Small is the new big… when it comes to data • COLUMN
By David Arkell
July 6, 2018 - Some of the world’s largest companies were built on the value they mined from massive amounts of online data, using social media interactions, internet searches, cell phone locations, etc., to build digital marketing juggernauts. It would seem big data reigns supreme... or does it?
By David Arkell
For energy managers, it’s an altogether different story. It is in small data—your monthly utility bill, hourly data from your meter—that we find the buried treasure. Many organizations do not know or understand the tremendous value of the small data hiding in plain sight under their noses.
Here’s how any organization can mine its own small data to immediately start reducing costs and improving competitiveness:
1. Utility bill mining
The Amount Owed is often the only utility bill datum that receives any attention. However, there are up to 20 additional data points that hold clues to controlling that bottom line number, such as:
• Flat rate fees
• Volumes consumed
• Peak demand for the month
• Rate structure
These, and more, tell the story of energy use and cost in an organization.
2. Organizational knowledge mining
Build a broad energy team that includes members from Accounting & Finance, executives, Maintenance & Operations managers. A strong internal energy team will optimize the management function, help obtain and review data, and take action.
Dr. Neal Elliot, senior director of research at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)—a Washington, D.C. think tank—confirmed that “a multi-discipline energy team approach provides the diverse expertise and the support required to advance the management of energy far more effectively than relying on one person”.
Organizations should also draw on external resources such as utility account reps, energy suppliers or energy consultants.
3. Hourly energy data mining
Having built a strategic understanding, interval data can be mined next. This is a facility’s record of how much and when energy is used on an hourly (or more frequent) basis. Look for clues, such as how much energy is used during non-production times compared to production run-times. Determine what causes any unexpected highs and lows. This is the tactical use of small data.
4. Curiosity… your strongest mining tool
As a team, compare and contrast groups of small data to find incremental improvement opportunities. Did two shifts at the same site display similar energy usage? Did two consecutive weeks of production display similar usage? Was the previous winter really cold enough to have caused an increase in gas consumption?
Be truly curious. Discuss what factors drive energy costs. Is it production levels, number of shifts, external temperatures? Use small data to develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will track true progress, despite multiple changing variables.
Small data, big results
Small data for energy management is fairly simple to identify. The biggest challenges are interpreting, then communicating, the significance of the data to management and frontline personnel, as well as across multiple disciplines in the organization.
Small data is the keystone of strategic energy management; when properly mined, it delivers big results in your organization. Start unlocking its value today.
David Arkell is the president & CEO of 360 Energy, and has a deep understanding of energy markets and customer energy usage. He has developed results-driven innovations in utility tracking and whole-organization process integration. Together, these have made 360 Energy a leader in energy management consulting across North America. For more information, visit www.360energy.net.