Jason Peng, connectivity expert for Transtherm Cooling Industries Ltd, explores how IoT compatibility of cooling solutions is helping to improve the energy efficiency of factory equipment.
No longer a buzzword or a vision of the future, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a key driver in the UK’s move towards smart manufacturing. Armed with more data than ever before manufacturers are making great strides to improve productivity, reduce operating costs and enhance worker safety. And this is just the beginning.
Accenture predicts that Industrial Internet of Things will boost the UK economy by $531bn by 2030. Globally, McKinsey estimates that IoT will have a potential economic impact of up to $6.2 trillion by 2025 whilst Accenture goes even further to say it could add $14.2 trillion to the world economy over the next 15 years.
If we are to make the most of this emerging revolution, however, it needs an honest and joined up approach from the entire industry. Factory equipment can no longer operate in isolation and those supplying the manufacturing industry with innovative plant solutions can no longer be precious about the role played by their own equipment. The Internet of Things will only drive optimum efficiencies if it is applied across the entire facility.
Benefits of connected cooling systems
Take cooling equipment, for example. Back in 2015, Transtherm led the way by integrating PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) interfaces into our industrial cooling systems. These enable smart communication between complex machinery including the cooling solution and building management system, in order to give greater control of the environment and maximise system efficiencies.
The benefits of IoT connectivity are plentiful – and will not come as a surprise to any forward thinking manufacturer. With the addition of PLCs, operators can check energy consumption, adjust water temperature and understand the impact that changes will have not just on the cooling system, but on other related equipment too. It means improved efficiency, whilst facilitating the option to check performance and even prevent downtime by spotting problems earlier and undertaking preventative maintenance. And all this at the touch of a button from a central control point.
A joined-up approach
Crucially, this enables a holistic, ‘whole facility’ approach to sustainability, really pushing the door wide open for lower energy bills and reduced carbon emissions.
One of the biggest barriers to improving energy efficiency remains the fact that too many companies don’t understand other systems well enough. That doesn’t just mean technological interaction between appliances – it’s a human interaction too.
OEMs and specifiers of related products must work closely right from the initial design stage to establish the optimum conditions for the system as a whole, rather than individual products – particularly where sold as packaged solutions.
To demonstrate this, let’s use the example of an industrial process cooling system. If we adjust the water temperature delivered by an air blast cooler from 40°C to 35°C it would inevitably mean the equipment has to work harder, may need additional fans and of course use more energy.
However, cooling systems are designed to reduce the temperature of other equipment and by analysing the effect this change has on entire system, it could mean greater energy savings overall.
To demonstrate this using system EERs (Energy Efficiency Ratios), let’s imagine an air blast cooler with EER of 30 when cooling to 35°C, combined with a chiller with condenser water at 35°C with EER 8 (scenario A). Together, these would give an illustrative system EER of X, for the purposes of this exercise – it’s very difficult to calculate actual figures of course in a representative scenario.
In scenario B, if an air blast cooler when cooling to 40°C at EER 40 was combined with a chiller with condenser water at 40°C (EER 6), it would give a system EER of 0.9X.
You can see that in this situation (for illustrative purposes only), a less efficient EER on the air blast cooler in scenario A can give a higher system EER overall. The Internet of Things enables us to think outside of silos and consider the chain reaction.
Energy efficiency – and the subsequent reduction in energy bills – is not the only benefit of connected cooling systems, however. Having instant, remote access to data reports covering every aspect of the equipment means it is far easier to maintain compliance with regulatory schemes like ESOS, the Energy Savings Obligation Scheme, which requires large organisations (more than 250 employees and turnover in excess of €50m) to audit their energy usage. Enhanced connectivity can also improve safety and reduce downtime, by automating processes which might previously have needed human intervention.
Whether specifying equipment directly or as part of a packaged solution from an OEM, manufacturers are now firmly switched on to the benefits of IoT compatibility. In fact, as we hurtle towards Industry 4.0, it is widely recognised that any investment without such compatibility would soon become obsolete. Don’t settle for anything less.