Software for enhanced energy management
Thanks to the Energy Platform, Bosch’s Qingdao plant in China has been able to boost efficiency, cut energy consumption, and thereby help mitigate global warming.
To optimize energy use at a manufacturing facility, it’s vital to have a clear picture of how much energy is being consumed by all the various processes and machines. Honghui Wu has this knowledge. He is the person responsible for plant and energy management at Bosch’s factory in Qingdao. Located in the Chinese province of Shandong, this facility produces diesel-injection systems. Honghui and his team are constantly on the lookout for ways of saving energy. Digital technology helps them in their quest. “The Energy Platform tells us where to look to find previously untapped energy-saving potential,” says the 39-year-old Honghui.
Developed by Bosch, this cloud-based software was introduced at the Qingdao plant in 2018, where it now aggregates and analyzes data and information from a range of sources, including building management systems and machine sensors. The platform therefore provides a genuinely connected approach to energy management, based on a full and clear picture of the flow and consumption of energy within the plant. This is how Honghui and his team know where the plant can reduce its consumption of energy and resources.
of energy was saved at Bosch’s Qingdao plant in 2020 thanks to the Energy Platform. This is the equivalent of the annual energy consumption of around 120 two-person households in Germany.
Prioritizing heat sources
The cloud-based approach of the Energy Platform brings a number of advantages. For a start, it eliminates the extra costs of server hardware, and automatic updates ensure that the latest software is always running. Likewise, Honghui and his team can call up the Energy Platform and access its diagrams and charts from anywhere within the plant. All they require to connect to the cloud is a tablet computer or an internet-capable monitor. During an investigation of the hot water supply at the Qingdao plant, the software showed that some of the sources of heat are much more efficient than others. “Using this knowledge, we rescheduled the order in which they come onstream,” Honghui explains.
This means that energy-saving sources of heat such as solar thermal collectors or heat recovered from compressors are given priority above sources such as an inefficient electrical heating system, which is only used in especially cold winters. Data analysis also revealed an enormous amount of energy stored in the large volume of hot water kept in reserve for the plant’s washroom and shower facilities, which are generally used three times a day, at shift changeover. “As soon as we realized that, we started thinking about how we could make better use of this energy,” Honghui says. The excess heat from the shower water is now diverted, via a heat exchanger and heat pump, to the heating module of the industrial washer. There it serves to heat the liquid used to clean freshly produced parts before assembly.
of the energy savings at the Qingdao plant in 2020 were achieved solely by means of the Energy Platform.
AI-controlled chilled water system
Analysis of cooling-load data revealed a surprising fact. As Honghui explains, the graphics from the Energy Platform showed a wave form, indicating massive fluctuations in the plant’s cooling-load requirements. Last November, the plant installed an AI system developed by the Bosch Center for Artificial Intelligence. This now controls the chilled water system for the cooling load. “Using data from the Energy Platform, AI is able to forecast cooling-load requirements for the coming hours and adjust the system accordingly,” Honghui says. Once a month, the platform reviews how well the AI system has been able to forecast the actual demand for cooling load. Based on this analysis, the AI system can be further trained, leading to ever-greater predictive accuracy. This results in energy savings for the chilled water system of up to 10 percent.
As of 2020, the Bosch Group with its 400-plus locations worldwide has been carbon neutral. Introduction of the Energy Platform was a key step toward this achievement. Last year, a range of energy-saving measures at the Qingdao plant yielded savings of almost 510 megawatt-hours. Three-quarters of these savings — around 380 MWh — were achieved with the help of the Energy Platform. Bosch has now installed the Energy Platform at 122 of its own plants and also offers it to other companies. “With energy prices on the rise, energy efficiency is going to become an increasingly important concern for the manufacturing industry,” Honghui says. In addition to mitigating global warming, there are therefore sound economic reasons why companies should now have the Energy Platform on their radar.
Honghui Wu, 39
Section head for plant and energy management
“The Energy Platform provides absolute clarity on energy consumption in manufacturing plants.”
Honghui Wu studied automation technology at Nanjing Agricultural University. He began working for Bosch China in 2008 and was initially involved in the development of new diesel systems at the Wuxi plant. In 2014, he transferred to the Qingdao plant as team leader with responsibility for developing quality management on a pilot scale. In 2018, he was appointed section head for plant and energy management. In this role, his responsibilities currently include carbon-neutrality projects.