Automation specialists give their views on issue now topping the agenda for many tire makers
While the current surge in energy costs has put spotlight on production prices, experts believe carbon-neutrality remains the main driver for factory-efficiency programmes:
Dan Paul, global tire industry business leader, Rockwell Automation:
In my opinion, the focus on energy right now is not on reducing costs. The main focus is around becoming carbon neutral, and this is being driven by the tire industry’s automotive and electric vehicle customers.
As we talk with tire manufacturers about becoming carbon-neutral, we notice that the main challenges are lack of connectivity, lack of proper metering and energy strategy down to the plant floor.
The current focus is on IoT platforms that allow connected metering to visualise energy data. Eventually, you can optimise your energy usage with advanced analytics and machine learning.
A key metric tire manufacturers are focused on is energy-intensity – a measure of energy used per tire or per kg. Energy-intensity requires connectivity and metering down to the machine level and it requires you to pull in production data. This is why an IoT platform is necessary to reduce energy-consumption.
Rockwell Automation is combining IoT technologies with industry experience to create an energy management platform solution that provides meaningful, actionable real-time data that can manage a multitude of the biggest utilities used in the manufacturing process. This includes water, air, gas, electricity and steam.
Understanding this data, and utilising automated demand response, machine learning and artificial intelligence, can help to optimise energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce costs; thereby, helping a tire manufacturer to reach their sustainability goals
Other technologies which significantly optimise energy efficiency are: IoT platform and edge gateway; AC variable speed drives; and energy meters.
Also, energy consulting services: including [those involving] machine learning control or advanced analytics with production and energy data to optimise production and reduce costs
Pascal Lamonerie, director business development automotive & tire EMEA, at Emerson Automation Solutions:
In Europe, the Green Deal is a real game-changer for the entire manufacturing industry, supported by ISO 50001. Through digitalisation, the tire industry is seeing a new generation of manufacturing processes.
There is a renewed focus on net-zero emissions programmes by 2050. While there is a global focus on sustainability, Europe has made these goals a particular focus in the manufacturing industry.
There are several challenges facing tire companies regarding energy-cost reduction. Companies considering localising production must now account for shifting production locations from facilities with a large geographic footprint to more compact factories that, for example, reduce steam grid-size and streamline compressed air systems.
The major challenge, however, is making the necessary changes to achieve neutral-carbon emissions by 2050. Many companies are shifting toward fully electric systems for curing to help achieve this goal.
By incorporating IoT digitalisation technologies into manufacturing processes, a company can significantly reduce scrap and downtime of a facility’s equipment, ultimately leading to improved OEE.
Establishing effective predictive maintenance technologies that measure fluid consumption and deviations in real-time can help reduce losses due to leakage and prevent extra energy consumption.
Digitalisation, combined with the trend to move manufacturing processes to fully electric solutions, can provide significant benefits.
In an all-electric facility, a company will only pay for the energy that the equipment consumes. With the help of predictive maintenance, the company will be able to monitor its equipment and energy consumption without any indirect losses.
Today, tire manufacturers are facing massive energy-cost increases, for instance, in the rubber-curing process. Gas prices for steam production involved will continue to climb over the next 12-24 months.
Manufacturers are, therefore, starting to optimise steam usage with steam-trap monitoring. They are also paying closer attention to compressed air leakages with solutions that support real-time predictive maintenance through monitoring.
Overall, a company cannot improve what it does not measure. From data generation and gathering to edge-computing and analysis, key technologies are those that help customers turn data into actionable insights.