visit NFPA’s Market Information at http://theieoc.com/market-information/ to find out how.

Standardizing Energy Measurement for Fluid Power Systems

nfpa-eric-lankeBy Eric Lanke, CEO, NFPA

The following article was written for NFPA’s Power2Move blog–a site created for those interested in knowing more about new technologies and changes going on in the fluid power industry. To learn more about Power2Move go to www.pwr2move.com.

One of the core challenges identified in the Technology Roadmap for the fluid power industry is increasing the energy efficiency of hydraulic and pneumatic systems. According to a study recently published by the U.S. Department of Energy, fluid power systems in all environments—mobile, industrial, and aerospace—account for roughly 2-3% of our nation’s energy, and they run at an average efficiency of only 22%.

Organizations like the National Fluid Power Association, research universities in the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power, and companies throughout the fluid power industry are working—and succeeding—in making improvements on this score, but one area that is just starting to get attention is finding a standardized way to measure energy consumption in fluid power systems.

It is a critically important area to focus on. Without such a standard, demonstrating energy efficiency improvements in the marketplace as a result of new component designs, new system architectures, or other technical advancements is a very subjective proposition.

Imagine if there was no standard driving cycle by which miles per gallon were measured in automobiles. Every car manufacturer would use its own driving cycle, publish its own results, and the consumer would have no way to compare cars from different manufacturers. Perhaps more importantly, automotive suppliers who wanted to sell products to the car manufacturers that would help improve fuel economy would have to have truly remarkable breakthroughs—adding 10 or more miles per gallon—before such breakthroughs would be adopted by the industry as a whole. Such leaps in fuel savings would be necessary in order to show progress on all of the various testing methods being employed by all the car manufacturers.

Fortunately for the car industry, there is a standardized way of measuring fuel economy—consumers can reliably compare the efficiency of one automobile versus another, and suppliers can introduce products that demonstrate incremental savings on fuel economy. Unfortunately, however, this is not the case for the fluid power industry and many of the heavy equipment industries that it serves.

But now, an effort is underway in order to change that. ISO Technical Committee 131, the international body responsible for fluid power standards, is initiating a discussion on how to tackle this problem in hydraulic and pneumatic systems. I was able to participate on its inaugural teleconference on the subject and will be part of the expanded discussion as it moves forward. There will even be a meeting of interested parties at the upcoming Fluid Power Systems Conference this November.

We welcome all perspectives into the discussion.

Fluid Power Journal is the official publication of the International Fluid Power Society
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