The Trend of ‘Retrofitting’ in Smart Manufacturing and Buildings Efficiency

Terenty Marinich
Digital Content Manager
March 13, 2020

Retrofitting is developing at a full speed in the manufacturing industry. As the competition in the sector is razor-thin, every way to save operational spendings is pretty valuable, so turning to implement it in a clever fashion.

The representatives of manufacturing companies should put a tremendous effort into improving their production lines in order to optimise their production and reduce costs.

Any downtime brings heavy losses to the factories, so manufacturers consider the large volumes components, their interoperability and plenty of factors in between.

In this blog post, we’ve decided to have a closer look at retrofitting in smart manufacturing. We will try to figure out how beneficial it could be for the industry in whole, what barriers it faces while being implemented.

As a software development company, we will explore the connections of retrofitting with the domains we are keen on the Industrial Internet of Things, machine learning and predictive maintenance.

We would also have a look at how deep retrofitting is applicable for saving energy in the buildings.

Retrofitting and Smart Factories: Benefits (Examples Inside)

As we’ve already mentioned, smart manufacturing aka ‘Industry 4.0’ is tightly connected with the concepts of predictive maintenance. To be precise, solutions developed in these domains help the ideas of retrofitting in their existence.

Purchasing new machines in line with the new smart technologies is way too expensive and is not practical especially for small and medium manufacturing companies. This is where retrofitting is a perfect fit

Smart factory retrofit solutions enable an old machine or system to get access to new technologies. The details can be installed on an old machine or a particular part can be replaced with a new part with improved features.

When a machine or system is retrofitted, acts as a smart machine and it generates plenty of data. This data is being gathered for the analysis. Implementing the ideas based on this data improves the productivity and efficiency of the machine’s work as well as increases total lifespan of the machine and reduces the amount spent on the machine’s maintenance.

Quite a list of benefits:

  • Huge cost savings
  • Faster recovery after maintenance breaks
  • Reduced number of errors/quality deviations in the production
  • Increased safety at the factory
  • Valuable analytics that helps to prevent downtime

Here is a look at the real-life examples.

Bosch installed its IoT (internet of things) gateway on a 300-kg cast-iron lathe, the production of which starts in the 19th century.

Source: www.bosch-presse.de

The connected system comprised of sensors, software, and IOT-compatible industrial controls. Via these solutions, the team could track and monitor the condition of the lathe in real-time and even optimise its operations.

Dr Werner Struth, Bosch management board member responsible for industrial technology and manufacturing coordination, commented the following way:

 “This is the only construction of its kind in the world. It shows that even ancient machines can be connected quickly and easily with the IoT gateway.” 

If these sensors are compatible with the machines that old, the should be no obstacles on the way of spreading retrofitting for the ‘younger older machines’. Well, in fact, there are some, and we are going to speak of it in the next section of the blog post, while there is another example of retrofitting applications.

Ypsomed is a healthcare company headquartered in Switzerland that produces several hundred million products a year and meets the highest medical technology standards.

Recently, Ypsomed Group and Harting became partners in a development a project. They’ve managed retrofitting the legacy protocol plastic injection moulding machines with an integrated Industry 4.0 digital control system.

Source: britishplastics.co.uk

An important element of Industry 4.0 is the ability to apply digitisation to the production environment by adding more intelligence to existing processes.

Taking a digital retrofit approach allowed the speeding up the existing processes for minimal cost over a short period of time, resulting in a fast return on investment and immediate productivity gains.

Due to the high proportion of individual plastic components in its products, Ypsomed possesses a large number of plastic injection moulding machines in its production plants.

Their partners retrofit began in 2017, with Harting’s Edge Computer MICA being installed and programmed as the protocol translator. Now the data transmitted via this protocol comes straight to a factory-wide ERP system and becomes available for the analysis.

Challenges of Retrofitting for Industry 4.0

The global Industry 4.0 retrofit solutions market is a multi-billion dollar yet to become a popular option amongst manufacturers. Everybody realizes that connecting traditional machines with smart technologies and with each other is not an easy task.

So carrying out the retrofitting process should be knowledge-based in order for the process to become optimized.

There are not so many companies that have gained experience in the sector. So you should carefully select software supplier in order for the process of retrofit to go smoothly and lead to optimization.

If you’re looking for a software provider for your retrofit operations, Elinext is ready to help you with any type of software that would enable your manufacturing data gathering and analysis.

Security becomes of an issue here as well. The protocols should securely transfer data after the introduction of the new elements to an old system. As the network is connected, one weak spot can expose the data and make the network susceptible to cyber-attacks.

Updating a protocol with continued security and assessing the risks is the key for all your efforts to not go in vain.

Retrofitting of Buildings (Crazy Numbers Inside)

What kind of savings and ROI can you expect from retrofits?

Over 85%  of the energy consumed in the U.S. is wasted, according to the study by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.

It is estimated that determined that upgrading the energy efficiency of U.S. buildings could save $1 trillion over the next decade.

Rockefeller Foundation study estimates that an investment of $279 billion in building retrofits could reduce the energy use of older buildings by almost a third (30%), and realize more than $1 trillion in energy cost savings over 10 years.

In addition, the study estimated that widespread adoption of energy efficiency building retrofits could reduce overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 10% per year and create more than 3.3 million jobs.

Analysis by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy shows that the average return on investment for energy efficiency projects exceeds 20%.

Seems like easy money? Well, at least it is worth the attention of investors if the estimations are correct.

But what kind of retrofits within a building could one make?

Source: nyc.gov

Well, low-cost, minor retrofits that are easy to implement and offer good value for the money and effort invested could include sealing with spray foam, adding insulation and upgrading the lighting systems,

All the way to deep retrofits, such as replacing the roof, or significantly rearranging windows, replacing the heating or ventilation systems.

That significantly increases the energy efficiency within the building and looks like a promising investment field.

The world has 1.6 trillion square feet of building stock, 99 percent of which is not green.

Retrofitting addresses how heat and cold are escaping or entering the building, the systems that cool or warm inhabitants, and how spaces are illuminated. It ultimately improves the experience of being inside the building.

Conclusion

By investing in retrofits that make your factory, or building more energy-efficient, you can achieve the following:

  • amazing impact on lowering your energy costs
  • reduce your maintenance requirements
  • create a more pleasant interior environment for your occupants (buildings)
  • increase the value and productivity of your building
  • reduce your environmental footprint

If we are speaking about smart manufacturing, it is all about the savings on the production line. Factories and plants in industries, for instance, chemical processing, pulp and paper, water and waste-water treatment, can save up to 90 per cent in monitoring costs with wireless IoT sensors.

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