As most of us know, the all-in cost of computer purchases has been an important factor in the IT industry for many years now. The cost of a server decreases in importance when the cost of electric and cooling are figured into the equation. Large supercomputing and storage facilities are being moved to locations with inexpensive power and minimal cooling needs.
According to an article in The Times of London, a Harvard University physicist calculates a typical Google search session on a desktop computer, requiring a number of queries, as being responsible for 7 grams of carbon output. While I’m not sure more carbon would be emitted in such a search without the convenience of the Internet, it did make me stop and ponder the impact of our computing needs.
After all, a lot of us sit in front of a computer every workday. IT engineers are now designing ways for scaling servers to their workload automatically, turning off and on as needed. The impact on this will be a big benefit to companies like Google and Amazon.
Designing for Total Cost
Design engineers have become aware that their designs are continually coming under the pressure of total cost of ownership (TCO). One of product lifecycle management’s (PLM’s) biggest benefits is to predict the cost of ownership. An engineer designing a complicated piece of industrial machinery is now being asked to design reliability and low cost while making a design of a product that is less expensive to run.
There’s a quickly approaching deadline that will drive the cost of total ownership even further forward in the design cycle. The Energy Independence and Security act of 2007 (EISA), as it relates specifically to motors, will take effect Dec. 16, 2010.
This federal law has broad reaching implications to engineers who use three-phase electric motors from 1 hp to 500 hp. The act includes motors that are in OEM designs, and there is no distinction made between stock and custom-designed motors. These motors will cost around 20% to 30% more than the motors in previous use. Interestingly, these high-efficiency motors have been available for a while now and are already in high demand because they produce a lower cost of ownership. While these motors will cost more initially, they will save significant energy over their lifecycle and the impact on the environment will be gigantic. Everyone wins.
While the early adopters of PLM have been manufacturing companies where total cost of ownership has been a mantra for years, expect to see this filtering down to everyone else including the consumer. Consumers are already savvy to the concept when it comes to their automotive and appliance purchases, it will soon infiltrate everything else that consumes energy or has a lifespan.
Cell phones will probably be immune because they are a fashion statement and everyone wants a new one at least every 18 months, but other consumer electronics, power tools, white goods and transportation will continue to experience sales success based on the total cost of ownership. Product life, maintenance, and energy costs being the primary drivers.
As economic and environmental concerns merge, design engineers are in the perfect position to lead the way toward lower TCO and higher environmental sustainability. Their tools are merging too, as PLM, design software and upfront design processes become more integrated.
Steve Robbins is the CEO of Level 5 Communications and executive editor of DE. Send comments about this subject to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.