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  • Writer's pictureJames Figy

Food Packaging Company Cuts Compressed Air Costs by $250,000

iZ Systems minimizes equipment footprint and slashes energy requirements 45% for Pactiv by implementing PC-based automation and EtherCAT

Compressed air systems in packaging plant

While many companies claim their products or services pay for themselves, iZ Systems proves it. Based in Macon, Georgia, the company provides clients across a range of industries with energy auditing services and control systems that quickly deliver a complete ROI from the resulting energy reductions.

“Almost every system upgrade we complete is based on green initiatives to reduce energy consumption at plants,” says Dean Smith, general manager and technical manager for iZ Systems. “We guarantee these savings, and our technology platform proves that significant energy reductions are maintained in the long term.”

Since Smith founded iZ Systems in 1990, the company has continued to expand its product offerings and client base, gaining customers internationally as a division of its parent company Blake & Pendleton. iZ Systems has long performed audits and upgrades of compressed air and industrial vacuum systems, and it now offers these services for cooling water systems as well. With its standard control cabinets that include built-in HMI displays, iZ Systems supplies eco-friendly technologies that measure efficiencies, support remote data acquisition and deliver insightful energy usage information to customers.

The Pactiv packaging facility in Macon, GA
iZ Systems completed compressed air system upgrades at the Pactiv plant in Macon, Georgia, resulting in a roughly $250,000 annual savings in energy costs.

For seven years, iZ Systems has provided these services to food packaging manufacturer Pactiv at its Macon facility, which focuses on molded fiber egg cartons. The partnership began with a project to replace the compressed air systems supplying low-pressure blowers, according to David Powell, maintenance manager for Pactiv.

“With every blower we tested, the pressures would change too much even if a single nozzle was adjusted,” Powell says. “The iZ Systems team promised a blower system that would not change in pressure, even if you shut off all but one nozzle, and their system has worked flawlessly.”


Open, transparent technologies have universal appeal

The system improvements for Pactiv resulted in unique technical specifications, highlighting the fact that greater system openness is increasing in importance across all industries. To guarantee that customers’ systems achieve peak performance, iZ Systems must be able to monitor data remotely and make adjustments whenever necessary. However, connecting to clients’ diverse networks can be difficult, according to Allen King Jr., inside application project manager for iZ Systems.

Compressed air systems
To reduce energy requirements, iZ Systems implemented low-pressure blowers in place of more expensive compressed air.

“The ability to access and analyze performance data with ease is very important,” King says. “To this end, we access data from systems across the globe using a common source and format.”

In addition to its thorough audits, the company accomplishes these goals through its turnkey iZ Compressed Air Automation and Data Acquisition System, which combines the automation controller, I/O and HMI in a single control cabinet and utilizes custom software. This system must support an increasing number of connected devices – 50 compressors across a factory, for example – while reducing footprint, complexity for users, cost and, most importantly, unplanned downtime.

“Improved reliability is an ever-present demand from industrial clients,” Smith says. “A compressed air system that is not reliable has the ability to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost production and energy costs. A reliable and well-managed compressed air system has the ability to save those dollars. Our iZ Compressed Air Automation and Data Acquisition System has the ability to assist in maintaining those savings.”


Open controls maintain performance under pressure

 iZ Compressed Air Automation and Data Acquisition System
Installing iZ Compressed Air Automation and Data Acquisition System software on machine controllers is simple through the openness of TwinCAT 3 automation software and PC-based control from Beckhoff.

The engineering team at iZ Systems accomplished its mission at Pactiv using PC-based solutions from Beckhoff Automation. Beckhoff and iZ Systems first partnered on projects about 15 years ago, because TwinCAT automation software helped the company establish remote monitoring of its compressed air automation and data acquisition systems.

Smith explains that interfacing horizontally via Modbus TCP to diverse compressor control systems within plants and vertically via OPC UA are important features that exemplify the system openness of PC-based control technology. “The TwinCAT software platform provides tremendous flexibility to the process of applying our iZ Compressed Air Automation and Data Acquisition System software to any system,” he says.

Visualizing the numerous compressors and equipment spread throughout entire plants can easily clutter HMI, so iZ Systems has standardized on the Beckhoff CP2924 multi-touch Control Panel. The 24-inch widescreen panel, which was implemented at Pactiv, is mounted into a control cabinet cutout to enable easy identification of field components, according to King.

a Beckhoff CP2924 multi-touch Control Panel
The standard iZ Systems solution for compressed air automation features a Beckhoff CP2924 multi-touch Control Panel mounted directly to the control cabinet.

“Our trending screens use the multi-touch zooming function, allowing operators to draw a square around the area they want to see in greater detail,” he says. “However, we know there is the capability to implement much more multi-touch functionality, and we hope to add interesting features, such as pinch to zoom, in the near future.”

The go-to machine controller for iZ Systems is the DIN rail-mounted Beckhoff CX5140 Embedded PC, which features a four-core, 1.91 GHz Intel® Atom™ E3845 processor. The device provides 4 GB DDR3 RAM and the ability to add data storage with slots for microSD and CFast cards. With a compact form factor of 142 x 100 x 92 mm, the embedded PC reduces space requirements in the control cabinet, while providing advanced capabilities not available in traditional PLCs.

“We standardized on the CX5140 because it supplies the necessary processing power to meet the needs of today’s Smart Factory concepts,” says King.

As with other iZ Systems projects, EtherCAT industrial Ethernet technology enabled real-time communication across the Pactiv production facility. EtherCAT and TwinCAT allow the automation system to identify any new compressor or other industrial component automatically, and BACnet/IP enables direct integration of building automation controls in the iZ Systems solution.

Beckhoff IPC and I/O in an electrical cabinet
Compact EtherCAT I/O modules and CX5140 Embedded PCs from Beckhoff helped iZ Systems reduce its control cabinet sizes by two-thirds in most cases.

In addition to a range of standard digital and analog I/O terminals, iZ Systems also uses EK1501 and EK1541 fiber optic EtherCAT Couplers along with EK1521 and EK1561 fiber optic junctions in most compressed air applications to communicate with field devices.

“Fiber optic wire provides absolute isolation between our system, the processor, the machine and the compressor,” Smith says. “Fiber optics by nature provides excellent immunity to electrical noise and interference, and the EtherCAT I/O hardware offered us a big step forward in this regard.”


Stratospheric energy savings, guaranteed

By implementing open, PC-based solutions, iZ Systems kept its promise to Pactiv. As a result of the blower equipment upgrades, Pactiv reduced its energy consumption for compressed air by 45%. “By using blower air, we replaced nearly 400 horsepower of compressed air with 50 horsepower. This amounts to a cost savings of nearly $250,000 each year,” Powell says. “The improvements to our air compressor design have stabilized our pressure, and the remote monitoring has given us peace of mind.”

The results are impressive by any standard, but they are not unusual for iZ Systems, Smith explains: “For some clients, we have reduced compressed air energy costs by more than 50%, and we can prove that we have maintained those savings ever since.”

Beckhoff and iZ Systems engineers
iZ Systems Inside Application Project Manager Allen King, Jr. (left) works closely with Beckhoff Regional Sales Engineer Mark Olton.

More importantly, the systems with Beckhoff components achieve the utmost reliability. Secure communication with customer machinery via OPC UA allows iZ Systems to monitor any changes in performance that could require maintenance. Powell says this, along with excellent support, has been crucial for Pactiv: “The system alerts me when there are any abnormalities with the compressors, but iZ gets the warnings as well and their engineers are usually working to address the issue before I call them.”

In addition to boosting reliability, iZ Systems has reduced control cabinet footprint by two-thirds on average by implementing Beckhoff controls. Previously, the company required two or more 36 by 48-inch cabinets, but now most installations require a single 36 by 36-inch cabinet.

Air compressors at packaging company
While Pactiv still uses compressed air in its production of molded fiber egg cartons, the iZ Systems upgrades reduced compressed air energy requirements by 45%.

“Our old cabinets were much larger because the previous PLC generated an excessive amount of heat, increasing our cooling requirements and energy consumption. With the Beckhoff hardware, heat generation is not a problem and we increased our own energy efficiency like we do for our customers,” King says.

The flexibility and scalability of Beckhoff components allows iZ Systems to build and stock standard control cabinets for future use, rather than designing a custom cabinet for each client.

By creating open systems that support multi-vendor architectures, iZ Systems has the unique opportunity to apply energy-saving solutions from one industry to another. For example, the blower solution implemented at Pactiv has also worked for clients in the steel casting industry, among others.

“In many facilities, we installed these low-pressure blower systems to provide cooling or control of fluids and coolants, and it basically produced a 25-to-one reduction in energy,” Smith says. “We try to make the initial acquisition cost attractive to the client while guaranteeing major energy reductions, and the Beckhoff platform has made a huge difference in our ability to meet these goals.”

How can New Automation Technology boost the sustainability of your packaging equipment? Contact your local Beckhoff sales engineer today.


James Figy of Beckhoff Automation

James Figy is the Marketing Content Leader at Beckhoff Automation LLC

A version of this article previously appeared in Plant Engineering.


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