Current Insights

The Role of Physical Asset Managers in Improving Energy Efficiency

June 3, 2024

In today's increasingly competitive and environmentally conscious world, energy efficiency is not merely a corporate responsibility but a crucial component of operational excellence. Physical asset managers play a pivotal role in driving energy efficiency across various industrial settings. By implementing best practices and optimizing the performance of physical assets, these professionals can significantly reduce energy consumption, minimize waste, and improve overall operational efficiency. This article explores the critical responsibilities of physical asset managers in enhancing energy efficiency, focusing on best practices in operation, maintenance, and monitoring. As a bonus, energy waste usually manifest in the form of heat and vibration, placing additional nonproductive stress on physical assets.

The Size of the Prize

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) conducted several “bandwidth studies” that highlight significant opportunities for improving energy efficiency across various industries by implementing known best practices and investing in research and development (R&D). These studies, which are summarized in Table 1, demonstrate that substantial energy savings can be achieved by optimizing operations, maintenance, and monitoring practices. For example, the chemical, petroleum refining, pulp and paper, iron and steel, and food and beverage industries have vast potential for energy reduction. By adopting lean operations, minimizing idling, improving fuel efficiency, reducing thermal losses, and enhancing mechanical and electrical systems, industries can not only lower energy consumption but also significantly reduce CO2 emissions. The DOE studies underscore the importance of both current best practices and future innovations in achieving these energy efficiency goals and contributing to environmental sustainability.

Table 1 - DOE bandwidth studies illustrate the energy saving potential from implementing best practices and investing in R&D (USA only – study dates vary. References are for a typical site).

Putting this into perspective, through the implementation of energy savings best practices, the mining industry can reduce its energy footprint by 20.7%. This savings goes directly to the bottom line for the company and reduces nonproductive wear and tear on the equipment. It also proportionally reduces the site’s carbon footprint. A general rule of thumb each kWh of energy saves reduces the carbon footprint by 0.707 kg of CO2-equivalent.

The Role of Physical Asset Managers

Proper and Lean Operation

Lean operation principles are designed to eliminate waste and enhance efficiency in industrial processes. Physical asset managers can implement lean methodologies to streamline operations, reduce energy consumption, and improve productivity. This involves identifying and eliminating non-value-added activities, optimizing process flows, and ensuring that all equipment and machinery are used efficiently.

Minimize Idling

Idle machinery and equipment consume energy without producing any value. Physical asset managers should implement strategies to minimize idling time, such as automating shutdown processes, implementing idle-reduction technologies, and scheduling maintenance during downtime. By reducing idling, organizations can significantly lower energy costs and improve the overall efficiency of their operations.

Fuel-Efficient Operation

Fuel-efficient operation is crucial for organizations that rely on fuel-powered machinery and equipment. Physical asset managers can promote fuel-efficient practices by regularly maintaining engines, optimizing fuel mixtures, and training operators on fuel-saving techniques. Additionally, implementing advanced monitoring systems can help track fuel consumption and identify opportunities for further optimization.

Minimize Thermal Losses

Thermal losses occur when heat generated by machinery and equipment is not effectively utilized. Physical asset managers can minimize thermal losses by improving insulation, using heat recovery systems, and optimizing process temperatures. Regular inspections and maintenance of insulation and heat exchange systems are essential to ensure optimal performance and reduce energy waste.

Correct Tire Pressure Management

In industries that use vehicles and mobile equipment, maintaining correct tire pressure is critical for fuel efficiency and safety. Physical asset managers should implement routine tire inspections and maintenance programs to ensure that tires are inflated to the recommended levels. Proper tire pressure reduces rolling resistance, enhances fuel efficiency, and extends the lifespan of tires.

Mechanical Alignment

Proper alignment of mechanical components is essential for efficient operation and energy conservation. Misaligned machinery can lead to increased friction, wear, and energy consumption. Physical asset managers should implement regular alignment checks and maintenance procedures to ensure that all mechanical components are correctly aligned and operating smoothly.

Compressed/Pressurized Fluid LDAR (Leak Detection and Repair)

Leaks in compressed air and other pressurized fluid systems can result in significant energy losses. Physical asset managers should establish leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs to identify and address leaks promptly. This involves regular inspections, the use of advanced leak detection technologies, and immediate repairs to minimize energy waste and maintain system efficiency.

Mechanical Balance

Unbalanced machinery can cause excessive vibration, noise, and energy consumption. Physical asset managers should ensure that all rotating equipment, such as motors, pumps, and fans, are properly balanced. Regular vibration analysis and maintenance can help detect imbalances early and prevent energy waste and equipment damage.

Precision Fastening/Looseness Management

Loose or improperly fastened components can lead to energy losses, equipment damage, and safety hazards. Physical asset managers should implement precision fastening techniques and regularly inspect and tighten fasteners as needed. This helps maintain equipment integrity, reduce energy consumption, and enhance overall operational efficiency.

Minimized Belt Slippage

Belt-driven machinery is common in many industrial settings, and belt slippage can result in significant energy losses. Physical asset managers should regularly inspect and maintain belt tension and alignment to prevent slippage. Using high-quality belts and pulleys and implementing proper installation and maintenance practices can further reduce energy waste and improve equipment performance.

Effective Lubrication/Friction Management

Proper lubrication is essential for reducing friction and wear in machinery and equipment. Physical asset managers should establish comprehensive lubrication programs that include regular inspections, appropriate lubricant selection, and timely re-lubrication. Effective lubrication minimizes energy losses, extends equipment lifespan, and improves overall efficiency.

Phase-to-Phase Voltage, Current, and Resistive Balance

Imbalances in voltage, current, and resistance in electrical systems can lead to inefficiencies and energy waste. Physical asset managers should regularly monitor and analyze electrical systems to ensure phase-to-phase balance. Implementing corrective measures, such as adjusting loads and improving power distribution, can enhance energy efficiency and prevent equipment damage.

Power Quality Management

Poor power quality can result in energy losses, equipment malfunctions, and downtime. Physical asset managers should implement power quality management practices, including regular monitoring, voltage regulation, and the use of power conditioning equipment. Ensuring stable and high-quality power supply enhances energy efficiency and protects sensitive equipment.

Harmonics Management

Harmonics in electrical systems can cause energy losses, overheating, and equipment damage. Physical asset managers should implement harmonics management practices, such as using filters, adjusting loads, and optimizing power factor correction. Regular monitoring and analysis of harmonics help maintain system efficiency and prevent potential issues.

Power Factor Management

Power factor management is crucial for optimizing energy consumption and reducing costs. Physical asset managers should regularly monitor and adjust power factor to ensure it remains within optimal ranges. Implementing power factor correction devices, such as capacitors, can help improve power factor, reduce energy losses, and enhance overall efficiency.

Electrical Circuit Quality

High-quality electrical circuits are essential for efficient energy use and reliable operation. Physical asset managers should ensure that all electrical circuits are designed, installed, and maintained to the highest standards. Regular inspections, testing, and maintenance of electrical circuits help prevent energy losses, equipment failures, and safety hazards.


Improving energy efficiency is a multifaceted challenge that requires a comprehensive and proactive approach. Physical asset managers play a critical role in driving energy efficiency by implementing best practices in operation, maintenance, and monitoring. By focusing on lean operation, minimizing idling, optimizing fuel use, reducing thermal losses, and maintaining proper mechanical and electrical balance, physical asset managers can significantly reduce energy consumption, lower operational costs, and enhance sustainability. Through diligent management and continuous improvement, physical asset managers can contribute to a more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally responsible organization.

About the Author

Drew Troyer if the Global Head of Asset Management at Anglo American. With more than 30-years of experience in Asset Management. Widely published and a popular keynote speaker, he’s considered a leading authority in an array of asset management subjects – including Precision Maintenance School, which he created. Dually credentialed as a Certified Reliability Engineer (CRE) and a Certified Energy Manager (CEM), Drew holds master’s degree in business administration (Oklahoma City University - USA) and Sustainability (Harvard University – USA).

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