Fleets of facilities

June 23, 2022
Energy Systems Network helps Indiana’s manufacturers monitor, compare and optimize energy use

Just as it links users to more detailed data from more sources, IIoT can also network and bring in information from far more widely distributed assets, facilities and organizations.

For instance, Energy Systems Network (ESN) is a non-profit in Indianapolis that develops public-private partnerships, and recently formed one with Indiana, Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) IIoT group and the Emerging Manufacturing Collaboration Center (EMC2), which is another Indianapolis non-profit and newly built laboratory for AWS IoT Innovation Studio software. ESN and EMC2 are the project managers for the partnership, which is working with system integrator Feyen Zylstra Corp. in Grand Rapids, Mich., and with other regional engineers and universities. The partnership is initially seeking to enroll 100 Indiana manufacturers by the end of this year in its statewide, IIoT-based, energy-monitoring program, which can reportedly reduce power consumption by 8-15%.

Starting with a starter kit 

Participants get a free starter kit from ESN that consists of a virtual, private-cloud account from AWS, a one-year license for Ignition web-based SCADA software from Inductive Automation, and a groov EPIC controller from Opto 22. These items allow them to hook up three zones, sites or nodes at their facility, and do detailed monitoring of their energy consumption. A typical energy-monitoring, package would reportedly cost about $30,000.

IIoT works overtime

The Industrial Internet of Things is surpassing itself with added data sources, more detailed information and greater insights—if users are open-minded and flexible enough to try it. Read more of this series here. 

“We recommend that users start by monitoring the facility power meter coming in from the KYZ line for their entire building, and network a common piece of equipment and their biggest energy consumer, such as a furnace, boiler or compressor,” says Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN. “The software, controller and cloud connection will let them pull data from the existing PLC for each device, relay it via MQTT, and translate it. This will allow Ignition to display it on a dashboard, and provide baseline analytics for saving energy.”

ML, AI for modeling, optimization

Beyond cutting energy use by 8-15%, Mitchell reports the ESN starter kit also gives participants access to machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities in its software, so they can look deeper into performance and production issues, and identify efficiencies and savings that wouldn’t be possible to find otherwise. ESH and its partners are also developing and refining modeling algorithms, which will be available at an app-like store. These algorithms will perform ML and AI tasks, and automate related systems like HVAC equipment or CNC machines.

“The starter kits aren’t intended to monitor a whole plant. We just want small- and medium-sized manufacturers to get a chance to validate the IIoT pathway for themselves, and see how easy it is to deploy,” explains Mitchell. “And, after trying it for a year, participants will get to keep their energy-monitoring equipment and extend their software license and cloud account if they want to. We want to push down the price of these packages as more are implemented, but in any case, they should be able to pay for themselves several times over in energy savings.”

Scaling up steadily

So far, about 20 companies have signed up for ESN’s program and are getting their kits installed. These early adopters follow two pilot projects last fall, wire manufacturer Fort Wayne Metals and Anatrol, a technical training firm in Jeffersonville, Ind. Both successfully implemented the ESN kits, simplified their networks, and got their energy-monitoring data flowing. Mitchell adds that similar monitoring, cloud-computing, analytics and AI pilot projects can cost $200,000-$300,000.

To supplement onsite monitoring, ESN participants can also visit EMC2’s lab, interact with their fellow members and the ESN community, and get the added education and skills they may need, such as Industry 4.0 methods, big data analytics, and ML and AI strategies.   

“AWS does many big projects, but now it’s looking to provide baseline energy-monitoring, cloud-computing, modeling and analytics services to small- to medium-sized companies and other underserved markets,” adds Mitchell. “If they can start with saving energy, they may also be convinced to use IIoT for predictive maintenance and other optimization tasks. We want to sign up 100 companies for the starter kits by the end of 2022, and eventually scale up to more than 8,000. This would give every Indiana company that wants to a chance to participate and achieve greater energy and production efficiency. Likewise, AWS wants to deploy energy-monitoring and IIoT worldwide, but it started by focusing on Indiana to learn the best ways to get participants involved and networked, and also enable them to create models and value by connecting with each other.”

Sparkplug sparks performance

Travis Cox, co-director of sales engineering at Inductive Automation, confirms that ESN’s energy-monitoring program for Indiana manufacturers uses Ignition software running in Opto 22’s controller, but the software also depends on putting detailed performance data into Sparkplug B, so the energy coming into a user’s meter and equipment can be monitored for overall usage by the entire facility and for how much is consumed by individual devices.

“This data publishes to AWS SiteWise, where an AWS data scientist will soon be able to apply ML principles, figure out patterns, and solve energy challenges for companies participating in the ENS program in Indiana,” adds Cox. “This is really the epitome of IIoT—taking data, getting insights and improving performance, whether it’s saving energy or shaping and optimizing processes.”

About the author: Jim Montague
About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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