Sweet tricks08 January 2020

Operations improvement manager for energy, Chris Mayhew, has witnessed energy management change during his 30+ year career at British Sugar. He explained more to delegates at the Energy Management Exhibition (EMEX) in November, about the changing landscape of energy management and how the tricks of the trade have advanced

Manumatic. That is how Mayhew described the early days of energy management, which was “all clipboard and paper”, among other things, such as temperature probes, calculators and steam tables. It also involved manual data collection, basic energy reporting, and was very much seen as specialist, he added.

Mayhew isn’t short on industry experience, having worked in process energy management at British Sugar for more than 30 years; firstly, as a factory energy manager, then as a process engineer, and now as company energy manager.

“We had to make sure that data points were working well, and this was seen as geek, because we talked about terminology policies,” he explained. “When we went beyond the clipboard, we started data loggers. We had history servers. Anybody who’s been involved in the old IT systems, the complaint was [always that] we were running out of server space. Now we’ve got live data.“

He continued: “You’ve got data analysts and you’ve got online information, so you can send data somewhere, and it comes back with information and gives you guidance on what you need to do. The problem with that is it then takes the understanding away from your people, because now you’re not having to deal with the data, you’re just dealing with the results.

“Part of the onus is on us now getting operators to understand what they are looking at. These days that part of the challenge is as high as getting the information to them in the first place. It’s gone back to geek basically.”


One area to have changed within energy management is the communication chain, delegates were told. Mayhew explained how, when he first started, he would report to a factory manager, who would in turn pass information down to operators. “I didn’t need to bother talking to the operators. All I needed to do was make sure I got the right numbers and the right report,” he said. “In reality, that’s not the best way to interact in terms of energy management. You need to be able to talk at each level, you need to be able to converse on each level” (see graphic).

So think and focus about who the ‘customer’ is, Mayhew added: “If you look at something like ISO 50001, you’ve got a responsibility on the board members. They need to know energy management criteria. But they don’t need to know on a day-by-day basis how much energy is being lost by a pipe [for example]. The energy reporting needs to be specific. It needs to be simple and to the point.

“Operation support – that’s the day-to-day stuff – the management team has taken the view of what we do with the factory and how we should improve our performance. And last but not least is the end user – the plant operator. They have got no end of other things to do on top of a complex control system these days, and the last thing they need to do is to try and work out what graphs you’re sending them and how that’s impacting on their work. They want to be able to take a quick, easy result.

“So, when you do energy management, your interactions at those levels of responsibility need to be different. You need to manage the message to match that customer.”


Another area picked up by Mayhew was standards. He explained that originally, when joining British Sugar, the business was signed up to BS5750, which was then followed by ISO 9001 (www.is.gd/qemuwi), which were quality standards and “were not energy management standards”. “There was no energy management standard at that point in time,” he added, “however, it laid the seed for energy management.”

He continued: “When ISO 14001 (www.is.gd/nugavu) came along, which was the environmental standards, there was a statement on energy: we will do our best to improve energy management to reduce our impact on the environment. But it didn’t drive energy behaviour, it just said this is what we’re going to do.

“When ISO 50001 (www.is.gd/zitene)came along, it was the first energy management standard designed to drive energy management and to drive energy improvements. I believe that ISO 50001, for example, as an energy management standard, has the ability to drive behaviour, if you let it. For us, ISO 50001 drives behaviour and I believe that it’s another significant change in energy management from when we started.”


With the rise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has come forever-changing technology, from the advent of the digital economy, to display screens, portable devices and virtual reality. But, “how many people have actually thought about virtual energy management?” asked Mayhew.

He explained that digital energy maps of a factory or site can now be created, with British Sugar using Sankey diagrams to show the operators where the energy is being distributed in the factory. A Sankey diagram is a type of flow diagram in which the width of the arrows is proportional to the flow rate, with the illustration showing all the primary energy flows into a factory.

“We were able to pull in live information from our process plant [and] can actually get them to interact. We can show them why we need to run certain elements of the plant for a period of time to build up the energy level, to build the temperatures, to then process that part of the operation.

“So, one of the steps that we’ve taken over the last few years is using software to identify where energy flows have gone and to be able to incorporate that into various aspects of our factory. In the olden days, that was a very hard task to do because it was massive and very much calculation driven. Nowadays, with technology, we can actually do all of that through calculations and modelling processes. But again, we need to find valid data to start with. And we also need an understanding what we’re going to do with it because it’s great to integrate a process but if the operators don’t understand what you’re doing, you may as well just forget it and go home.”


Concluding his views on the changes over the years, Mayhew joked that when he first started working within energy management, his main focuses were steam and heat, electrical drives and turning the lights on and off. However, that has now become such a “broad spectrum” with “wide opportunity” to do all manner of things.

In fact, energy management has changed so much, that it is no longer just a job for one person, delegates were told. Instead, there are a range of people. “With all this technology that has come along, no one can be an expert in everything,” he told delegates. “The rise of the energy consultant is really that condiment into these specific areas that most of us these days probably don’t work in.”


“An energy manager these days is someone with an open-top head, not losing information, but allowing all that information to come in,” Mayhew added. But what is next for energy management? “The next generation of management that I see [is around] energy virtualisation,” he explained. This includes ‘remote interacting’, such as the Hive system whereby users can switch heating on and off from a mobile phone, as well as ‘advanced integration’ and ‘specialisations of normal approaches’, for example, taking an idea or product that has been designed for a specific task. “Flipping it on its head gives you big opportunities,” he said.

There is also a challenge around carbon zero. “In energy management terms, we have a big responsibility, because we have the future of our planet in our hands. If we can make the best use of energy and reduce the amount needed, we can probably take a big step to that goal.”

He concluded: “So, after a quiet reflection of 31 years, make the most of what you use and don’t let it escape. You pay for it. And finally, if a solution is simple, why make it complicated. Simple and effective, that works best.

“So, can you teach an old energy manager new tricks? Yes, you can, but it’s how they use them that counts.”

Adam Offord

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