Green Manufacturing: Software Tracks Sustainability
Don’t consider being sustainable altruistic. Today, consumers expect businesses to show respect for the environment by decreasing waste and greenhouse gases and saving electricity and water. But more important to processors, sustainable management of resources means a better bottom line and more profitability.
Conserving resources is good for everyone. Saving water, for example, is becoming especially critical. According to the World Health Organization, less than 1 percent of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007 percent of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use.
But being able to track the sustainability of an operation requires careful planning and the right tools. Assuming a manufacturer has the right hardware in place to track processes, adding software tools to monitor the sustainability of a plant is a lesser issue than adapting a plant that has few or no sensors or instrumentation in place. Of the software tools dedicated specifically to monitoring utilities and energy consumption, processors will find lots of choices. Some software tools can also calculate energy saved in units of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Getting on bandwagon
“We still find that many firms are collecting sustainability data manually-and largely for the purpose of reporting to external stakeholders,” says Sean Robinson, GE Intelligent Platforms food and beverage industry manager. While this does create awareness of overall usage, it doesn’t provide the base of data needed to drive understanding of what controllable factors a producer can address to reduce its consumption.
“Many manufacturing companies are still in the early stages of developing or implementing their sustainability strategies,” says Jay Zoellner, EPS president and CEO. “This is new territory for most of them, and many are struggling to achieve the level of results they set in their targets.” Zoellner says three barriers, identified in an April, 2010 Pew Center for Global Climate Change Report, make it tough to get started; these are organizational, informational and resource obstacles. The right software-coupled with a supplier that can provide consultation and supporting hardware-can make the task of overcoming these barriers much easier.
So why should processors invest in an advanced energy management system? There are two big reasons, says Bob Zak, Powerit Solutions North America general manager and president. First, it enables them to meaningfully reduce energy costs and carbon emissions without reducing production capacity. Second, according to Zak, an advanced energy management system produces benefits on multiple operational levels:
• Increased visibility into operations via improved monitoring serves as an early warning system, e.g., an increase in energy use may predict an asset failure.
• An energy management system monitors the entire facility and controls not only core production equipment, but also ancillary or support loads that were not previously automated.
• An energy management system can unite islands of automation to leverage coincidental operation and minimize energy use.
• An energy management system helps processors meet customer demands for and corporate commitment to sustainability measures.
However, selecting the right supplier isn’t a small task. In 2004, Del Monte Foods received funding from State Technologies Advancement Collaborative (STAC) to install an enterprise energy management (EEM) system at one of its plants. Del Monte asked Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) to evaluate EEM vendors. LBNL developed a specification framework and selection criteria and procedures to find the right supplier. The lab started with a list of 27 EEM vendors, and then pared it down to four by reviewing vendors’ websites, doing phone interviews and sending out questionnaires asking vendors to detail their abilities in connectivity, metering, integration, data security, data visualization and analysis, and reporting capability. Requests for proposal (RFPs) were sent to the four. One vendor couldn’t provide the requested features within budget, and the web demonstrations of two other vendors were somewhat unfocused on EEM features as a pre-developed tool, but the winning vendor’s demonstration covered most of what Del Monte requested, showed flexibility for future software expansion and was well developed.1
Do your homeworkOnce the discussion takes the direction of tackling sustainability issues and purchasing software solutions, processors need a starting point that will ultimately drive the identification of potential software solutions, says Wernimont. “That starting point has to be an energy audit that will help determine what actually is going on and establish a baseline from which the application of monitoring and control (software and hardware) can be applied.”
With the knowledge gained from an energy audit, processors can take actions to achieve measurable sustainability. These actions will drive the implementation of PLCs, PCs, software and instrumentation to achieve sustainable objectives. Wernimont outlines what the results of an energy audit should include:
• Map existing energy distribution and use
• Identify areas of use (efficient & inefficient)
• Allow the isolation of specifics
• Drive areas of evaluations (monitoring, control, regeneration, alternative energy, etc.)
• Provide details to apply hardware, software and instrumentation to control and monitor
• Provide a baseline of comparison
• Create a blueprint for other facilities.
Processors need to review the five basic utilities that consume energy. These are often called WAGES (water, compressed air, natural gas, electricity and steam). However, trying to tackle sustainability issues in all WAGES categories at once may not be practical or fit in with the budget, as Del Monte discovered in its project.
“We offer engineering and consulting services that can help manufacturers design an information-enabled automation architecture that draws WAGES resource consumption data from across the facility and takes action on that information to reduce consumption,” says Phil Kaufman, Rockwell Automation industrial energy management business manager. Energy consultants help manufacturers make sense of resource consumption data and identify more opportunities for improvement throughout the facility. Once the early work is done, Rockwell applies a four-stage methodology-known as Industrial GreenPrint. The methodology employs many of the supplier’s software solutions to help manufacturers gain better control over how they use WAGES resources, helping reduce the burden of utilities costs on profitability and lessen the risks associated with external factors affecting resource price and supply.
Look for pressing issuesThe starting point for a processor is to determine its baseline energy and resource usage-to make sure it has the ability to monitor and understand the usage coming from its primary pieces of equipment, says Zoellner. Second, the processor needs to determine what success means in its eyes, be it a reduction in energy intensity (e.g., BTU of energy used/gallons of product produced) or a fixed percentage of annual cost. Third, the manufacturer needs to determine if it is willing to allocate resources to achieve the goal, he adds. Once there is clarity around these points, the next step is to start analyzing the information coming from plant equipment to see what processes, equipment or production shifts account for the bulk of energy and/or water use.
Food and beverage companies are focusing within the plant and on water usage and treatment, energy savings, waste reduction, and process and workflow optimization, says Tom Muth, Parsec director of marketing. For example, processors are trying to determine if a plant is paying too much for electricity at peak demand rates, understand the distribution of energy usage and determine how much energy is being used and wasted while the plant is not in active production. Processors are also taking a look at the energy impacts on workflow and SKUs, and they’re trying to determine what assets need to be retired when more efficient solutions can be found.
While a lot of low-hanging fruit is obvious-leaking air lines and water pipes, sections of unattended warehouse lighting left on, overuse of rinse water, utilities running at full capacity during weekend shutdowns, etc.-there are others some processors fail to address, according to Steven Hawkins, Stellar director of automation services. Both ammonia and air compressors and other systems with “high availability” such as 24-hour systems like steam, HVAC and air balancing systems need to be considered according to actual needs.
“There’s still a lot of unpicked fruit within production operations because without the right tools, processors can’t see it,” says Robinson. “Our customers have consistently realized water and energy reductions of 10 to 20 percent when they begin to invest in measurement and improvement programs.” The hard dollar savings associated with energy and water usage reductions can offset the costs for both metering and software in less than a year. “That’s fruit worth harvesting,” he adds.
Although Amy’s Kitchen was signed up with PG&E for a demand response program that could save the processor money in utility bills, it never put monitoring equipment in place. According to Bert Pires, Amy’s Kitchen director of engineering, “We were never able to do anything because we didn’t have a way to measure information, and we couldn’t make the necessary changes manually.” Working with Powerit, Pires installed a system to track the heavy demand caused by the compressors of two spiral freezers and other heavy loads. After installation of the Powerit software and hardware, Pires noted the system “added quite a bit to our savings. In fact, when factoring in incentives, demand response is probably the largest component.” Amy’s utility was able to secure a rebate of 88 percent of the cost of the system, which has decreased demand by about 44 percent while saving approximately 10 percent of billed monthly power.
As shown above, software tools cannot only find high-energy users, they can also manage and schedule them to cut operating costs, says Hawkins. Ammonia compressors once were not very compatible with variable frequency drives (VFDs), but that has changed, and because VFDs are now small in size and affordable (compared to 10 years ago), most motorized equipment can be controlled and scheduled, adds Hawkins. Software in conjunction with a few sensors can make sure that three air compressors are not running when only one is needed, and it can also soft-start the idle compressors sequentially so peak demand penalties are not incurred from utilities.
For processors that aren’t automated, the good news is that SCADA software for monitoring doesn’t have to cost $100,000 to $150,000. According to Hawkins, a good monitoring system that can provide both historical and current data is available from suppliers like Rockwell, GE, Schneider and Siemens, and a basic system can look at 50-100 points, which is ample to get a good start on monitoring energy usage.
SCADA software providers are releasing bundled solutions for energy management applications that can operate standalone or as part of a larger SCADA/control system, says Iconics Vice President of Marketing Gary Kohrt. Iconics’ Energy AnalytiX software collects, aggregates and normalizes metered data, and shows meaningful data on the consumption of electricity, gas, steam, fuel oil, etc. The software derives carbon emissions data and can present all the above data by hour, day, month and year.
One of the key areas where sustainability is affected is the amount of time it takes to make important sustainability decisions due to delays in accessing the right data needed to make those decisions, says Kevin Rutherford, Software Toolbox Inc. brand manager. In most cases, when there is a problem, increased time to change a process or even stop production only multiplies the additional cost involved.
While processors can easily account for water usage in the process, sometimes water-like compressed air-can be lost in leaks. With water, if the leak is in an underground pipe, it may not be so obvious. One solution from Siemens uses hardware (temporarily installed acoustic sensors) and Siemens Siwa Leak Control system software. The system continuously checks for leaks, and can pinpoint their location. The software uses statistical methods and a model-based, network-wide mass balance of water.
Besides energy waste in compressed air systems, Dufort suggests CIP, baking and drying are all candidates for reducing the overall energy intensity of operations. Likewise, reducing water usage per unit of output leads to reduced energy usage because the unused water doesn’t have to be pumped, cleaned, heated, cooled or treated on its way to the public treatment center. Dufort reports that a Northeast sugar confectionery processor is currently rolling out energy management software to measure the energy intensity for its products. Using the software, the processor can promote its social responsibility to consumers, and understand how successful its sustainability strategies are.
Several benefits can be achieved by improving combustion control in boilers and other applications requiring firing, says Bruce Jensen, Yokogawa Corp. of America manager systems marketing and technical support. Improved sensor technology using tunable laser diodes in conjunction with control software improves safety, reduces emissions and increases uptime. In addition, the increased accuracy of these devices allows tighter control, using less energy in fired heater applications.
Jensen suggests another, perhaps esoteric-but strategic-way of indirectly reducing energy requirements. In the pharma industry, discussion centers around the real-time release of products, which can apply to food as well. If processors could get faster results from lab tests, product wouldn’t have to be quarantined as long, so less warehouse space would be needed to accommodate the sitting products. With refrigerated/frozen products, energy use to chill the product would also be reduced-not to mention transportation costs. Any reduction in time to make decisions about the status of a product provides real-time control benefits. In addition, predictability in process and predicting/accounting for variability in real time creates closer-to-spec products, which significantly reduces recycling or rework, adds Jensen.
For processors wanting to express GHGs related to CO2 and NOX stack emissions, energy monitoring software should be able to calculate GHGs on actual consumption, not just invoiced energy purchases, says Dufort. And when it comes to compressed air and steam, Dufort says the system should be able to record the cost to produce (fuel, water, electricity) and the cost to consume throughout the plant.
Packaging can play both direct and indirect roles in a processor’s sustainability program-direct in the sense that using less packaging saves money, and indirect in that packaging involves the use of recyclables or non-petroleum-based materials. Tracking the use of packaging, however, can be complex and potentially hard to justify cost-wise, says Dailey Tipton, FirstCarbon Solutions global leader, sales and marketing. “Tackling initiatives such as reducing package material, manufacturing more reusable and refillable packaging and producing more lightweight, biodegradable plastics can bring worthwhile ROI and also solve regulatory issues,” adds Tipton.
FirstCarbon (provider of ghgTrack software) is working with Associated Packaging Technologies, which supplies CPET ovenable containers to the food industry, to create a GHG emissions inventory, produce auditable GHG footprint reports, align reporting to the international standards of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and help APT reduce emissions across its global supply chain.
Energy and/or environmental monitoring software can be used in many ways to improve efficiency and save energy. While every processor has different priorities for achieving a more sustainable operation, each should start with the basics (low-hanging fruit) and, before going for the more esoteric areas, look for a consultant who has experience with other processors. A system integrator may be a good place to start. A local utility is also an option since, in many cases, its consultants will be knowledgeable and affordable, and will often have the connections and know-how to find state or federal grants.
For more information:
Sean Robinson, GE Intelligent Platforms, 434-978-5000, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Zak, Powerit, 206-467-3030, email@example.com
Tom Muth, Parsec Automation Corp., 714-996-5302, firstname.lastname@example.org
Darryl Wernimont, POWER Engineers, 208-288-6100, email@example.com
Jay Zoellner, EPS, 714-957-1087, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Rutherford, Software Toolbox Inc., 704-849-2773, email@example.com
Phil Kaufman, Rockwell Automation, 414-382-4337, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Hawkins, Stellar, 904-260-2900, email@example.com
Yves Dufort, Invensys Operations Management, 514-421-4210, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gary Kohrt, Iconics, 508-543-1500, email@example.com
Bruce Jensen, Yokogawa, 770-254-0400, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dailey Tipton, FirstCarbon, 888-826-5814
1Naoya Motegi, David S. Watson and Aimee T. McKane, LBNL, “Enterprise Energy Management System Installation Case Study at a Food Processing Plant,” 2006 (http://industrial-energy.lbl.gov/ node/362). Pub. # LBNL_STAC.