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Do you measure up for sustainability improvements?

05 September 2022

Paul Wann explains some of the ways that food and beverage producers can achieve the goal of more sustainable operation. 

It is possible for food and beverage producers to achieve more sustainable operations by reducing energy consumption and material waste. Energy savings can be made by increasing production efficiency, optimising processes and reducing the downtime caused by equipment issues. Automation has a major role to play here, with advanced measurement and control technology ensuring processes and equipment operate at optimal levels. This not only helps maximise throughput, but also prevents issues in terms of final product quality that might require rework increasing energy consumption or create waste. 

The adage `you can’t improve what you don’t measure’ is very pertinent to energy efficiency and consumption and is leading many manufacturers to deploy energy management systems to help increase efficiency and achieve energy reduction goals. 

An energy management system provides the foundation to identify corrective measures needed to achieve continuous energy efficiency improvements. Emerson’s Pro.Energy energy management system – which is a module of Emerson’s Movicon.NExT industrial software platform – provides visualisation of energy consumption collected by measurement systems and meters throughout an organisation, including both local and remote sites. Companies can use this actionable information to analyse current consumption, reduce energy use and implement efficiency improvement programmes. 

A good demonstration of this can be found with Italian wine company Cantine Riunite & CIV, which applied the Pro.Energy module to monitor and reduce energy consumption at two of its production plants. The solution monitors energy meters connected to the production lines, technical rooms, office lights and air conditioning. Energy produced by photovoltaic systems, installed across the plants is also incorporated. Real-time measurement of energy consumption, recording and aggregating data for subsequent detailed analysis, and the identification of hidden energy costs and implementing necessary action to reduce them, has ultimately led to optimised energy efficiency and reduced costs.

Compressed air costs
In a typical food and beverage plant the production of compressed air is responsible for 20% to 30% of overall energy costs, but nearly one-third of consumption can be waste caused by leaks. Early detection and identification of leaks can therefore significantly reduce the amount of energy consumed. To support this, Emerson has developed a machine learning-driven model that predicts the behaviour of pneumatics systems. Data is provided by pneumatic sensors which are able to continuously monitor the pressure and flow of these systems in real time. When airflow deviates from its ideal workflow, it signals a potential leak. Correlating that deviation with the binary signals of a valve manifold to indicate exactly where the anomaly occurs. 

The industry is also benefitting from the availability of dedicated radar level measurement devices. The latest generation of non-contacting radar transmitters are able to offer Fast Sweep technology and 80GHz to ensure accurate and reliable tracking of the inside of a tank, despite the presence of turbulence or other process conditions, while eliminating dead zones. That, together with IO-Link and other modern data communications helps ensure operators are alerted when media reaches level limits, thereby preventing overfilling and product loss. By helping to deliver more efficient production processes and reduced downtime this also contributes to energy savings and reduction of material waste.

Reducing water usage is another focus area for many. Greater measurement certainty can help support this goal, with standardised measurement solutions providing accurate and reliable monitoring across various units (boiler, cooler and water treatment etc) and different sites, and allowing companies to calculate specific energy and water consumptions. Using this data, efficiency reports can be created as part of a comprehensive management information system, which would enable consumption and production patterns across facilities to be reviewed and form the basis for better management decisions.

Paul Wann is sustainability and decarbonisation business director at Emerson.

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