No matter the industry, sustainability is a priority for nearly every industrial company with the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 as a corporate goal for many enterprises. More than one-third (702) of the world’s largest publicly traded companies have net zero targets, up from one-fifth in December 2020. National targets covered just 16% of global gross domestic product (GDP) as recently as 2019. Fast forward three years, and net zero coverage has expanded almost six-fold to encompass 91% of the global economy. A robust net zero design requires the absolute reduction of GHG emissions by at least 90%, allowing for high-quality carbon neutralization in other parts of the ecosystem for any residual emissions, which cannot be otherwise abated. Recently, I had the privilege of presenting a best-practice session on the path to net zero at the Energy 4.0 Conference Stage at Hannover Messe. Here are a few of the salient points:
Industrial processes are responsible for a quarter of global emissions, so to achieve net zero we must learn to do more with much less. In industries where pneumatic systems are widely used, compressed air accounts for 30% of electricity consumption. At the same time, at least 30% of compressed air used in industry goes to waste due to failure at joints, suboptimization of machines, exposure to vibration and rapid movement devices reaching fatigue and general poor oversight. The consequence of this waste is higher emissions, low energy efficiency, unplanned downtime and increased maintenance costs.
Continuous compressed air monitoring and online analysis, however, helps facilities quickly detect and address leaks in their early stages or even prevent them altogether. By replacing manual, periodic maintenance with continuous monitoring using intelligent sensors, plants can gain real-time visibility into equipment health and processes using floor-to-cloud digital technologies, make informed decisions and take control of energy efficiency. The results are regularly a reduction in compressed air usage of 20-30%. A typical calculation might discover a decrease in unplanned downtime of 20% and an improvement in overall equipment effectiveness of 5-10%.
But compressed air usage is not the only area where significant savings of energy consumption can be achieved. In fact, the same approach can allow any plant to remove the guesswork from how and where they use the full spectrum of resources. Employing monitoring and advanced analytics technology, a factory or plant can gain visibility and control of the consumption and costs of water, steam, chemicals, gases and electricity.
The type of results typically seen with continuous monitoring and online visualization achieve ROI on the technology investment very quickly – assuming the automation solution is efficient and affordable. That’s where the below Emerson “Floor to Cloud” technology roadmap comes in.
Based upon a plant’s application and starting at the machine level, intelligent sensors and smart devices can be selected to measure and monitor flow, level, pressure, temperature, distance, humidity, position, speed and more. This vital data is then collected and analyzed close to the machine by edge computers and controllers that produce actionable insights to make immediate educated decisions for taking recommended actions for improvements on the plant floor, including OEE (overall equipment effectiveness). The analytics software continuously aggregates data, visualizes trends like energy efficiency, and detects anomalies on an easy-to-read dashboard. Whenever necessary, edge devices can also forward data to the cloud, where the insights can be combined with other insights to enhance sustainability, efficiency, production and OEE.
One of the key advantages of the “Floor to Cloud” approach is that it allows a project to start small – even on a single machine or production line – see results, achieve some level of ROI and move on to solve other clearly identified problems or scale up. This is in contrast to the many big data strategies that require large investments of time and money before any results are realized. With the floor-to-cloud approach, the project can start as small or large as desired and then scale as fast or slowly as required by the application, demand and enterprise goals. Each step eliminates stranded data and islands of automation in the plant, bringing the data and insights from every machine, production line and system into the enterprise-level decisions.
No matter a company’s size or maturity stage of digital transformation, they can maximize energy use and resource utilization, and reduce environmental impact through data-informed decisions that empower quick actions. By incorporating continuous monitoring solutions, many factories and plants have already significantly reduced resources and energy use and improved their sustainability.