In their ‘2021 manufacturing industry outlook,’ Deloitte shares this insight, “For manufacturers, the events of 2020 may be a warning to develop better systems for navigating disruptions … Visibility is likely to become the most critical capability for manufacturers in the coming months. … and digital technologies could be important enablers.” This sets the stage for digitalization.
Gaining better visibility can apply to important external influences, such as market forecasting. But, at Schneider Electric, we believe that improving visibility inside your plant’s electrical infrastructure is just as critical. In this post, I’ll be sharing how the digitalization of electrical systems has helped an industrial leader, Guardian Glass, to significantly reduce costs, improve sustainability, and help ensure the continuity of the power that is critical to their process.
A global glass innovator adopts digitalization
Guardian Glass is one of the world’s largest glass manufacturers, serving 160 countries and five continents. The company is also a leader in innovation, reflected by its tagline “See What’s Possible.” That innovative spirit is helping advance glass technology as well as establish the company as a leader in sustainable operations.
Their commitment to sustainable operations includes using resources more efficiently and reducing emissions. For example, more than half of Guardian Glass manufacturing plants around the world have been audited and certified for ISO 14001, which is helping them measure waste reduction and resource efficiency. The company also has facilities that are certified to the ISO 50001 international energy management standard.
The immediate digitalization challenge: keep production running efficiently
As the U.S. industrial sector bounces back after the slowdown caused by the pandemic, Business Insider reported that manufacturing is growing at its fastest pace in three years. Specifically for the flat glass market, one analyst estimates a CAGR of over 8% from 2021 to 2026, citing that “increasing housing construction activities in the United States are expected to drive the market during the forecast period.”
This is, of course, good news for Guardian Glass. However, to take full advantage of this opportunity requires staying well-positioned against competitors in the glass market. This includes minimizing risks to productivity and controlling operating costs, while still meeting sustainability commitments.
At the 750,000 square foot Guardian Glass plant in Dewitt, Iowa, 24/7 operational uptime is always top of mind. “We need reliable equipment to continue operating at the optimum level,” said Mike Flesch, Senior Controls Engineer. Before we look deeper at the steps Guardian Glass took to ensure this reliability, let’s look at how the company is using technology to help save on energy-related operational costs.
Digitalization helps to keep an eye on savings and to open doors to more
The company receives credits on its utility bills for keeping their power factor above a specific level. Unfortunately, the plant’s capacitor banks – used to improve power factor – failed and the problem was not identified for two years. This lack of visibility added up to a very expensive loss of credits.
Guardian Glass chose Schneider Electric to help install new VarSet capacitor banks, which has raised the power factor to consistently above 0.98. This has restored 4% credits on utility bills, translating to a short two-year payback period. A major side benefit of improved power factor is reduced carbon footprint. For every kVAR of improvement, an equivalent of 200 lbs. of carbon is reduced. For Guardian Glass, the new capacitor bank is helping them reduce their carbon footprint by an impressive 50% to 60% at the Iowa plant.
But that is only the beginning. The company also asked us to install a complete EcoStruxure Power solution, comprised of connected smart meters and software comprised of smart devices, edge software, and cloud based advisory services. Power management digitalization is helping Flesch, and his team continuously monitor the operation of the capacitor banks, as well as uncover and act on many other opportunities.
For example, the Power Monitoring Expert system accurately tracks peak demand and energy consumption for the plant. Monthly reports are then used to validate the accuracy of utility bills to identify any costly errors. Energy reports are also shared with production line managers . “This shows them their monthly kW usage, which helps challenge them to find ways to reduce their portion of the bill,” says Flesch.
Another cost-savings measure has been participating in a utility demand-side management program. The program delivers a significant monthly credit if the plant is always able to reduce its power demand to a contractual level of 75% of full load when asked to do so. The EcoStruxure Power system enables Flesch to remotely and continuously track demand for all plant operations, enabling him to respond by determining if curtailment is needed and, if so, immediately take the appropriate steps to meet their goals.
Revealing hidden risks before they impact uptime
Another benefit of greater connectivity and visibility is seeing beneath the surface of your electrical system.
Guardian Glass can now identify, analyze, and isolate any power quality (PQ) event or condition that could affect the reliable operation of their production lines. The system will alarm on such anomalies, giving plant personnel time to quickly find and address the source before it can cause damage or downtime.
For example, voltage sags can cause equipment malfunction as well as reduced lifespan. Sags can be caused inside or outside of a facility, due to equipment operations or power switching. Flesch has used the EcoStruxure Power system to capture three or four sags a year, using analytics to determine that all were coming from upstream, i.e., the utility grid. Armed with this evidence, he is in a strong position to discuss the issue with the utility account manager.
Expert support for peace of mind
Beyond having a fully digitalized power distribution system, Guardian Glass is also covered by an EcoStruxure Power Advisor Digital Service Plan. The plan provides a team of engineering experts that assists Flesch’s onsite team. This team uses proprietary algorithms and reporting in the Power Advisor application to find and prioritize electrical network or data quality anomalies. A dedicated advisor familiar with the site then works with Flesch to propose solutions. Finally, the company is also supported by a PQ Maintenance Contract that ensures all equipment is maintained and performing at peak efficiency.
In this way, the Guardian Glass plant is using digital connectivity and services to increase visibility into their process and effectively reduce costs and risks while improving sustainability and maximizing uptime.
Learn how Schneider Electric can help
To learn more, see how Guardian Glass gets a clear view of reliable power performance. Discover how EcoStruxure Power solutions can help your organization.