EverComm out to help manufacturers save energy
By Benjamin Cher February 15, 2016
- Builds energy map to identify waste from inefficiencies and human error
- Falling energy prices have led to less pressure on companies to reduce wastage
THE need to reduce energy waste seems more urgent than ever, what with the increasingly erratic weather. Even ordinary folk are trying to pitch in by turning off unused appliances and lights.
But such efforts are just a drop in the ocean, given that manufacturing facilities use up the lion’s share of energy, and any wastage in a plant can be quite substantial compared with an always-on light.
Identifying and reducing energy waste in the manufacturing sector represented an opportunity to Ted Chen, cofounder of EverComm, who at the time was working for semiconductor giant Global Foundries.
Global Foundries had employed management consultancy firm McKinsey & Co to do an energy study, and he was part of the team collecting data for the study.
That process led Chen to realising that there was a real need and opportunity, according to EverComm director of energy partnerships Singaravelen Thirugnana Sambandan.
Thus the energy analytics startup EverComm was founded. The company uses a combination of sensors and software to collect data and build an energy map, which can then be broken down to the departmental level to identify energy waste.
“We use a combination of the IoT (Internet of Things) and software; once we have the data, we do the analytics and come back with energy-efficiency recommendations,” says Singaravelen, speaking to Digital News Asia (DNA) in Singapore recently.
“We try to draw an energy map and break it down to the departmental level – right down to even the individual machine level, comparing and finding out where the potential energy waste is.
“We help identify potential waste coming from machine inefficiency and human error, so companies can fix the issue,” he adds.
EverComm’s core customers are in manufacturing, both in production and facilities.
The semiconductor industry is a high energy consumer. Indeed, according to Singaravelen, Singapore’s semiconductor industry consumes 3% to 4% of the city-state’s entire energy output.
The problem is that while global warming has created increasing awareness on the need to reduce energy consumption, companies’ initiatives have petered out because of falling energy prices, taking the economic need out of the equation.
“With energy costs drastically going down, there is no pressure to go for energy-efficiency solutions,” Singaravelen admits.
“But the core problem they have is that consumption isn’t going down – the price is going down but consumption is not going down,” he adds.
But despite this lack of economic pressure to reduce energy waste, Evercomm is securing customers in Singapore and Taiwan, both semiconductor-manufacturing hubs.
Still, there are challenges for the startup. With most decisions made by the procurement team, energy-savings are not a high priority; ROI (return on investment) is.
This despite the fact the semiconductor industry is open and interested in EverComm’s solutions, according to Singaravelen.
There is also the bigger-picture challenge: While EverComm can identify sources of energy waste, the onus is still on the customer to fix it.
“If they really want to see the benefits, they have to fix the waste, which is on their side … the challenge is that we need to really make them implement that,” he says.
Thus the energy analytics startup is building tools to amplify efforts to get customers to actively reduce energy waste, according to Singaravelen.
“The tools we are building will minimise the efforts of the production team. We are making tools so helpful, so intuitive, that the information is very clear for them.
“It also helps them with their existing operations, addressing operational pain points,” he adds.
EverComm is also among a handful of companies which have been through the [email protected] scheme, which assists startups in getting the required approval to bid for government tenders in Singapore.
“It was a three- to four-month process, and it was very detailed, assessing us in terms of the business, finances, and the product,” says Singaravelen.
“They go very deep – how we do project management tracking, how we track sales, and they even did a security penetration test of our software.
“On the business side, they assessed us on our ability to serve our clients in terms of our finances.
“It was a pretty detailed analysis, and we had to go through an audit as well,” he adds.
Despite the tedious nature of the process, the energy analytics startup saw value in undergoing the scheme, according to Singaravelen.
“It was a very good experience in the sense that we understood processes, and because of that, we cleaned up our processes where we had some gaps,” he declares.
When asked if EverComm has secured any government tenders since becoming accredited, Singaravelen says that “enquiries are coming in and discussions are ongoing.”
Monetisation and plans
EverComm’s revenue comes from a combination of variable and fixed pricing plans, according to Singaravelen.
“It depends on the opportunity and it varies from client to client – it depends on what the client requirements are and what the opportunity is, and how we can work together,” he says.
“In Taiwan, we did a ‘smart campus’ project, and it was an escrow model, where they gave us a five-year contract and we shared the savings,” he adds.
Most of its customers in Singapore, however, go on a project basis for a particular solution.
While its solutions can be used by any kind of manufacturer, EverComm’s focus for the coming year will be on the semiconductor industry, according to Singaravelen.
“This is where our expertise is in, we come from a semiconductor background and we want to use our domain knowledge to deepen our reach into the semiconductor industry,” he says.
“If we can crack semiconductors, it is a natural step to any other business, because the learning from the semiconductor industry can be applicable to any other industry,” he argues.
Geographic expansion is also on the cards, with Malaysia the next target. Singapore’s neighbour has a flourishing semiconductor sector in its northern state of Penang.
What the company will not being doing in the immediate future is to look for external funding, which seems to be the modus operandi for far too many startups.
EverComm last year received a Technology Enterprise Commercialisation Scheme grant from Spring Singapore, the government agency tasked with boosting the small and medium enterprise sector in the country.
“Currently, we are okay for now; we are not looking for any seed funding, we just got our pre-seed [funding],” Singaravelen says.
“When we are done with this year, we will be expanding in a lot of ways – then we will re-evaluate whether we need more funding,” he adds.
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