Sustainability Footprint Making Big Impression

Nov. 20, 2008
Customers Demand Sustainable Production Solutions

Efficiency has always been important, but for many process automation users it’s now taking on a heightened environmental, safety and even moral dimension, too.

In general, sustainability refers to production processes and technologies that use minimal energy and resources, create minimal waste and leave future production capabilities unhindered. However, Rockwell Automation reports that sustainable production goes beyond this definition to embrace workplace safety, product safety, product reliability and reuse of formerly wasted materials in a reverse supply chain.

Rockwell Automation’s Ron Malloy, HVAC product manager, explained the energy–saving potential of the company’s PowerFlex FanMaster solution. Consisting of a variable speed drive and associated controls, the solution essentially converts a constant–volume HVAC fan to variable speed operation. Pre–programmed with typical weather conditions in 75 U.S. cities, the unit even displays annual energy savings being achieved.

Rockwell Automation's Jennifer WrightWright reported that its customers began asking for sustainable solutions about a year ago and that the larger manufacturing market also indicated a growing interest in and need for sustainability.

“So, over the past six months, we went through all of our solutions and took a look at how they might help aid sustainability efforts,” said Wright. “We then sorted them into three sustainability areas—energy, environmental and safety. As a result, if a user needs power for their printing application, for example, we can quickly come up with all the solutions to help them do it, and do it in a sustainable manner.”

Similarly, in its Sustainable Production Solutions exhibit at Automation Fair 2008 this week in Nashville, Tenn., Rockwell Automation demonstrated its new PowerFlex FanMaster continuous volume monitoring solution, which contains a variable speed drive controlled by a PLC to make users’ air circulation far more efficient and sustainable.

To further enhance its sustainability efforts, Wright added that Rockwell Automation also recently acquired Pavilion Technologies, Incuity and ProsCon, an Ireland-based system integrator. For instance, Pavilion’s software includes automated environmental compliance assurance, model-predictive control and plantwide optimization to reduce raw material and energy used, to increase quality and to maintain environmental compliance. Likewise, Incuity’s software helps production personnel easily monitor sustainability metrics, such as quality and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Also, ProsCon’s modular solutions and distillation technology are used to separate and recover valuable chemical products from waste mixtures, helping companies reduce the cost of input materials and waste disposal.

Bob Ruff, senior vice president for control products and solutions, added, “Our approach to sustainable production is to optimize client operations for maximum visibility, efficiency and safety. With the convergence of factory controls and information technology, the intelligent use of plant-floor data collected from automation systems is more important than ever. The right data gathered at the right time, coupled with process improvement strategies developed from our experience in the industry, allows our clients to make optimal use of resources, improve their environmental performance and ultimately improve their bottom line.”

Specifically, Rockwell Automation also exhibited many other Sustainable Production Solutions in its energy management area, including:

  • Variable-frequency drives and intelligent motor control that deliver precise motor torque and speed control to help motors run efficiently
  • Power and energy management solutions (PEMS) that help manufacturers determine the most strategic use of energy to help reduce emissions and improve productivity
  • Combination generator control modules (CGCM) that are used for controlling and protecting turbines and generators, as well as power monitors and third-party meters that can collect energy data from water, air, gas, electric and steam (WAGES) outputs for use in Rockwell Software’s RSEnergyMetrix application
  • RSEnergyMetrix, which allows manufacturers to capture, analyze, store and share energy data across their entire enterprise, making it simple to distribute the knowledge needed to optimize energy consumption, help improve productivity and lower energy costs
  • Certified Energy Manager (CEM) staffers that have successfully completed CEM certification exams administered by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE). CEMs are able to provide a comprehensive overview of the energy audit process and explain how companies can implement audits to help reduce energy costs.