Digital transformation project at Encirc nears completion

Posted on 4 Sep 2023 by Joe Bush

A digital transformation project to drastically reduce carbon emissions and optimise container glass production at Encirc is nearing completion.

For the past 24 months Encirc , part of the Vidrala Group, has been working with Glass Futures, Siemens PLC UK and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre on a £6.2m project funded by the UK government’s Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF).

The ‘Deployment of End-to-End Process Control’ (DEEP Control) project at Encirc’s Elton site in Cheshire has led the development and deployment of a new dashboard linking processes across two furnaces and associated 14 forming lines.

Glass quality has been maintained and improved in some instances with fewer glass defects resulting in increased packed-to-melt efficiency. Supported by Glass Futures’ global expertise in glass technology and manufacturing, Encirc wanted to improve communication between key systems in the furnace and forming areas of their production line.

Despite the systems, from many suppliers, generating huge amounts of valuable data, their incompatibility meant delays identifying issues and problems that led to delayed corrective action and missed improvement opportunities.

Over nine work packages, multiple processes and systems were selected for integration into a single cloud-based platform – Siemens Insights Hub – allowing operators to see end-to-end process data in one place.

With input from the Hartree Centre, the requirements for data collection, capabilities and exporting of data into Siemens Insights Hub were agreed to allow data integration and enhanced analysis of data from multiple platforms.

An inverse relationship between glass defects and furnace energy typically exists in the industry. With higher furnace temperatures reducing defects such as seeds (small bubbles) and stones (unmelted raw materials).

To combat this, furnaces usually run at higher temperatures requiring higher energy input thereby increasing CO2 emissions. Through the use of Siemens Insights Hub Encirc has been able to integrate both the furnace control system and the End-2-End forming line.

During a series of trials, Siemens incorporated additional inspection systems and outputs into the dashboard at each stage including seed-count, stones and all major cold-end inspection equipment.

Used in conjunction with industrial edge software tools to gather and process data including raw materials, furnace, forehearth and forming areas, the project has been able to perform big data analysis.

By assessing historic and live production data and using the Hartree Centre’s predictive analysis, the project has identified key variables, operational trends and the root-cause of defects.

It has also allowed the reduction of the energy safety margin required for reliable furnace operations, thereby reducing temperatures and improving energy efficiency.

Glass Futures
Glass Futures has global expertise in glass technology and manufacturing

The project has allowed Encirc to continue the digital transformation of its manufacturing process to reduce CO2 emissions, improve operational efficiency and accelerate towards a more sustainable business.

More importantly, the demonstration of the technology will give other glass manufacturers the confidence to follow suit which could deliver ten per ent energy and CO2 savings of over 200kT in the UK each year.

Stephen Haigh, Head of Glass Sector at Siemens UK added: “Siemens technologies is helping to give traditional foundation industries, like glass, greater insight into, and control over, their manufacturing processes, transforming how they can address energy management and decarbonisation challenges.”

Frazer Kennedy, Glass Futures Senior R&D Project Manager, said: “As a member of Glass Futures we were able to successfully bid for funding for this project and provide Encirc with ongoing project management support.

“Our aim as a research and development not-for-profit is to demonstrate disruptive technologies and prove the better use of technology to make glass and other materials zero carbon and sustainable.”

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