The CO2 tool by KHS uses digital technology to help identify potential savings from conversions. (Image: StellrWeb/unsplash)
Considering the carbon footprint during refitting
Rarely in history has energy been as freely available as it is today – and the sometimes negative consequences of this development have never been so apparent. There is an increasing realisation in the global economy that the available energy must be used carefully and that the CO2 emissions associated with the generation of energy must also be taken into account. The KHS mechanical engineering company has developed a digital tool to enable users to take their emissions into account when planning machine conversions.
The company collaborated with the Institut für Umweltinformatik (ifu – Institute for Environmental Information Sciences) in Hamburg on this project. The aim was to develop software that reveals the effects a specific type of packaging has on the climate. This should hopefully put users in a better position to plan switching to other types, for example. “Besides cost-effectiveness and efficiency in drinks manufacturing, it was primarily our intention to help reduce the ecological footprint,” says Dennis Jacobi, Manager Service Sales and conversions expert at KHS.
Tool helps with accurate quantification
The Dortmund-based company has been focusing on the topic of saving energy for some time. But it’s not only about protecting the environment, it’s also simply about saving money. Reduced consumption equals reduced costs. The mechanical engineering company has, for example, been modifying old stretch-blow-moulding machines to recover compressed air, and retrofitting furnaces to make them more energy-efficient for many years. The fact that saving energy also helps reduce CO2 was always an obvious benefit.
Dennis Jacobi sees the tool focusing on reducing the ecological footprint. (Image: KHS)
The newly developed tool, however, is now helping translate these savings into hard numbers. “We’ve been able to calculate exactly how many kilowatt-hours in the annual electricity consumption the tool will save. But, until now, we’ve not been able to determine how much CO2 will ultimately be saved and how sustainable this actually is in the end. We were simply unable to make a comparison to the carbon impact that is generated by the measure itself,” Dennis Jacobi says.
The software that has now been incorporated into the range of services considers a variety of factors that may have an effect on the carbon footprint – some obvious, others less so. As a consequence, besides the packaging of the new parts and the materials used, the transport and the distance that the technical staff must travel to get to the installation are also taken into account and converted into a corresponding CO2 value. This is then set against the reduction in energy consumption and the resulting CO2 savings. It then becomes possible to use this amazingly simple calculation – based on the relevant source of energy – to determine the starting point where the conversion will begin to reflect positively in the company’s overall balance sheet. “The eco-return-on-investment so to speak,” Dennis Jacobi says. “What’s so pleasing is that our retrofits usually start paying for themselves, in other words eco-amortise, in just a few days or weeks as a result of the huge energy savings.”
Software for packaging materials as well
KHS has also created a corresponding calculator for packaging materials. Arne Wiese, Product Manager Bottles & Shapes, says that many packaging users from the drinks sector have turned to the company to find out which design and which material is the most environmentally friendly. “Many drinks companies want to become carbon-neutral and are asking us what type of packaging comes with the smallest footprint,” Wiese said. The packaging tool can be used to determine the answer. Among the factors considered are the chosen material, the location of the manufacturer, the weight of the packaging, the transport routes and – in the case of reusable packaging – the number of cycles. Water and chemical consumption as well as how the packaging is finally disposed of are also reflected in the balance sheet.
The digital solutions show that a sustainable transformation of production is not only possible, it is also in many ways less complicated than originally thought. Refittings, in particular, may already produce a major impact in terms of energy and CO2 savings with only a small outlay as opposed to the purchase of a new machine.