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Gathering data to help improve energy efficiency

03 June 2018

Food Processing spoke to Paul Pryor, drives manager at Schneider Electric about how variable speed drives can help the food industry improve their energy efficiency. 

Q: What do you think is driving interest in energy efficiency in the food manufacturing industry today?   
Energy expenditure is still one of the highest operating expenses in most manufacturing plants today. So ensuring optimum energy efficiency is a priority for food and drink manufacturers to reduce operational costs and sustain competitiveness and also to reduce carbon footprint. Adopting effective energy management strategies will be imperative for operators wanting to improve profitability and sustainability moving forward.  

In order to manage consumption and maximise efficiency with greater precision and accuracy, manufacturers must evaluate and analyse the way their process plants work and operate. This is one areas where connected technologies can offer payback – giving engineers the information they need to empower them to make smart business decisions and to optimise their processes and assets.

Q: What role can drives play in helping achieve energy savings for food processors and where in the food factory might we see them in action?  
Variable Speed Drives (VSDs) have been recognised as offering a way to reduce energy consumption on pumps and fans in the food manufacturing process, in particular. These devices have the potential to not only increase profitability, but to also make energy savings through their increased lifespan, improved power factor and more accurate control of a motor’s processes. VSDs can understand the machines processes and so alter the flow of power during running and stopped phases, helping to improve overall energy efficiency of a system.  

Schneider Electric’s Altivar Process variable speed drives can save a company up to 35% in energy consumption on targeted applications.  These process drives have advanced functions such as pump BEP (Best Efficiency Point) monitoring, drive module sleep/wake up, Fault QR coding and embedded web servers. The Altivar Process drive utilises logged information and advanced functions to help increase process efficiency by driving predictive maintenance scheduling and reducing downtime, with on the factory floor fast access to fault support information.  

Q: Drives seem to be getting smarter – what role do you see them playing in the smart food factory of the future - and what other benefits can the latest generation of smart drives offer in addition to reducing energy usage?   
Today organisations want deeper and more accurate readings into how exactly they can become more efficient and productive. Given this, the collection of data on how the production process is operating, how much energy it requires and the wear of its most critical components will become key. Indeed, it will become vital for businesses to do this, to allow them to keep a tight reign of their energy costs.  

The modern smart variable speed drive will not only have to control speed, but, also have to be data loggers to feed information up to management systems. By gathering data, variable speed drives can better manage the application that they control and can also make the overall system more flexible and adaptable to changes and revised demands of the modern process.

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