This article first appeared in the
Winter 2017 issue of The Record.
All automotive manufacturers are working to create greener vehicles – and one leading German company has extended that initiative to production. The company’s main headquarters is the world’s largest production facility. It wanted to enable a 25% reduction in environmental impacts (energy, water, waste, CO2 and solvent emissions) associated with the production of each vehicle and component by 2018, compared with 2010. To achieve that, it was essential to increase the efficiency of energy and data management, but the calculations required for energy costs were too complex for existing standard software to cope with.
The producer worked with WEBfactory to develop its own high-performance energy management system. Known as WEBfactory i4Energy, it is now available as a modular component of the WEBfactory i4 industry 4.0 software platform, which uses Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Azure.
i4Energy was designed for intuitive use by different roles from top management to maintenance engineers. It is completely web-based and terminal-independent with attractive user interfaces. Each user sees pre-compiled information that is relevant to their role, with comprehensive drill-down options to individual cost centres. The system can visualise consumption per vehicle or per press part at any time, and ad-hoc information and KPIs for various types of consumption are only a few clicks away.
i4Energy can be used to set percentage energy targets and provides a horizontal breakdown according to production levels for location, department or cost centre. Colour coding indicates whether the target has been reached, and employees can collect and implement suggestions for improvement. Users see not only the consumption of media such as gas, water or electricity, but also the possible efficiency measures.
The company’s main plant includes 2,700 meters providing several million measuring points per month, and the system provides standard interfaces to which measurement technology from any manufacturer can be connected. i4Energy is based on Microsoft’s database standard technology and is highly scalable, allowing 24/7 datacentre operation and visualisation. Data warehousing technology enables it to work almost in real time, and because it is web-based it is accessible to users anywhere, at any time.
Users responded well to i4Energy and the energy management team sees it as the central tool for better environmental control. The system was designed to be flexible, so it could become a group-wide solution for the manufacturer and be made available to other large industrial companies.
By the end of 2014 resource consumption had already been reduced by 23%, making it possible that the 25% reduction target would be achieved before 2018.
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