The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition said it has won a $7.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop "the nation's first open smart-manufacturing technology platform for collaborative industrial-networked information applications."
Members of the coalition include General Dynamics Corp., Emerson Electric Co., General Mills Inc., Honeywell International Inc., UCLA, the University of Texas at Austin and a number of other manufacturers, universities, federal agencies and government laboratories.
"Together, we intend to transform industrial productivity and energize a new era of innovation by empowering manufacturers with real-time, plantwide workflow intelligence needed to deliver higher levels of game-changing competitiveness," said Dean Bartles, chairman of the organization and a senior vice present at General Dynamics Corp.
"Smart-manufacturing infrastructures and approaches will also let operators make real-time use of 'big data' flows from fully instrumented plants to improve safety, environmental impact and energy, water and materials use."
The funding comes from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Advanced Manufacturing Program.
The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition plans to design and demonstrate the platform, which will enable data-modeling and simulation technologies to actively manage energy use in conjunction with plant production systems.
"The platform will show how real-time management of energy use as a key driver in business decisions can be applied across many small, medium and large U.S. manufacturing companies," the coalition said in a news release.
"For the past two decades, most U.S. manufacturers have managed energy efficiency in their factories and plants passively instead of actively as part of their production systems," said R. Neal Elliott, a coalition board member and director of research at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Elliott's research estimates that U.S.-manufacturing energy intensity can be cut "by more than half in the next 20 years as we begin to integrate smart technologies that actively manage energy use across entire manufacturing systems, plants and ultimately supply chains."
Industrial Test Beds
The coalition's platform-development approach uses industrial test beds with actual manufacturing data and applications to ensure that it is driven by industry needs.
The first two test beds funded by the Department of Energy will be at a General Dynamics army munitions plant to optimize heat-treating furnaces and at a Praxair hydrogen-processing plant to optimize steam-methane-reforming furnaces, the coalition said.
The test-bed project technologies could demonstrate how to make U.S. manufacturers more competitive by reducing annual generation of CO2 emissions by 69 million tons, and waste heat by 1.3 quads, or approximately 1.3 percent of total U.S. energy use, according to the coalition.
"By combining high-fidelity modeling and novel sensors, we can perform real-time control and optimization of process equipment to achieve significant reductions in energy consumption," said professor Thomas Edgar, principle investigator for the project and director of the University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute.
Factories as 'Innovation Hubs'
Coalition members playing a key role in the initial phase of the project will include Emerson Process Management, Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions, Invensys and Rockwell Automation. The companies will "ensure the smart-manufacturing platform is compatible with multiple process-control software systems and energy applications," according to the coalition.
The American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences will develop standard metrics for energy-productivity apps and promote platform use to small, medium and large manufacturers.
The industry-driven, open-platform architecture, orchestrated workflows and operating design will be developed by UCLA's Institute for Digital Research and Education and Nimbis Services, a new U.S.-based business-to-business cloud-hosting services company for manufacturing.
"Ideally, progressive business leaders will soon view their plants and factories as innovation hubs and profit centers to be invested in rather than just cost centers to be cut with such little strategic value that they sometimes have been outsourced overseas," said Denise Swink, CEO of the coalition.
"We expect the smart-manufacturing platform will unleash American ingenuity and engineering prowess in ways that are as unexpected as how the IT revolution has changed every other aspect of our lives."