Little energy – lots of ice cream

Article of 30 August 2019 

Little energy – lots of ice cream

On hot summer days, ice cream refreshes us and provides us with renewed energy. A lot of energy is also required to create ice cream from ingredients such as milk, sugar or chocolate. The ice-cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s uses digital solutions to sustainably monitor and reduce consumption.

Summertime is ice-cream time. Germans consumed an average of 8.7 litres per capita in the summer of 2018. In order to produce the cool refreshment, Ben & Jerry’s uses compressed air in many systems at its plant in Hellendoorn in the Netherlands. The grippers, which de-stack the ice-cream cups, the agitators, which whisk the ingredients, and the packaging machines all operate pneumatically. Compressed air generation costs energy – the consumption of which, the ice-cream manufacturer wants to keep as low as possible.

To date, Ben & Jerry’s has used full operating pressure in all systems to ensure that the desired result is achieved. The line for de-stacking the cups, for example, was rated at 6.4 bar full system pressure. One bar less may have been sufficient – but the plant operators had no way of checking it. This is different now.

Compressed air is used to de-stack the cups and fill them with the ice cream.
Compressed air is used to de-stack the cups and fill them with the ice cream.

Energy consumption – always a focal point

The MSE6-E2M energy efficiency module from Festo has been in use at Hellendoorn since early 2019. It stringently evaluates energy consumption and determines, for example, whether the system requires more compressed air today than before, how much it needs for a batch and whether the pressure is set correctly.

A CPX-IOT gateway, an interface between hardware and software, collects information on the status of the devices. It prepares the data and sends the correct interpretations to a cloud. Through a dashboard – a web-based summary that uses graphs and traffic light status indicators – Ben & Jerry’s continuously receives reference data and information about the status of the systems and can continuously monitor energy consumption. Next, system operators can increase the efficiency through appropriate configurations. Another advantage is that the data is available worldwide, giving employees control over production lines any time, anywhere.

The MSE6-E2M energy efficiency module and the CPX-IOT gateway are installed in a wheeled, stainless steel control cabinet that can be moved to the various systems.
The MSE6-E2M energy efficiency module and the CPX-IOT gateway are installed in a wheeled, stainless steel control cabinet that can be moved to the various systems.

Step by step to optimal printing

The use of the MSE6-E2M energy efficiency module at Hellendoorn has shown Ben & Jerry’s that each generator has a different optimal curve. Due to the different technical properties, the best possible pressure is likely to vary considerably. Presently, technical specialists are measuring the current situation and using it as a baseline value. It is then planned to use a pressure regulator that reduces the pressure and then to repeat the measurement. This way, the ice-cream manufacturer can see via the graphics when it has the optimum pressure at different points in the system.

In addition, the dashboard shows the pressure drop after the valve is turned off. The technicians can immediately determine whether there is a leak and also have a comprehensive overview of pressure, flow, consumption and savings. Ben & Jerry’s is therefore well prepared for the future – to produce a lot of ice cream with little energy.