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

Digitalized ice age

Ben & Jerry’s is merging production data together – 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 digitalization. Smart products and solutions from Festo support this emergence into a new world: with the industrial 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.

As in many factories, Ben & Jerry's system operators did not worry about different operating pressures. "Like everywhere, we thought that with compressed air, you simply use the system pressure that is always available. Then, whatever happened, you could be sure that you would get the effect you needed," said Martijn Schavemaker, supply engineer for Ben & Jerry's. "For example, when destacking the ice cream cups, we worked with eight pneumatic grippers in a row. These were controlled at 6.4 bar, which is the full system pressure. But the same result could probably be achieved even with a pressure of 5.4 bar or less. The fact is, we just didn't know that at the time," he adds.

Measuring compressed air easily

"That was until Koen Leeflang, an energy solutions consultant at Festo Netherlands, told us about the industrial energy efficiency module MSE6-E2M and how the product is integrated into the digitalization 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 Senkeldam: "With the energy efficiency module from Festo, we can measure and display the necessary compressed air consumption."

Saving compressed air: Ben & Jerry's production station

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

For Ben & Jerry's, colleagues of Koen Leeflang have put together a digital, mobile test station consisting of a flow and pressure sensor and the necessary intelligence: The industrial energy efficiency module MSE6-E2M is connected to the CPX-IOT gateway. Communication takes place via Ethernet, or 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 gateway. All components are housed in a control cabinet made completely from stainless steel, that can be used even in the most challenging environments. Leeflang adds: "In the dashboard you can see exactly how much you can save with the set pressure."

Dashboards display data

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

With the CPX-IOT gateway, Festo is paving the way for a secure Cloud solution which will enable machine and system builders as well as end customers to significantly improve their overall equipment effectiveness. The IoT gateway connects the industrial energy efficiency module from the plant floor level to the Festo Cloud via its OPC-UA interface.

Saving compressed air: energy efficiency module and dashboard from Festo

Major savings potential

André Senkeldam suspects that the optimum pressure probably looks very different. Due to the unequal technical characteristics of the different generators, each generator has a different optimum curve. "We will first measure the current situation and use this as the starting value. Then we'll put a pressure regulator in between, reduce the pressure and measure it again. In this way, we can see in the diagrams when we have reached the optimum pressure. We proceed step by step. Besides the optimum pressure, the dashboard also shows us the pressure drop after switching the pneumatic valve off. In this way, we can tell immediately if there's a leak." Koen Leeflang shows the dashboard: "You can see the pressure and the flow as well as the consumption and the savings both in figures and in graphics." The dawn of the digitalized ice age does not freeze data, but merges 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 into the ice cream," explains André Senkeldam. "Festo also deals with this aspect. We carry out microbiological measurements. And we've contributed to the Safe Food Factory platform for this purpose. We take into account all aspects of hygienic compressed air – from generation to end use."

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

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