Achieving Energy Efficiency Through Industry 4.0

Aug. 16, 2019
Examining the installation of IoT technology in a pharmaceutical production environment can help illustrate how IoT can aid energy conservation efforts, provide predictive analytics for machine and manufacturing processes, and help pharma companies reach ISO 50001 targets.

Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 are buzzwords with far-reaching benefits understood by most at a high level. But what relevant and practical data and understanding can Industry 4.0 bring your company in everyday operations, such as monitoring compressed air consumption, process optimization, enabling energy efficiencies, and providing preventive diagnostics?

Let’s start by looking at compressed air, a necessary component of automation in a modern pharmaceutical facility that end users need to carefully manage. It is considered a clean, safe, and readily available source of energy for automation and is commonly used in pharmaceutical, biological, and cosmetic production. From an environmental standpoint, electricity is required to generate compressed air and therefore contributes to the environmental footprint. Responsibly using compressed air only as necessary, when necessary, is a best practice for green operations.

From a revenue standpoint, compressed air generation does have an impact on utility costs. Therefore, benchmarking use ensures control of future utility requirements over a facility’s lifetime. Further savings can be found in ensuring there are no compressed air leaks in your systems, which lead to wasted air, equipment maintenance and downtime, and drops in productivity.

The standard convention for monitoring compressed air has been with pressure sensors on the air preparation units. When the compressed air pressure drops below levels required, the unit sends an alert to the controller (programmable logic controller [PLC] or distributed control system [DCS]), letting the end user know a problem exists. From there, the system reacts and often shuts down; engineering or maintenance departments examine the equipment, diagnose the problem, and perform corrective actions.

E2M module

However, measuring air pressure only addresses part of the equation. Air flow rates and volumetric consumption have been widely ignored within the industry. A new component, the E2M module from Festo, brings air flow monitoring and measuring capabilities to process manufacturers, furthering current proficiencies and delivering new opportunities for efficiency, as well as enhanced energy and revenue savings.

The E2M seamlessly integrates with any existing or new manufacturing equipment requiring compressed air to operate. The unit serves as both a pressure sensor and flow sensor for compressed air, measuring the real-time flow rate and the volumetric consumption over a defined period. Over time, this data can be used to enhance machine efficiency and reduce compressed air consumption.

To understand how the E2M works, consider a manufacturing setting in which the E2M shows a system using 27 liters of compressed air at standard atmospheric pressure for a specific, repeatable process as a baseline. But down the road, the E2M shows the same process using 33 liters of compressed air per minute. Though the system hasn’t failed, it’s easy to deduce that the compressed air circuit has been compromised and that the system is leaking air. This is also an excellent indicator for predictive maintenance. The E2M provides the data required for predictive diagnostics regarding air flow and consumption, stopping manufacturing inefficiencies from growing into catastrophes.

The E2M is also capable of performing leak checks downstream between cycles. The unit will pressurize the pneumatic circuit and measure pressure degradation to determine if air is leaking, as well as the rate of the leak. Further, while the system is idle or shut down, the E2M acts as a master on/off valve, preventing air loss through trickling.

CPX IoT Gateway

Data from the E2M module is brought onto a standardized, cloud-based dashboard for easy monitoring and benchmarking with Festo’s IoT Gateway, which is integrated into the Festo CPX electrical terminal. This allows users to analyze trends, issue early warnings, and establish incident notifications.

The dashboards can be securely accessed in a web browser from any device with Internet access. Simple traffic light indications, as well as graphic depictions of energy use, performance figures, and historical data, are available on standard predesigned dashboards.

The gateway will automatically discover the E2M on the Ethernet network. Safeguards for security are taken, such as a manual switch to control data flow to using secure protocols. It will aggregate the data and send it to the Festo cloud using the industry standard AMQP protocol. The dashboard is available by subscription from the Festo cloud and can be shared to other dashboards.

It should be noted that the Festo E2M module can also directly interface with other third-party clouds, such as Siemens MindSphere and Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk/Shelby platform.

The result is a true Industry 4.0 solution that can bring immediate benefits to a pharmaceutical, biological, or cosmetic facility.

Installation concepts

An important attribute of the IoT Gateway for pharmaceutical installations is that it does not receive inputs from the cloud. It is pushing data only, so there is no risk to a validated process or skid. Based on this, there are two installation options: 1) standalone or 2) fully integrated.

In a standalone installation, outside the existing PLC/DCS, the IoT Gateway gathers and pushes information to the cloud. This is ideal for realizing energy efficiency and preventive diagnostic benefits with no impact to an existing validated process. Here, the E2M is installed in front of the process, skid, or plant, usually directly before the air preparation unit responsible for the pressure regulation and filtration of the compressed air. It can be powered directly and is connected to the IoT Gateway via Modbus TCP, which will automatically recognize the E2M and configure the data to be pushed to the cloud. The IoT Gateway is installed in a standalone CPX terminal operating in an autonomous mode.

In this scenario, because it is not connected to the PLC or DCS, some benefits of the E2M are not fully realized. For example, the air leakage function that measures the air loss between processes cannot be triggered and the automatic air shutoff when the equipment is idle will not be realized.

The benefits, however, are in the simplicity of the installation, which does not impact the validated processes and equipment, and provides an organization with a risk-free way to evaluate data collection on operational efficiencies. Also, there are no programming or commissioning changes required at the PLC/DCS.

In the fully integrated installation, the IoT Gateway is connected to the PLC/DCS, bringing additional functionality to the E2M. Plus, data is available at the PLC/DCS for local processing and analysis.

Ideal for new designs, this fully integrated installation can be set up with an autonomous CPX electrical terminal or with a full-featured CPX terminal that includes operational modules for things like electrical I/O, IO-Link, or pneumatic valves. In the latter case, it is connected to the PLC/DCS using standard industrial Ethernet protocols like EtherNet/IP, Profinet, and EtherCAT. Function blocks and add-on instructions (AOIs) are also available to quickly access E2M data and capabilities in the control software.

For plants with a decentralized automation concept, having these electrical terminals close to the process is very common. Therefore, the integration of the IoT Gateway in a new design is not very complicated.

The benefits of the fully integrated installation are the same as with the autonomous installation, with a few additions such as the measurement of pressure changes and automatic shutdown when the system is not in production or process. These are configurable parameters, accessible from the function blocks or AOI, that allow customization for process requirements. The human-machine interface (HMI) can also have access to all the energy and diagnostic data for local dashboards and fault handling.

Industry trends

Monitoring and measuring compressed air is a relevant and practical avenue for using IoT/I4.0 in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Many large pharma companies’ production initiatives—generating and using data for GMP (good manufacturing practices), energy consumption and conservation improvements, operational productivity and efficiency, and improving revenues and margins—directly correlate to compressed air use.

ISO 50001 is a recent standard that defines requirements, with guidance, for an energy management system. The standard is based on establishing, maintaining, and improving energy usage. This is being adopted and integrated into most major pharmaceutical companies. The ability to measure, detect, and report air consumption trends and losses is a critical part of achieving this standard and improving the energy performance of a company.

The ease of installation associated with the E2M and the IoT Gateway helps companies achieve this standard. The E2M fits directly into existing air preps and filtration units of both new and existing process manufacturing equipment. The IoT Gateway module fits directly into valve terminals, the Festo I/O module, or a combination of both. Both products work over fieldbus, HMI, local networks, Festo cloud, and third-party clouds. They also work in unison to address manufacturing inefficiencies while providing useful and meaningful data.

Easy and real-time access to compressed air consumption data paves a smooth path to improving environmental footprints, lowering energy costs, improving efficiency through predictive maintenance, and, ultimately, bolstering bottom lines. Another long-term benefit is that this is a simple I4.0 application for data collection to understand operations holistically.It will help organizations identify and quantify real value and allow further digitalization strategies and investments to be effectively defined.

For more information, visit Festo at

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