Flexible energy monitoring solution

03 October 2016

Franke Blefa GmbH has been manufacturing stainless steel beer kegs since 1968. An energy monitoring system now makes the process significantly more efficient with a little help from WirelessHART.

In the modern food & beverage industry reusable stainless steel kegs that offer sterile storage and secure transport have long been the standard. Aside from being more cost effective, stainless steel kegs also ensure that after beer leaves the brewery there will be no loss of quality before it reaches the customer.

Franke Blefa GmbH is a manufacturer of such kegs. The sheet metal and barrel producer originally adopted the idea from England in 1968 and further developed the manufacturing process. Since 1974 the company has been utilising a technique known as deep drawing to produce stainless steel half shells, which are then turned into finished kegs using a patented middle-seam welding process.

As well as electrical energy, the production system requires a lot of water and compressed air, particularly for cleaning and drying the kegs during the finishing process. In 2013 the company decided to install a centralised energy monitoring system for analysing and optimising electrical energy consumption. “Given constantly rising electricity prices, for us it made business sense to optimise usage and reduce our costs,” said Henning Pump, energy manager at Franke Blefa.

Stand-alone system
Frank Blefa selected eSight from Endress+Hauser for the energy monitoring software. “They also trusted us with managing the project and providing engineering services as part of the order,” explained Carlos Theodoro, marketing manager at Endress+Hauser Germany, who oversaw the project from the beginning. “We configured the software and took responsibility for commissioning the entire system.” Installation of the software on the customer’s server was done independently of the other systems. Because the software is web-based, trained employees have access to analyses and reports at any time and from anywhere.

Tracking energy costs is only the first step. To start saving money, a detailed representation of those costs is required. For this reason, the finance module integrated in the eSight system also contains information about the current electricity provider contracts. “Costs can then be linked to the measurement values, which makes it possible to create a detailed cost analysis of the energy used,” explained Theodoro. In case of deviations, if threshold values are violated or measurement data is missing, the system sends out an alarm notification. “Users are immediately aware of undesired changes in the measurement values.”

Detailed results
Effective energy monitoring requires an overview of the entire system. So measurement points were installed at key process control locations, for the most part to track water and waste water volumes. The company is also precisely monitoring additional electrical energy used in production, as well as thermal energy from the heating system in the production building. “Although the water supply utility monitors water consumption to some extent, our flowmeters were installed in order to obtain and compare more detailed values,” adds Theodoro. 

The software at present displays data from around 70 measurement points. Endress+Hauser connected these measurement instruments to the process control and energy monitoring systems via WirelessHART. It didn’t take long to achieve success: the company received its sought-after ISO 50001 certification in the same year the system was installed. Since the number of stainless steel kegs produced is displayed with the help of virtual counters, today Franke Blefa knows the precise relationship between the company’s revenues and energy costs.

Reduced consumption
This transparency is already bearing fruit. “By analysing different measurement values over different periods of time, including idle periods, we can significantly reduce water consumption without major investments,” said Pump. The next step for Franke Blefa will be to analyse natural gas consumption. This area will also require additional measurement points in order to obtain detailed data. When it comes to generating compressed air, the new system should also make it possible to localise leaks. By tracking compressed air usage, the company can uncover additional savings potential. WirelessHART makes this comprehensive expansion possible with minimum effort.

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