Monitoring, measuring and managing energy use are key to better production efficiency and sustainability
According to the latest figures from the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), global vehicle production increased by 3.6% in 2013 to 88m units. While demand is increasing thanks to the rapid development of the BRIC economies, automotive OEMs are simultaneously coming under growing pressure to reduce their energy consumption. Worldwide pressure to cut carbon emissions and increase sustainability has led the automotive industry to evolve its production processes.
In its report, ‘The Future of Energy’, Siemens concluded that automotive manufacturing in the UK is making tangible progress in managing its energy consumption, with 62% of companies seeing a beneficial impact on the bottom line as a result of their efforts. Most automotive manufacturers (74%) now view energy as a business-critical issue and more than two-thirds (67%) plan to increase their investment in energy management in the next 12 months. The primary driver behind such activities is the need to achieve a competitive advantage; the majority of manufacturers measure the success of an energy management project against this criterion.
Truly effective energy management depends on manufacturers being able to control this precious resource right across their production facilities. Today, Machine-to-Machine (M2M), Cyber Physical Systems (CPS), Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 are all converging to deliver energy-efficiency gains that will continue to improve as these control systems become integrated into every aspect of automotive production.
Energy savings at BMW & GM
What is becoming clear is that overhauling the entire automotive production process can yield significant energy savings. This has been amply demonstrated by BMW at its Mini plant in Swindon, UK. The original 12-stage electro-coating facility has been replaced with a more intelligent system that delivers varying levels of finish to different body shapes. In addition, the insulation in the bodyshop has been improved to reduce heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) costs. Controlling the airflow through the facility has resulted in a saving of 730 tonnes of C02 through reduced gas usage.
Control also means detailed insights into how production facilities are organised and how they are operating. General Motors (GM) has built up an energy-management team that monitors 2.5m pieces of energy-related data per minute via a dashboard system that identifies energy savings and reduction opportunities across its manufacturing plants. Using this system, the company has saved an estimated $3m and was named the US Environmental Protection Agency’s 2012 Energy Star Partner of the Year in the motor vehicle category. GM’s goal is to reduce energy intensity at all of its US facilities by 20% by 2020.
Sensing improved efficiency
One of the key drivers behind the development of energy-efficiency control systems is Industry 4.0. Closely linked to M2M, IoT and CPS, Industry 4.0 will have a disruptive impact on automotive manufacturing as it ushers in a new age of self-organised factories and machine-led assembly with control that will vary production on the fly.
The future lies in more sophisticated sensing capabilities. At the core of Industry 4.0 are Big Data concepts that will gather masses of information from a myriad of sensors throughout the production process to deliver unparalleled insights that will reveal how energy can be more economically consumed. Variable Speed Drives (VSDs) coupled with Wake-On-LANs enable the greater energy flexibility that will become standard across all smart factories.
For M2M, CPS, IoT and Industry 4.0 to work seamlessly together in delivering significant and sustainable energy reductions, all of these control systems will need a common platform. The ‘Future Project Industry 4.0’ brings together ZVEI and two other German industrial associations, VDMA and BITKOM, to develop technologies and standards that can deliver the level of process control need to achieve high levels of energy efficiency. Acatech, Germany’s National Academy of Science and Engineering, has concluded: “Industry 4.0 enables continuous resource productivity and efficiency gains to be delivered across the entire value network.”
Bosch Rexroth, the drive and control technology specialist, has adopted an initiative that it calls ‘Open Core Engineering’ at its manufacturing facility in Homburg, Germany, that transfers information around the process, M2M or up to central information collection systems.
Bernd Enser, vice-president, Global Automotive, Sanmina comments: “Industry 4.0, energy reduction and facility control systems make real business sense in the short term. Not only do they result in tangible cost-saving benefits, they also drive strategic benefits for the environment and for human interaction with technology. As a result, automotive OEMs are seeking proof from their suppliers of the implementation of best practice in this area as it develops.”
Clearly for the automotive manufacturing industry as a whole to become more energy efficient, a detailed understanding of current energy use is vital. Collecting data provides a baseline for the measurement of future improvements, and this is precisely what Nissan accomplished last year when it upgraded its sub-metering system.
The system had been in place since 2006, but when the company was preparing for Superior Energy Performance (SEP) and ISO 50001 certification, it implemented an upgrade to better measure, calibrate and verify energy consumption values. The sub-metering system was retrofitted so that significant energy use in the plant was connected to robust calibration and verification matrices. In addition, Nissan invested $21,000 in 2011 to monitor newly installed equipment and processes that use significant amounts of energy.
“Industry 4.0, energy reduction and facility control systems make real business sense in the short term" – Bernd Enser, Sanmina
Nissan worked with the US Energy Department’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) to implement an energy management system (EnMS) that resulted in a 7% improvement in the energy performance of the facility. The International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC) noted the importantance of developing a strong measurement plan to ensure implementation and verify results: “Prior to SEP, Nissan primarily used its sub-metering data to allocate costs among departments. The SEP requirement to identify savings related to specific actions or projects helped the plant make constructive use of this data. Nissan also learned that extensive sub-metering makes it much easier to verify and quantify the results of energy-conservation measures.”
The dynamic use of energy and how it is controlled offers a range of benefits. As a result, manufacturers are increasingly looking at energy loads and how they can be managed to deliver efficiency gains. Clearly some high-energy consumption processes and systems do not need to run at full capacity all of the time. M2M techniques and advanced sensing are enabling these processes to be curtailed when appropriate.
Cutting back on the energy consumed relies on detailed process insights that are at the heart of what Industry 4.0 and smart factory concepts are now delivering with tangible benefits. For example, Bosch Rexroth’s Sytronix is a hybrid system that includes a high performance electric servo drive with a hydraulic pump that offers energy savings of up to 65% in most hydraulic applications.
Meanwhile at Dürr Systems, Ullrich Möllmann, product manager EcoEMOS, comments on his company’s manufacturing execution system (MES), EcoEMOS: “One of the modules of EcoEMOS is dealing with energy management. This means that EcoEMOS is collecting energy data of, for example, a paintshop and displays these data in a proper format in the Central Control Room. Also, it generates analysis charts to enable management decisions. The module is also able to reduce energy consumption in conjunction with shift calendar timing.”
As automotive manufacturers strive to increase production, more intelligent use of energy is driving much of the technological innovation that the industry is seeing. The ‘smart factory’ which was once simply a dream is fast becoming a reality as a number of communications and sensing technologies converge.