The future of intelligent energy management with SMART Pneumatics – interview


Five questions for Dr. Michael Britzger  

Q: Mr. Britzger, the overall economic situation has now come to a head for many industries. What challenges are manufacturers currently facing?

Currently, we are witnessing immense pressure across various industries: This is stemming from the megatrends of digitalization and sustainability, as well as from bottlenecks in global supply and high energy prices. Manufacturers are growing increasingly concerned over their competitiveness and are having to find alternatives for raw materials, implement energy-saving measures, and curb production costs. This is particularly challenging for small and medium sized companies, as they do not have the financial or human capacity for extensive, complex digitalization projects that could boost their plant and process efficiency.

Dr. Michael Britzger, Director IIoT Engineering at Emerson

Q: So how can manufacturers tackle this situation?

When it comes to efficient production, industrial energy consumption is an essential consideration – particularly in the field of pneumatics, where up to 30 percent of the compressed air in manufacturing plants is lost due to leaks. This not only results in machine downtime, but also pushes up energy consumption and costs. Unfortunately, many companies are not even aware of what the optimum compressed air consumption is for their manufacturing processes – yet by lowering the pressure in the pneumatic system, the air throughput can be reduced while the cycle time remains unchanged. The effects can be felt immediately: Not only can compressed air consumption and costs be reduced by 10 to 20 percent, but CO2 emissions can also be slashed by 10 percent. A win-win situation for both plant efficiency and the environment.

Q: How does Emerson address the challenges of sustainability, overall plant effectiveness and connectivity?

Here at Emerson, we want to help users and process owners visualize, understand and ultimately optimize their environmental footprint. This means using intelligent systems that monitor machine processes and overall efficiency, analyze relevant data and detect technical problems, leaks and anomalies at an early stage. This allows users to perform predictive, even preventive maintenance, which reduces unplanned downtime and improves the operation time of machines.

That’s where we come in. We remove the technical barrier faced by process planners and plant controllers by providing easy-to-configure, automated tools that offer intelligent monitoring and reliable forecasts. The energy-related data from different lines of business is fed into a digital ecosystem that displays comprehensive savings potential. As this is an open platform solution, a variety of hardware components can be easily integrated into the energy management system.

Q: What role does the merging of operational and information technology (OT and IT) play here?

All of these processes require a particular IT structure, which is something of a challenge considering the widespread shortage of skilled workers. This increased integration of OT and IT is enabling innovative solutions for industrial automation. Instead of relying on a complex network of fragmented IT expertise, we can pool the required know-how in one place and make it accessible to every process planner and plant controller.

Q: What vision does Emerson pursue when it comes to driving its technologies forward?

Exciting times lie ahead for us as automation technologies are set to continue evolving at a rapid pace. Today, we can provide real-time diagnostics with intelligent solutions and the synergy of OT and IT, but in the future, there will be predictive analytics. This will reliably predict upcoming events based on historical and real-time data. Not only applying to compressed air consumption, in the long term, we will have the ability to monitor entire plant-related energy management systems. To make this a reality we need solutions that provide the entire energy consumption of plants both intelligently and in line with demand. Our vision is driving innovation that makes the world healthier, safer, smarter and more sustainable.

Dr. Michael Britzger, Director IIoT Engineering at Emerson, focuses on IIoT business development for new products and services based on smart pneumatics and data-driven technology. Michael studied economics and physics in Austria, Spain and Germany. He earned a diploma from Leibniz University Hannover (Germany) and completed a Doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in experimental gravitational physics at the Albert Einstein Institute Hannover (Max Planck Institute). Michael is an expert in digitalization and technology communication, working for startups, as well as in industrial and private equity environments. He is well-versed in agile management strategies designed to harness the full digital capacity of both teams and organizations.