Saving energy with big data
By using a cloud-based application for efficient energy management automotive supplier Gestamp reduced its energy consumption by 15 percent.
By using a cloud-based application for efficient energy management codeveloped with Siemens, Spanish automotive supplier Gestamp didn’t just reduce its energy consumption by 15 percent in a very short time – it has also moved closer to a future of sustainable “connected” plants with Industry 4.0 solutions.
To remain competitive on the global markets, companies not only have to be progressive and innovative, they also need to reduce operating and production costs. In many industrial sectors, this primarily means conserving energy.
That’s why the Spanish automotive supplier Gestamp Automoción S.L. even established a separate department to oversee energy efficiency four years ago. In recent years demand for energy had been increasing at Gestamp – like at all stamping companies – due to the introduction of modern hot-pressing technologies.
Consumption of electricity and gas in real time
The goal was to find approaches and options for reducing the company’s increased energy costs. Santiago Esarte says that big data is the key approach for Gestamp. “Knowing how much energy we’re consuming, where, and in what form is the key to reducing our energy costs,” says the head of Gestamp’s energy efficiency department in Madrid.
But very few software solutions impressed the Spanish company, which has more than 100 production plants and manufactures auto body parts, chassis, and precut car parts from metal and steel for all major car manufacturers. “We were looking for a system that we could use to access the data from each of our plants at any time and from anywhere,” Esarte explains.
Some companies offered software solutions that would have recorded the energy consumption of the production plants every 15 minutes. But that wasn’t enough for Gestamp. In order to optimize energy consumption in its plants, Gestamp was looking for a data analysis system that could depict the consumption of electricity and gas in real time – which is when it finally came across the tailored cloud-based application codeveloped with Siemens for efficient energy management.
Knowing how much energy we’re consuming, where, and in what form is the key to reducing our energy costs.Santiago Esarte, Head of Energy Efficiency, Gestamp
Networked production plants
Manuel Romero Velazquez, head of the Siemens MindSphere Application Center in Spain, explains that the application collects data from presses, air compressors, and production plants maintained by Gestamp around the world every one to two seconds rather than every 15 minutes. The data collection devices in the various Gestamp plants collect roughly 800 million data points – every day! This data is stored in the cloud in the Siemens Smart Grids Control Center located in Seville in southern Spain.
“It was the solution we were looking for,” Esarte affirms. In 2014, the first production facilities were networked with the application in Barcelona and in the Gestamp plant in Abadiño, near Bilbao in the Basque region in northern Spain. Just one year later, implementation was launched in the other factories in Spain, followed by Europe, and finally on other continents.
Today there are a total of 15 plants connected to the platform. Two plants currently under construction will be added to the network this year, as will six more facilities being planned in China. “We intend to implement the application as standard in all our important new production facilities,” says the Gestamp manager of energy efficiency.
Massive savings in energy consumption
There’s a good reason for this decision. Thanks to the MindSphere cloud-based software platform, the Spanish automotive supplier was able to identify improvement areas and implement energy efficiency measures that led to a total savings of 50 gigawatt-hours of energy in 2016 alone. With the newly networked production plants, the savings last year grew by another 55 gigawatt-hours.
Just how many millions of euros in savings this enormous reduction in energy costs entails is difficult to estimate and varies according to country and energy prices, says Santiago Esarte. But one thing is for sure: The investment in the application will pay for itself completely after just three years.
Thanks to the reduced energy consumption, the company has been able to reduce its CO₂ emissions by 15 percent and easily achieve its environmental protection goals. In 2016, Gestamp emitted 14,000 tons fewer CO₂ emissions than the previous year. In 2017, that figure increased to 16,000.
No licenses, no software, no CAPEX, no extra people in my factory, just a web address and a password to show how we perform.René González, Director of Advanced Manufacturing and Equipment Standardization, Gestamp
Cloud solution for energy management
In even more energy-intensive sectors of industry, the reduced energy costs can be expected to result in even greater savings. That’s why Siemens decided to use the energy efficiency system that had been modified and adapted for Gestamp as the foundation for developing an energy management application that runs on MindSphere, the open, cloud-based IoT operating system. This application can be adapted to the industry-specific needs of different customers with very little effort, which makes it interesting for companies in other industries.
Iñaki Grau, the technical head of the energy efficiency department, feels that the benefits of this Industriy 4.0 solution are obvious: “The application enables us to analyze energy consumption in real time. Thanks to a corresponding data analysis procedure, we’re able to locate malfunctions, anomalies, and weaknesses in the plants and production processes and optimally adjust their energy consumption. We can now see with precision the areas in the production chain where we can work more efficiently.”
Rapid identification of malfunctions
The Gestamp expert lists two examples: Thanks to real-time data analysis, last year his department determined that a compressor was operating at only 80 percent of full power at a factory in Spain. The malfunction, which was corrected immediately, probably wouldn’t have been discovered until months later during routine maintenance. The estimated energy savings: €80,000 per year.
Thanks to the software solution, another plant in Spain determined that two hydraulic presses were consuming as much as 100 kilowatts more energy in standby mode than some other presses. The manufacturer was notified and two defective pumps were replaced. Cost savings per year: €40,000.
Reliably predicting energy consumption
The application gives the company reliable forecasts of future energy consumption. Another incentive: “The investment costs are not high for the application,” says Esarte. Gestamp only has to pay for the operating costs in the form of monthly service fees. René González, Gestamp’s Director of Advanced Manufacturing and Equipment Standardization, describes the benefits of the new platform this way : “No licenses, no software, no CAPEX, no extra people in my factory, just a web address and a password to show how we perform.”
Thanks to the ability to make global comparisons of energy consumption, the company can now even compare the technical features of the various plants. This is an important factor when deciding to acquire new plants, Grau confirms.
Into the future with Industry 4.0
Gestamp’s cloud-based, big-data approach to energy is part of a larger initiative to create more efficient manufacturing plants – or smart factories – using Industry 4.0 technologies. These technologies include, machine learning, cloud computing, the Internet of Thigs (IoT) and big data analytics that can help industries increase their know-how, reduce costs and downtimes, optimize production processes and provide predictive maintenance. Gestamp, for example, can use deviating or conspicuous energy consumption data to pinpoint normally invisible issues on the factory floor, such as machine wear or setting errors.
Gestamp currently has projects in progress to use real-time monitoring of big data to improve hot stamping and arc welding or to optimize logistics. And each project is a step forward to having “connected” plants, digitalized processes and real-time access from anywhere to any of their plants throughout the world.
Putting a stamp on responsibility
Improved processes and cost reduction are only one aspect of the company’s strategy. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), “industry is responsible for around 38 percent of global final energy consumption and 24 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions. With the expected continuous increase in industrial production in the coming decades, particularly in emerging economies, the value of digitalization in improving the efficiency of energy and material use will only increase.”
So it’s also a matter of responsibility, of industrial companies minimizing their environmental impact and helping the fight against global warming. And Gestamp is definitely aware of this responsibility. The Spanish automotive supplier decided voluntarily to meet the goals and requirements of the European Commission and the United Nations (UN) for sustainable development. These include reducing greenhouse gasses, water consumption and waste production by using the best available working methods and technologies.
March 21, 2018 (last updated: May 19, 2021)
Manuel Meyer is a Primafila correspondent in Spain and Portugal
Picture credits: Siemens AG
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