Cutting compressed air consumption: Ben & Jerry's production line

Digitalised ice age

Ben & Jerry’s now combines production data thanks to IoT solutions from Festo

A new ice age is dawning in the Dutch ice cream factory of the international brand Ben & Jerry’s – thanks to digitalisation. Smart products and solutions from Festo are supporting this emergence into the new world. With the energy efficiency module MSE6-E2M, Festo dashboards and the CPX-IOT gateway, the ice cream manufacturer can always keep an eye on its compressed air consumption costs and reduce them sustainably.

As in many factories, system operators at Ben & Jerry’s never used to worry about different operating pressures.“ Like everywhere else, we thought we were simply using the system pressure that is always available. You could at least always be sure that you would get the necessary effect,” explained Martijn Schavemaker, supply engineer at Ben & Jerry’s. “For example, we operated eight grippers in a row to unstack the ice cream tubs. These were controlled at 6.4 bar, as in the full system pressure. But this result could probably also be easily achieved at a pressure of 5.4 bar or less. The fact is, we just didn’t know that at the time,” he added.

Easy-to-measure compressed air consumption

“That’s just the way it was until Koen Leeflang, consultant for energy solutions at Festo Netherlands, told us about the energy efficiency module MSE6-E2M and integrating the product into a digitalised environment,” Schavemaker continued. Compressed air is used everywhere in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, from the beaters in the agitators to the packaging machines. Schavemaker agrees with his colleague, the technical specialist André Senkelsdam: “With the energy efficiency module from Festo, we can measure and display the required compressed air consumption.”

Saving compressed air: Ben & Jerry's production station

Production station: unstacking the tubs and filling them with ice cream

Koen Leeflang’s colleagues have designed a digital, mobile testing station for Ben & Jerry’s, consisting of a flow rate and pressure sensor and the necessary intelligence by connecting the energy efficiency module MSE6-E2M to a gateway CPX-IOT. Communication is via Ethernet and optionally via Profibus or Profinet. The CPX terminal collects and prepares the data so that the correct interpretation is sent to the cloud via the IoT gateway. All components are installed in a control cabinet made entirely of stainless steel, which can be used in even the most demanding environments. “In the dashboard, you can see exactly what savings you can make at any set pressure,” Leeflang adds.

Dashboards display data

The dashboard is viewed in the web browser and includes graphs and traffic lights. Specific widgets, such as user interface components and graphs for energy monitoring, preventive maintenance as well as key performance indicators for the process and for improving overall equipment effectiveness, provide clarity. The condition monitoring solution improves error diagnostics and fault identification, creates transparency about energy consumption, provides clear information in graphical format and makes historical data available. The CPX-IOT gateway makes it possible to have preconfigured dashboards for each Festo component – with additional customisation.

With the CPX-IOT gateway, Festo is paving the way for a secure cloud solution which will enable end customers to significantly improve their overall equipment effectiveness. The IoT gateway connects the energy efficiency module from the field level to the Festo Cloud via its OPC UA interface.

Saving compressed air: energy efficiency module and dashboard from Festo

Clean solution: the energy efficiency module MSE6-E2M and terminal CPX are installed in a stainless steel control cabinet. The gateway CPX-IOT collects the data in the cloud and displays it in the web-based dashboard.

Huge savings potential

André Senkeldam presumes that optimum pressure probably looks very different. Because the various generators all have different characteristics, each generator displays a different optimal curve. “First, we measure the actual condition and use it as a starting value. We then place a pressure regulator in between, reduce the pressure and measure again. That way, the graphs show us when we have reached the optimum pressure. We are making progress, one step at a time. Besides the optimum pressure, we can also see the pressure drop in the dashboard after the valve has been switched off. This enables us to determine straightaway if there is a leak.” Koen Leeflang shows the dashboard: “You can see the pressure and flow rate as well as the consumption and savings both in the form of numbers and graphs.” The emergence into the digitalised ice age doesn’t freeze the data, but flexibly combines it.

Ben & Jerry’s not only focuses on the efficient use of compressed air, but also on the quality of the compressed air. “The compressed air is mixed in the ice cream,” explains André Senkeldam. “Festo takes care of this aspect too. We also carry out microbiological measurements. By doing that, we’ve contributed to the Safe Food Factory platform. We also take into consideration all aspects of hygienic compressed air, from generation to final consumption.”

Saving compressed air: the team from Ben & Jerry's and Festo

Successful collaboration: supply engineer Martijn Schavemaker and technical specialist André Senkeldam, both at Ben & Jerry’s, with energy efficiency expert Koen Leeflang from Festo (left to right)