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Boosting energy efficiency

27 September 2021

Marek Lukaszczyk offers some advice on how food and drink manufacturers can become more energy efficient. 

According to energy expertise and solution provider, Centrica Business Solutions, energy can account for up to 15% of food and drink manufacturers’ costs. As well as affecting a business’s bottom line, poor energy efficiency has negative environmental consequences. 

From conveyor belts and filling machines to refrigerators and mixers, food and beverage plants are brimming with a diverse range of energy intensive equipment and processes. Refrigeration alone can account for up to 60% of a facility’s operating expenses. With energy prices rising, it is possible to make significant cost savings by making facilities more energy efficient. 

In addition, boosting plant energy efficiency will help food and beverage businesses become more sustainable. Indeed, the BDO Food & Drink Report 2021 identified that 37% of UK food and drink manufacturers are prioritising efficient solutions in their sustainability plans.

As well as being a moral responsibility, sustainability has quickly become a requirement for manufacturers wanting to be successful and remain competitive. This was reflected in an IBM report that concluded that purpose-driven consumers, who care highly about sustainability, make up a large percentage of food and beverage shoppers.

There are a number of ways that manufacturers can increase the energy efficiency of a processing plant, such as by strategically placing equipment, having a routine maintenance plan or switching to LED lighting. However, with motors running in all of a facility’s processing machines and air conditioning units, they should be prioritised in energy efficiency plans. After all, the yearly energy cost of running a motor can be up to six times greater than its original purchase price.

Motor management
It is important to check whether a plant’s motors are of a low efficiency or incorrectly sized for their application, which causes inefficient operation. They should also evaluate the age of the motor, as an older motor may have been rewound many times during its lifetime, which can cause a drop in efficiency levels between 1% and 2% if not repaired according to guidelines. Food and beverage manufacturers can thus yield significant energy savings by upgrading to a new IE3 or IE4 rated motor that is highly efficient and correctly sized for the application.

Plant engineers can ensure motors consistently run at optimal performance by fitting motor sensors, like the WEG Motor Scan, which tracks metrics such as vibration and temperature in real time. The sensors can alert facility workers of a problem before a failure occurs thus giving the opportunity for planned maintenance of the problem motor or gearbox. In the case of a mixing machine, for example, this can prevent unexpected shutdown of the mixer, avoiding wasted product.

WEG Motor Scan uses sensors to extract motor data and sends it to a smartphone or tablet. 

Advantages of VSDs
To make a motor run even more efficiently, food and beverage manufacturers can opt for variable speed drives (VSD). Adjusting the speed according to the application requirement rather than running at a constant speed regardless of requirement will save energy and machinery wear. VSDs can also be part of the machinery safety system and help meet safety legislation. 

As part of an industrial fan inside a refrigerator system, a VSD would decrease the airflow when needed rather than switching it off completely, thus keeping a more constant temperature and saving energy.

Food and beverage manufacturers who make their facilities more energy efficient will reap the benefits of reduced costs and increased sustainability. From powering mixers to driving conveyers, motors are the powerhouses of a food and drink processing plant, and thus hold great potential for energy savings. 

Marek Lukaszczyk is European and Middle East marketing manager at WEG.

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