Bill O’Leary

Confirm Centre, University of Limerick


Advanced Manufacturing – what it means for Energy


Advanced Manufacturing research is focused on the development & deployment of new digital technologies to optimise existing processes & products and/or to help develop new ones. Technologies such as machine learning, digital twins, Internet of things (IoT), robotics, Augmented & Virtual Realities enable manufacturing companies to reduce cost, optimise outputs, improve asset utilisation, shorten time to market, build more robust & secure supply chains, improve product design, and better capture product performance. From an energy management perspective, the deployment of sensors within an IoT context can yield enormous benefits in terms of capturing energy usage by asset, monitoring asset useage, & improving production scheduling. Asset specific predictive algorithms can result in higher equipment availability, whilst vision systems can help with anomaly detection, lower off grade & rework rates.


Digital Manufacturing technologies are developing at an unprecedented rate.  Current research is focused in the “gap” between the required application and the available technology. Energy management is only one of a raft of improvements that are accrued through the prudent deployment of smart technologies. The connection between energy and advanced smart manufacturing technologies is very much in its infancy but is growing fast. Energy savings measurable in terms of time, money, waste etc resulting from improved processes, more capable equipment and people is now a key driver in terms of Return on Investment for digital technology advances.

More efficient use of asset and human time, better decision making processes, faster off specification detection, better alarm monitoring, autonomous machine response are all outcomes of a well defined and deployed digital manufacturing strategy. More obvious benefits in terms of more sustainable products and faster product design times result from the use of novel technologies such as Digital Twins. Smarter supply chains in terms of increased securitisation of sources and contracts and better tracking of material transport can yield obvious energy savings. Organisationally it is critically important that any digital strategy is deployed holistically. This ensures greater understanding, & engagement and allows associated KPIs to be integrated throughput an organisation. Energy is a tangible and widely understood cost component of production processes and importantly digital technologies such as sensorisation, data collation, analytics, & visualisation are used already in energy control.

Many companies more easily understand the energy savings on an asset or facility level and often miss an opportunity to secure savings at an Enterprise level where increasing integration of data systems and control systems bring enormous operational savings.

Some examples of energy savings through digital technologies include-

  • Facility/Asset Level : Immediate error detection > ad hoc error detection
  • Asset Level :   High Equipment Utilisation > Equipment breakdown and high c
    hangeover times
  • Asset Level : Efficient Device < Inefficient device
  • Facility Level : Smart Product design > Conventional Product Design
  • Facility Level : VR supported Training > Onsite, slower more risky training
  • Enterprise Level : Human deployment in high value activity > human working
    in highly repetitious mundane tasks
  • Enterprise Level : Integration of MES, ERP, CRM > disparate localised systems.

Many of the aforementioned savings are direct but we should not lose sight  of those savings that will be accrued through capital avoidance, through in creased mass customisation, and an increasing need for manufacturers to be positioned very close to the customer most likely in much smaller more modular type production facilities than the traditional high volume enterprises.

Ultimately to derive true savings via better control, response, design, it  will require leadership, foresight and a sharing of knowledge underpinned by a desire to be adaptable.  We should not limit ourselves to the obvious.

About Bill O’Leary:

Before joining CONFIRM in April 2018 Bill was a Senior Manufacturing Operations Director with over twelve years operations experience and full P&L responsibility for Global multi-sites operations in minerals processing and renewable energy with a turnover in excess of €100M. Holding a PhD, MBA, B.Sc, Six Sigma Black Belt and a certified Quality Auditor, he is recognised as highly communicative, a clear thinker with a strategic nous, trustworthy, innovative, analytical and highly motivated.

About Confirm:

CONFIRM is an SFI funded Research Centre for Smart Manufacturing. The Centre aims to enable the transformation of Irish manufacturing, to ensure its future competitiveness and sustainability, by supporting industry transition to a smart manufacturing ecosystem.  CONFIRM’s vision is to transform and grow Irish manufacturing by integrating intelligence within products, machines, production systems and supply chains. Smart Manufacturing has been defined as “the intelligent, real‐time orchestration and optimisation of physical (people
& equipment), digital and business processes within factories and across the entire value chain”. The CONFIRM team combines distinctive but complementary skills from 8 academic and research institutions across Ireland and 45 companies. Our research skill set spans industrial mathematics, computer science, production, mechanical and electronic engineering, semiconductor fabrication and integration, whilst many of our operations team have complimentary industrial backgrounds. Our research areas with industry include smart products, smart machines, smart supply chains & smart production systems.

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