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IP Networks Support Modern Energy-Saving Techniques

Tue, 08/23/2011 - 5:00am
Adam VanOort, Founder and President, DataNab

In today's world, food manufacturing facilities are faced with the task of improving energy efficiency to control costs. One way to reduce energy costs is to replace outdated and inefficient HVAC equipment or lighting systems with newer, more efficient designs.

Traditional HVAC equipment is initially cheaper because of the wide availability of the equipment, but over time food manufacturers will spend significantly more in energy costs. 

Modern alternative energy systems are more complex and require a significant initial investment to purchase and install.  Additional training and/or staff may be required to migrate to and maintain the new systems, adding another budgetary challenge.

However, there are clear benefits to making this investment. Long-term savings are significant, and newer systems can run plants more efficiently, with less downtime.

The challenge for the plant manager is to cost-effectively employ new technology while finding ways to improve the efficiency of legacy systems already in place. This strategy can lead to a higher ROI by executing processes more efficiently, saving energy and money over time.

Improving Efficiency Using IP

Food manufacturing facilities can reduce the upfront costs of new control systems by choosing a design that utilizes the existing IP network infrastructure for communication of modern control and monitoring systems. Significant savings are realized by utilizing existing infrastructure.

Choosing automation systems that support IP-enabled communications will minimize wiring and cabling, enabling a cleaner installation and a more intelligent operation.  IP-based systems provide the ability to remotely control and monitor the equipment from anywhere in the world using a standard web browser. 

Facilities can take further advantage of network capabilities by monitoring systems over the Internet, minimizing onsite staff requirements.

Modern IP-enabled controllers provide serial interfaces and a flexible set of inputs and outputs that enable existing legacy equipment to be “network-enabled.” Collectively they bring enormous value to the overall system as a bridge between the IP and analog worlds.

These intelligent devices enable communication between new systems and legacy equipment, enhancing the return value for food manufacturing facilities that plan to upgrade to alternate energy systems, such as solar or geothermal, while keeping some of the existing equipment operational.

Deploying Wireless and Wired Sensors

Networked sensors bring additional depth to the operation. Sensors provide access to real-time information anywhere in the production cycle, enabling a critical capability to monitor processes, react quickly to potential problems and support high levels of quality control. Both wired and wireless sensors can be networked within a system.

Wired sensors connect into I/O control devices on IP or serial networks. An IP-enabled I/O device can pass data to the automation or monitoring software over the IP network. Serial enabled I/O devices (RS232 or RS485) will utilize an Ethernet network to a gateway device to bridge the serial and IP network.

Wireless sensors are either WiFi-enabled or use RF technology. WiFi sensors pass information directly over the IP network. Other sensors will pass data to an IP gateway, which captures the wireless packets and converts the data to send over IP.

DataNab provides networked sensors and I/O devices that build cost-effective, IP-enabled monitoring and control systems. The most common DataNab applications in the food industry are IP-enabled temperature monitoring and alarming within cold storage areas and control and monitoring of HVAC-related processes within the plants.

Wireless Gateway: Manage Data From Wireless Temp & RH Sensors

DataNab also addresses new market demands such as temperature monitoring during transport by integrating sensors with many mobile GPS fleet management systems.

I-Wire Gateway For Temperature & Humidity Monitoring & Logging

Transitioning from legacy systems to more modern IP-based, alternative energy systems can seem to be a daunting task. Ultimately, the cost savings and benefits derived from the transition are:

  • Lower energy costs by using more efficient HVAC and lighting systems.
  • Lower personnel and maintenance costs. IP-enabled systems can be managed and controlled remotely, eliminating the need for 24/7 maintenance staff.
  • Less downtime when problems or failures occur as detection is noted immediately through email or text alarms.
  • Higher levels of manageability utilizing the IP and mobile networks for sensor integration.

Using IP-enabled systems and devices makes it possible for a plant manager to use much of what is already in place, taking advantage of the common IP network to add connectivity to existing legacy systems, and seamlessly merge them with new energy management systems.  This makes the transition to a modern, energy-efficient system a cost-saving reality in the present, rather than a possibility for the distant future.

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