OAS has been planning, realizing and modernizing production plants for many years. Currently, there are more and more inquiries how to optimize them in terms of energy. Philipp Katthöfer, Sales Plant Engineering and Process Automation at OAS, gives answers.
Mr. Katthöfer, what challenges are production managers currently facing?
In view of the tense situation in the areas of "energy" and "resource availability", we are currently receiving more and more inquiries about the energy optimization of existing production plants and the flexibilization of production processes. By expanding storage capacities, for example, bottlenecks in availability can be better cushioned. In addition, many producers are working with more and more additives in their products, which have to be fed into the production process automatically. As a result of the fact that many production plants have grown organically over time, the number of further storage and dosing options in existing production is often limited. Therefore, space-saving solutions that can be easily docked onto existing production lines are a good alternative to a costly conversion in the existing production hall.
What opportunities are there for saving energy in plant engineering?
As a general rule, the more energy-intensive the processes, the greater the potential for savings. The spectrum of possibilities is as diverse as the processes in the respective industries. It includes the review of existing plant concepts as well as the replacement of outdated and inefficient components. Here, it is often worthwhile to review energy-intensive plant components. By using modern mixing technology, it is often possible to achieve shorter mixing times with consistently good mixing results and thus lower energy consumption per batch. Optimization opportunities are also frequently available at the control level. In addition to the best possible utilization of the plant, the issue of "energy transparency" is a key point here. Where do I consume how much energy in the production process? Only if I know this can I optimize in a targeted manner.
Which measures can be implemented relatively easily?
Some optimizations of existing systems can often be implemented with comparatively little effort. How tight is my compressed air system? Can leaks possibly be identified and eliminated, or can concepts be developed to generate less compressed air in general? The efficiency of drying systems can often already be noticeably improved by an energy-optimizing retrofit. On the control side, intelligent concepts can also help to save energy and to shut down system parts that are not required in a targeted manner and only switch them on when necessary. In the past, many savings potentials remained unused here because the need simply did not exist to the current extent due to lower energy costs. Against the background of increased energy costs, this assessment is now changing in many companies and a closer look at the situation is becoming more worthwhile.
And which ones require greater investment?
Modernizations in the plant, such as the renewal of mixer technology or the replacement of air compressors, are certainly initially more costly in terms of investment. For an exact evaluation, it is necessary to assess the respective components in terms of their energy efficiency and possible alternatives, both technically and commercially, on a case-by-case basis. In addition, there is often potential for savings in the area of intralogistics. Here we are talking, for example, about planning and optimizing internal plant traffic. This also applies to the delivery of raw materials and the preparation of finished products for shipping. In many cases, there is still unimagined savings potential in these areas. The use of so-called yard automation software and the application of plant logistics concepts can also additionally reduce the overall energy balance of a production by avoiding unnecessary transports. In the interest of our customers, we take care to design our solutions modularly in order to adapt them to current and future needs. This keeps the investment manageable and ensures that it can be expanded in the future. The current high procurement costs for energy and raw materials can also significantly shorten the payback period for a larger investment.
This interview was published in the magazine "Schüttgut", issue 05/2022.