Monitor And Analyze Energy Use To Reach Your Plant's Sustainability Goals

Monitor and analyze energy use to reach your plant's sustainability goals

Feb. 28, 2023
Calculating the carbon footprint per unit of production is made easier by data collection and analysis technology.

Starting in December 2022, Coperion, a plastics equipment manufacturer, partnered with ei3 to release SUSTAIN, a resource and energy monitoring application. The SUSTAIN app minimizes environmental impact for end users by monitoring and analyzing production to report on energy, water, and waste data from all enterprise assets, buildings, and machines.

ei3’s journey with sustainability started decades ago with Hilton Hotels, an industrial controls and building management systems customer. In the early 2000s, ei3 additionally built an energy consumption tracking system for Hilton to better manage the hotel properties.

In 2009, Hilton committed to being a sustainable organization, says Spencer Cramer, founder and CEO of ei3. “We apply data science principles in the effort to change the behavior of engineers and property managers. That’s at nearly 7,000 hotel properties around the world,” he adds. “Doing this is something that required us to develop a deep understand of what goes into measuring the sustainability of energy.” 

It’s more complicated than reading a meter because power is not a constant. “You will have different carbon intensities of different powers in different localities around the world,” Cramer says. ei3 technology uses data sources for the carbon intensity of the electricity grids, and also includes data for other common power sources, such as natural gas, propane, petroleum products, and others. 

Part of the process for assessing energy use for any facility is also understanding the facility baseline under normal operating conditions, which is influenced by two main factors: where the property was located, which is indicative of climate, and for hotels specifically, how many people were staying at the building. “All of that has been part of a 20-year journey that we’ve been taking with Hilton Hotel,” Cramer says.

ei3 also works extensively in manufacturing with about two dozen global OEM partners in many industries, including printing, converting, extrusion, plastics, injection molding, CNC machining, and die casting. “ei3 has more factories and machines connected than we do hotel properties,” Cramer says. 

The company offers OEM-centric solutions put to market under the brands of its OEM partners, technologies guiding cybersecurity, cloud, database, app development, and software-as-a-service business models. “We thought the best way to do this would be to create a package that we could give to machine builders, and they could put their brand and logo on it,” says Cramer. “They would build great machines, and we would build a great IoT platform that would complement their machines.” 

With the current emphasis on sustainability in manufacturing, ei3 has adapted its platform of applications, with what it learned in the commercial real estate space, and with the help of Coperion, is bringing sustainability to its industrial customer base. Coperion, part of Hillenbrand, is focused on compounding and extruding, feeding and weighing, and bulk material handling systems and services.

Cramer says that in talking with customers, manufacturers that own and operate machines, they are challenged to deliver a quality product on time to their customers. Now, manufacturers also have a new person in the C-suite, the chief sustainability officer, who shows up on the factory floor and wants to know: what’s the carbon footprint of a particular widget being delivering, or per machined part being shipped. 

The engineers love this challenge, and they dive into trying to figure out energy usage for all the machines. “They realize that it's quite an undertaking to understand what is the sustainability impact of even the most simply produced items because there are multiple steps involved,” Cramer says. Enter, technology solutions to help sort the steps and count the footprints. 

The SUSTAIN app connects to the energy meters on a factory floor. “By measuring the volts and amps that go into these pieces of equipment, we can calculate the energy consumption of the equipment,” Cramer says. By incorporating other data points such as the normalization factors of carbon intensity and rate of production, factories can start to understand their true energy usage.

As it was developing the new industrial sustainability app, ei3 reached out to its customers, and Coperion saw an opportunity with its twin screw extruder. “The energy that’s consumed in extrusion can sometimes give clues as to the quality of the material that’s being produced,” Cramer says. Coperion already had a good understanding of energy balances and how extrusion energy relates to the polymerization process of its blends, and Coperion customers are highly concerned about energy usage for different extruded materials. “It was very fertile ground for getting started with the SUSTAIN app,” Cramer says.

“Another thing that we've done very well in the commercial real estate industry is our machine learning-based methods of baselining equipment and buildings,” Cramer says. The ei3 data science team, based in Zurich, Switzerland, do the guided machine learning applications necessary to create the AI-based modeling. “If you don’t have an accurate model, then it’s very difficult to tease out of the data the effects of an improvement,” Cramer says. Accurate modeling is imperative to fuel the data analysis that can answer the energy questions.

For Cramer, the end goal is clear, “whether it’s a paper cup you hold in your hand, a can of beverage that you drink, a metal part that goes into your car, I want to know what is the carbon footprint of each and every one of those parts,” Cramer says. 

About the Author

Anna Townshend | managing editor

Anna Townshend has been a journalist and editor for almost 20 years. She joined Control Design and Plant Services as managing editor in June 2020. Previously, for more than 10 years, she was the editor of Marina Dock Age and International Dredging Review. In addition to writing and editing thousands of articles in her career, she has been an active speaker on industry panels and presentations, as well as host for the Tool Belt and Control Intelligence podcasts. Email her at [email protected].