The Green Machine is Key to Sustainability

OEMs’ sustainability efforts need to include designing energy-efficient machines that support the industry’s move to optimize energy usage and lower carbon emissions.

When considering sustainability, most machine builders are focused on how to modify equipment to handle the environmentally-friendly materials that manufacturers are adopting for product packaging.  But as part of a bigger sustainability goal,  lowering power consumption and becoming carbon neutral is also a priority for these companies. And many CPG, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical manufacturers are turning to OEMs to help create an energy efficient “green machine” that will support their corporate sustainability initiatives.

According to a Capgemini Research Institute report on sustainable operations, of the 960 executives surveyed in industries ranging from aerospace and defense, automotive, industrial and capital goods, high-tech, consumer products, pharmaceuticals, and medical device manufacturing, 91% aim to achieve 100% renewable electricity and 87% plan to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Colgate-Palmolive is one of those companies on a mission to net zero carbon emissions by 2040. This past September, the CPG announced one step it’s taking to reduce wasted energy in its product packaging facilities. Colgate is using Emerson’s Aventics AF2 smart flow pneumatic sensors and an IIoT-enabled software architecture to precisely monitor compressed air flow in real time to identify leaks, optimize pneumatic processes, and improve air flow efficiency.

Using data gathered from Emerson’s sensor technologies and analytics, Colgate has already seen about a 15% reduction in energy usage on several toothpaste and toothbrush packaging lines and expects even greater energy savings as the technology is rolled out more widely.


   Read more on Colgate-Palmolive's sustainability initiatives in packaging. 


“Saving energy through air flow monitoring is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Warren Pruitt, Colgate-Palmolive’s vice president global engineering services, in a statement. “With a test-and-learn mindset, we’re able to scale successful lessons across our global footprint and help achieve our sustainability objectives.”

According to the companies, given the heavy reliance on pneumatics in large-scale consumer goods production, reducing the amount of energy associated with compressed air contributes not only to sustainability efforts, but also to overall equipment health and reliability. 

Mounted in-line as a stand-alone device or as part of an air preparation system, the Emerson Aventics AF2 monitors compressed air usage in real time.Mounted in-line as a stand-alone device or as part of an air preparation system, the Emerson Aventics AF2 monitors compressed air usage in real time.

Indeed, industry experts agree that compressed air, steam, and electromechanical systems are the biggest culprits when it comes to wasted energy. And OEMs have the potential to offset some of this by adding energy-efficient motors and drives, for example, or adding smart sensors and analytics that will help manufacturers understand how to lower energy usage in equipment.

Letting off steam

A common question is: “Where do I start?” And a common answer is, “Start by doing  an assessment on where the greatest gains can come with the least amount of effort,” says Nathan Hedrick, national product manager at Endress+Hauser. “Typically, I find that some of the biggest energy consumers are compressed air and steam where small changes can lead to big savings.”

Endress+Hauser makes field instrumentations used to measure and monitor flow level, pressure, temperature, and liquids. “These instruments are the eyes and ears into the process and are important to sustainability efforts because they can generate baselines that can be monitored, measured, and reported on to see trends,” says Mark Thomas, Endress+Hauser’s industry marketing group manager.

Sean Silvey, product application specialist with Fluke Corp., a maker of electrical test and measurement tools, agrees that an energy assessment is a good first step. “But in energy, there isn’t a body of research for an industrial plant manager to use to set baselines for what ‘reasonable’ energy usage looks like in a manufacturing facility. So how do you assess what portion of current energy usage is reasonable and what is wasteful? Or, of that wasteful portion, what provides high enough ROI to address? The ROI under discussion here is the cost per kilowatt hour as charged by the utility.”

Fluke’s power quality and energy analyzers troubleshoot power quality issues and discover the cost of wasted energy. Multiple parameters are measured simultaneously and displayed in formats that quickly describe overall power quality health. And understanding energy waste points is key. “Every system and operation has the potential to be a point of waste that can be mitigated or remedied,” Silvey says. “The goal is to map the energy use of specific equipment and processes to look at where energy is being wasted to quantify the waste and prioritize improvements or replacements based on the life of the equipment, as well as which modifications can deliver the best return on investment.”

Fluke’s three-phase power quality analyzers capture hundreds of power parameters.Fluke’s three-phase power quality analyzers capture hundreds of power parameters.Photo courtesy of Fluke Corp.Silvey’s “energy efficiency checklist” starts with a profile of energy usage and then tracing the energy consumption in order to understand energy waste points. He warns that manufacturers should not try to manage every kilowatt consumed by the facility, but instead divide the facility into the electrical infrastructure and then key systems. “The understanding of basic energy components enables an electrician to set up energy logging equipment to measure overall levels and quality of consumption and then trace when energy is consumed by what,” explains Silvey. “The biggest power savings come from determining when power usage peaks, evaluating overall power consumption compared to utility invoices, and possibly rebalancing loads.”

By power logging each major system and mapping those costs against utility bills to quantify where and when consumption is occurring, companies can often realize savings by simple operational and schedule changes, Silvey says.

Measuring for more output

There are other ways to measure energy usage beyond checking the utility bill, and it starts with collecting the data from an energy meter connected to an equipment component, a conveyor, or a pump for example, and putting it into a historian as a way to maintain the history of the equipment to look for optimizations. “As you monitor it over time using a dashboard, you then have a data set and can use analytics to get efficiency,” says Gimmi Filice, senior product manager at GE Digital.

In addition to historians, manufacturing execution systems (MES), too, which are used for scheduling production lines, can be tied to facility management software to look at when different lines are idle and can be powered down. A large automotive manufacturer using GE Digital’ Proficy MES software was able to save about 15% on energy usage just by looking at what lines were not running during certain hours in the evening and dimming the lights and shutting off high energy equipment, Filice says.

Other customers are taking the digital transformation tools to another level, like using artificial intelligence and digital twin technology to make predictions of how equipment will perform.

Data, it turns out, is an important aspect of energy tuning. However, looking at a portion of data may help tweak a machine or a line, but does not provide a holistic view, which is needed to truly optimize energy usage. “I’ve often found that our own instrumentation has a lot more unlocked potential in the form of unused data that users do not fully leverage to their benefit,” says Endress+Hauser’s Hedrick.GE Digital’s Cimplicity HMI/SCADA provides a visual dashboard into energy consumption.GE Digital’s Cimplicity HMI/SCADA provides a visual dashboard into energy consumption.Photo courtesy of GE Digital

That is where new kinds of manufacturing data-capturing technologies are coming into play, like Sight Machine, a platform that converts unstructured plant data into a standardized data foundation.

“A manufacturer should know how many units its producing, and should know how much energy its using, but they need to dial down to see where it’s being used…to get to that level of not just plant efficiency or line efficiency, but asset efficiency,” says Matt Smith, senior vice president of digital transformation for Sight Machine.

“The ability to make recommendations using Sight Machine is easy,” Smith says. “We have tools, we call them cookbooks, where you have recipes of what you want to make, and we will tell you the most efficient way to make it by doing all the statistical weighing for you. Cookbooks look through all of the historical data and based on conditions, be it humidity, raw materials, etc., gives you your best set of running conditions using as little water as possible, for example.”

Looking toward the lighthouse

In 2020, Schneider Electric’s Lexington, Kentucky factory was recognized as a “lighthouse” by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which, together with McKinsey & Company in 2018, created the Global Lighthouse Network initiative. “Lighthouses” are companies that effectively use fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies to drive digital transformation. And as a result, these companies are recognized as beacons for others to follow.

The Lexington factory’s digital energy management strategy leverages IIoT connectivity with power meters and predicative analytics to capture greater energy consumption granularity in order to optimize energy costs. And the company has been able to reduce energy use by 26%, saw a 30% net CO2 reduction, and a 20% water use reduction.  With that progress, last year the Schneider Electric factory, a 60 year old brownfield facility which makes safety switches and circuit breakers, was selected by WEF as one of only three facilities in the world to be named a “sustainability lighthouse.”

“It’s a testament to the work we’ve been doing in Lexington, and a reflection of the broader Schneider mission,” says Luke Durcan, Schneider Electric’s director of the company’s EcoStruxure platform. “We have been on the decarbonization sustainability path for many years.”

Schneider Electric uses some of its own technology to understand the actual base level in the plant, including its PowerLogic power meters, the EcoStruxure Power Monitoring Expert energy visualization and analysis tools that pull in metering and machine data at the control layer, and Aveva Insight, a cloud platform that uses artificial intelligence to create actionable information to improve asset reliability and operational performance. Aveva is able to integrate enterprise systems, MES, time series and non-sequential energy data, into a single cloud platform to do analysis.

At the Schneider Electric Lexington smart factory, engineers and plant managers use the Aveva software to view and optimize energy consumption across the factory floor.At the Schneider Electric Lexington smart factory, engineers and plant managers use the Aveva software to view and optimize energy consumption across the factory floor.Photo courtesy of Schneider ElectricDurcan agrees with Smith that the ability to track resource and energy usage not just at the plant level, but at the product level, is really important. The Lexington plant, for example, is a high volume, low mix facility, and when you are producing products the same way every day, managing the resources is straightforward. But that’s rarely the case. “A lot of things change, particularly in a batch manufacturing environment. The processes change, the methods used to produce things are changing, so the ability to track resources and energy, not at the plant level but at the product level, is important,” notes Durcan . “You need to associate the resources with the actual product flowing through the facility. We have to think not just about what a plant does on a week to week or year to year basis, but what products are doing and how to optimize them.”

That means broadening the scope of not just what is happening in the plant, but also the extended supply chain. It can be difficult to collect all of that data, but it is an important paradigm shift when it comes to measuring energy usage.

 


Sidebar:

Every OEM can go Green

Sustainability is a top priority for Mettler Toledo’s CEO, Patrick Kaltenbach. The company organized its GreenMT initiative to span that priority across the board, incentivizing employees to adopt a sustainable vision.

“He educated us. We put a lot of emphasis on the green aspect. So, in our R&D for new products, we contribute to that as well. Whoever contributes the most, gets an award of some sort,” explains Alan Zeng, OEM business development manager at Mettler Toledo Product Inspection.


   Read about Mettler Toledo Product Inspection: Innovation Through R&D, Acquisition, Consolidation, and Service


Zeng gives the example of reducing energy use in X-ray generators. As an inspection device, results are very quantifiable. The company took the 100 watts of power originally needed to penetrate the product and reduced it to 20 watts for feasible applications using available technology. The 20 watt X-ray generators produce less heat, Zeng says, noting that newer technology in X-ray detectors allows you to take, for example, five roles of the detector instead of one to combine images, which then saves energy. “It’s not that we dream it up, it’s just that the technology is available and we utilize it,” he says.

Whether it be inventing new sustainable solutions or researching and applying what’s already available through modern technology, every company can strive to lower its carbon footprint.

-Additional reporting by Melissa Griffen, contributing editor



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