Chillers are an expensive production asset that requires expert set-up and maintenance to ensure efficiency. Essential to the food and beverage industry chiller’s deliver cooling and refrigeration necessary for sanitary production and consumer safety. Because chillers are subject to mechanical, electrical, and environmental deterioration, they often drift into an operating pattern marked by insufficient cooling output, poor energy efficiency, low production quality, and unplanned failure.
Maintaining optimal chiller performance has many benefits, starting with freeing captive data from the equipment using IIoT digital twins to model performance. The insights gained from the digital twin can then be used by operators to adjust chiller settings and conduct maintenance. The performance and life of the asset are invariably improved using this approach.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a reliable and cost-effective way to improve chiller performance starting with improved data visualization. IIoT also goes beyond simple asset visualization to deliver measurably improved performance. The magic happens when the data is communicated from sensors to digital twins in the cloud, which then transform the information into actionable insights. This connected approach, combined with insight-driven maintenance, keeps chillers operating at an optimal level. Let’s explore this concept further.
Using Flow Meters for Data Collection
Data is essential to improved decision-making, it can be used to improve productivity and enhance revenue streams providing companies with a competitive edge. Leaders in the food and beverage industry improve return on investment in various ways, such as finding the BEP (best efficiency point) of chillers. Patterns associated with failure can also be learned, leading to condition-based and predictive maintenance.
A brewery, for example, using a simple IIoT cloud-connected flow meter can ensure optimal performance, including return glycol temperatures in real-time and flow rate trending over time. This style of flow meter is an industry workhorse that can be deployed in various ways, with or without process fittings and using simple probes. And although it is not as accurate as an in-line mag flow meter, it comes at a fraction of the cost, can be installed in minutes, and delivers results instantly.
Additionally, it can be used in threaded non-sanitary fittings or with sanitary tri-clamp adapters for product flow which would be CIP-rated. The flow meter also displays total consumption and can be easily calibrated using digital twin software for higher accuracy.
Digital Twin For Chillers
Legacy control systems are built for day one operation, and this is a problem for 95% of the industry. Food and beverage manufacturers often purchase standardized OEM packaged equipment from multiple suppliers and lack a systematic view of the process data across equipment. Operators swim in a sea of raw sensor data when they really need structured actionable information.
We have found that most manufacturers rely on PLCs to send sensor data to an HMI or SCADA, this data is necessary for food safety compliance but does little to help operators optimize production or reduce unplanned equipment outages. That’s why food manufacturers, breweries, and other consumer goods companies are increasing the deployment of IIoT to deliver concise, actionable insights. Raw data becomes structured, and digital twins drive productivity gains.
Simply put, digital twins are a digital model of an asset or collection of assets. They combine a simulation of the process, and physical equipment with real time sensor data to create a realistic model of the production line. Any major deviation from the performance of the process to the expected performance from the model is communicated to operators allowing them to make informed decisions about equipment, process, and materials.
This once-captive data, converted into insights using digital twins, provides instant feedback to operators. This adds tremendous value to food and beverage manufacturers by cutting through vast amounts of data to bring focus on what is most important.
For example, breweries must rely on robust cleaning processes to bring a safe beverage to market. With that in mind, sensors constantly monitor the efficiencies of various equipment, including chillers, tanks, pumps, boilers, generators, etc. They can provide insights on boiler pressure and temperature, and turbidity rates (how hazy the beer is), to speed up clean-in-place cycles while reducing the consumption of energy, fresh water, and solvents.
Tight regulation of temperature control is imperative for efficiency and food safety. Diligent monitoring of chillers helps to optimize efficiency and maximize food safety. Instead of relying on sensors to solely provide production compliance records, digital twins can convert that messy unstructured data into actionable intelligence. Furthermore, by creating a digital twin of a chiller, organizations are building a virtual sandbox to test production improvements in a risk-free non-production environment.
Optimizing Through Insights
Leaders in the food and beverage industry are quickly learning that improved ROI comes from IIoT with digital twins to optimize processes and catch faults before they can cause unplanned outages and spoiled products. This is mission-critical for companies manufacturing products intended for human consumption where the impact of poor quality can be substantial.
Tracking data across the product life cycle, from raw material intake, through production and distribution, is improving because of IIoT solutions. Digital twins make a difference in food safety. According to the National Restaurant Association, over 95% of operators experienced supply delays or shortages of crucial food or beverage items in 2021. Data from IIoT technology is proving invaluable.
Chillers are a key asset used in food and beverage production. Temperature directly impacts the quality and safety of products, from beer to pizza dough to ice cream. Digital twins free captive data by transforming temperature, flow, power, vibration, and other sensor measures into actionable information.