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National Ceramic Industries uses data to counter energy price

Manufacturing News

Australia’s largest ceramic tile producer National Ceramic Industries Australia (NCIA) has made headway in beating the current energy crisis distressing Australian manufacturers.

The company, which produced its first tile in Rutherford in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley in 2004, is one of the largest single-site users of natural gas, and hence exposed to energy price volatility.

Just as the company focused on innovation to expand and provide the best quality products to its customers, it took the same approach to monitoring its energy use and costs.

Before today’s energy crisis was in full swing, NCIA reached out to its technology partner, Australian manufacturing efficiency software provider OFS, to see if it could measure its energy usage in real time, joule by joule.

The manufacturer was already using sensors to monitor production performance in real time and built upon this to track energy use versus production.

The deployment gave NCIA data that could be used to predict with pinpoint accuracy the amount of energy required to produce every single product.

The insights positioned the manufacturer to get betted deals from its gas suppliers as it could match its production schedule with energy usage.

This has led to average monthly savings of $40,000, or close to half a million dollars annually.

According to NCIA Factory Manager Craig Oliver, the solution’s value has increased dramatically in the context of the recent dramatic surge in energy prices, a key issue to be addressed in the upcoming Federal Budget.

The Grattan Institute’s Tony Wood highlighted key trends driving up prices for the sector including the failure of coal-powered generators, gas supply shortages, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

He said: “Gas users and the incoming government are describing Australia’s sudden east coast energy crisis as ‘apocalyptic’ and ‘a perfect storm’.

“There is no doubt that a rare combination of international and domestic events, together with long-term policy shortcomings, have led to a very nasty position from which there is no easy way out.”

NCIA’s Oliver says the energy data has been ‘a lifeline in the context of the devastating energy crisis’, and that the manufacturer has essentially automated the entire process to mitigate the surges in energy prices and optimise how it buys gas.

Picture: OFS Australia

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