Saving energy with digitalization and cloud technology

With help from Siemens, insulation is being made even more efficiently at Knauf Insulation’s UK sites in St Helens and Cwmbran
With help from Siemens, insulation is being made even more efficiently at Knauf Insulation’s UK sites in St Helens and Cwmbran

Insulation: It keeps buildings cool in summer and warm in winter. The result is more comfortable and efficient buildings. Two Knauf Insulation sites in the UK are producing energy-saving insulation more efficiently thanks to digital solutions from Siemens.

“It’s not just about the products we make, but the way we make them,” says Neil Hargreaves, Managing Director of Knauf Insulation. First and foremost for the manager is minimizing the impact of production processes on the environment. However, making bigger improvements requires an upfront investment. The problem that Knauf Insulation and many other companies face today is a lack of budgets to make big-ticket improvements. But Siemens can enable enhancements through outcome-based contracting (Find out more in this blog post from Siemens Ingenuity).

Payment according to achievements 

In short, it works like this: Siemens and the customer agree upon guaranteed outcomes, such as saving a certain amount of energy every year. Payment by the client is calculated according to achievement of savings. “If the measures we implement save less than promised, then we get paid less. But if we enable higher savings, then we are paid more too,” explains Jeremy Chang, Program Manager for Outcome Based Solutions.

Data as the basis

Knauf Insulation first started working with Siemens in the framework of an outcome-based contract in 2015. The goal: lower energy use at its Glass Mineral Wool plant in St Helens, in North West England. Data builds the foundation for outcome-based contracts: It is collected from a site and then analyzed using expert knowledge, tools and algorithms. The results are used to develop and deliver projects that allow the customer to achieve operational cost savings and the desired reduced environmental impact. Siemens approached the project at St Helens in five steps.

The level of savings achieved would not have been possible without the partnership model with Siemens.
Darren Holt, Plant Manager Knauf Insulation

A five-step road to savings

To start, in the framework of a Strategic Engagement Knauf Insulation’s management team described its production processes at the site and desired outcomes and timeline to the Siemens Strategic Sales team. This initial phase ended with both parties agreeing to instigate a pilot project to improve efficiency at the St Helens plant.

Next in line was Value Discovery. In collaboration with Knauf Insulation, the Siemens consultants audited and analyzed site processes and data. The results enabled the Siemens experts to identify potential project opportunities and to create the preliminary business case for a package of measures.

The third step was Due Diligence / Contract Development, according to which Siemens and its network of trusted solution partners constructed a delivery model to enable an outcome-based solution. Funding for the new assets was organized through Siemens Financial Services.

With everything in place, it was time for Project Execution. Siemens procured and installed the technologies, which included variable speed drives, high efficiency motors, site-wide LED lighting, and a data acquisition & analytics solution to visualize and maximize system performance.

Following successful execution, in the Review / Verification phase performance is monitored, measured and verified in accordance with applicable international standards such as IPMVP (International Performance Measurement & Verification Protocol). The St Helens plant has well achieved its targets: Since implementation in 2015, the project has returned its full investment. Moreover, Knauf Insulation is saving over 3,000 MWh of energy and avoiding 1,500 metric tons of CO2 annually.

Scope of supply for Knauf Insulation – St Helens

7 x 75 kW motors with variable speed drives

1 x 90 kW variable speed drive

137 data points

1 x eBox for data transfer (Siemens IPC)

Inspired for more

In 2018, three years into the contract, the same approach was applied for an outcome-based contract at the Knauf Insulation Glass Mineral Wool plant in Cwmbran, South Wales. “We took the opportunity to take the learning from St Helens and applied it to the Cwmbran plant,” says Darren Holt, Plant Manager Knauf Insulation.

The solution at Cwmbran went even further and comprised equipping large turbo air compressors and cooling-water pumps with high-efficiency Siemens motors and controls; optimization of existing motor controls; a site-wide LED lighting system; and a Simatic IOT2040-based data acquisition system that is configured to transfer data into Knauf Insulation’s existing information systems as well as into MindSphere, the leading industrial IoT as a service solution.

Thanks to MindSphere integration, remote visualization at up to a one-second interval is possible. That feature specifically has enabled further enhancements to the compressed-air system to respond even quicker to changing requirements.

Outcome-based contracts offer a win-win scenario to all parties in a collaboration ecosystem.
Sheikh Ali, Key Expert Outcome Based Solutions at Siemens

The installation at Knauf Insulation’s Cwmbran plant is saving over 7,000 MWh of energy and avoiding over 3,500 metric tons of CO2 emissions yearly – which is equivalent to the CO2 emitted by 800 UK households annually. “The level of savings achieved and the level of infrastructural upgrade at the Cwmbran plant would not have been possible without the partnership model with Siemens,” notes Holt.

Scope of supply for Knauf Insulation – Cwmbran

2 x 1.2 MW motors and associated controls for Hanwha Techwin turbo compressors

2 x 22 kW motors for compressor cooling water pumps

1,200 data points

1 x IOT2040 for data transfer to Mindsphere

A model for all industries

Siemens has delivered outcome-based contracts for many customers. “They offer a win-win scenario to all parties in a collaboration ecosystem, as well as the satisfaction that the projects will achieve their desired performance,” comments Sheikh Ali, Key Expert Outcome Based Solutions at Siemens.

The model is particularly suited to manufacturing businesses with an annual energy spend of at least £1 million per site. There is no capital outlay and savings are guaranteed. Furthermore, the contract is a sure way to reduce the carbon footprint and meet sustainability goals. A structured approach – particularly when the measures involve a digitalization transformation – ensures that no stone is left unturned in an effort to deliver the best-possible results.


No stone is left unturned

As for Siemens and Knauf Insulation, the two companies have strengthened their relationship since collaboration started five years ago. With the contracts at St Helens and Cwmbran as a basis, the two partners are now working to cocreate even more inspiring solutions for the future.

It’s too early to reveal the details, but so much can be said: By making use of advanced data analytics techniques, machine learning and artificial intelligence, data from the two Knauf Insulation sites enables the cocreation of inspiring and green solutions. It goes to show that it’s possible to save energy while producing materials that save energy.

Not a circular economy per se, but close to it.

Knauf Insulation is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of insulation products and solutions. The company is present in more than 40 countries and has 27 manufacturing sites in 15 countries.