Energy management

One of the most important departments for the topic of sustainability is energy management. Due to the fact that we are a producer of plastic packaging, we have a high energy consumption. We asked our energy management officer Christian Kuß what is being done in this area for better energy efficiency and thus climate protection. 


How is SPIES' energy management structured and what are the most important tasks? 

Energy management at SPIES has a classic and structured approach, based on the requirements of ISO 50001, to which we have been certified for over 10 years. Our tasks are extremely diverse. We continuously record our energy consumption in order to identify deviations and initiate suitable measures for optimization. It is therefore essential for us to create and monitor key figures for all relevant consumers. We currently use 676 measuring devices, of which 394 are used for measuring or delimiting electrical consumption, 276 for monitoring compressed air consumption and 6 for recording refrigeration quantities. 

We regularly analyze our energy consumption to identify potential for reducing energy costs. Once such potential has been identified, concrete measures are developed and evaluated from an economic point of view.  

We invest in energy-efficient machinery and equipment to minimize energy consumption in our operations. We also attach great importance to informing and training our employees about energy-efficient behavior and the conscious use of energy. Furthermore, we ensure that we comply with all relevant energy laws and regulations in order to reduce our environmental footprint. 


What are the most important measures to reduce energy consumption at SPIES? 

Looking at the direct consumers in the production process, continuous replacement within the injection molding machine park is undoubtedly one of the most important measures. Since the end of 2018, we have already been able to achieve a saving of 2,721,870 kWh compared to the operation of less efficient production equipment. 

Replacing the lighting also offers a high savings potential for production-related consumers, although the possibilities here are of course limited. In addition, the use of heat recovery systems and demand-oriented control of ventilation are important measures. The same applies to compressed air and refrigeration generation, which together account for around 20% of our total consumption. To reduce the energy consumption of the refrigeration systems, we use free coolers and employ separate systems for different temperature levels. In compressed air generation, we pay attention to high efficiency through sensible and demand-oriented interconnections of the compressors. At the same time, we reduce consumption by combating leaks.  

To this end, we recently acquired a SoundCam. This innovative technology makes sounds visible by capturing the signals from 72 microphones inside the unit and superimposing them on the image from the integrated camera. This enables us to detect leaks extremely effectively. 

In addition to the technical aspects, employee training is a crucial factor in creating awareness of energy savings. Only when employees understand the energy implications of their actions can they optimize them in a targeted manner. 


Are there specific projects or initiatives being implemented in the field of renewable energy? 

Yes, we are currently pursuing several approaches to the use of renewable energies. Concrete projects in the field of photovoltaic expansion and wind power are in the planning phase. By installing such systems, we could generate our own electricity and thus reduce our need for conventional energy from the grid. This would not only increase our independence, but also make a significant contribution to environmental protection. 

However, it is important to emphasize that self-generation projects can often take several years to implement. SPIES has committed to sourcing electricity exclusively from renewable sources from 2025 onwards. This ensures that we do not rely solely on the success of self-generation projects and drive our transition to renewable energy. 


How is the monitoring and reporting of energy consumption handled? What metrics are used to measure progress in energy management? 

We monitor energy consumption both in absolute terms and that of individual large consumers. The production facilities as well as the compressed air and refrigeration systems in the plants are our focus areas. Deviations from the usual total consumption are recorded during the year in the minutes of the energy management team meetings and dealt with immediately in the event of significant deviations.  

At the end of each year, the energy management team publishes a management review and a key figures and energy report. Here, the topic is once again presented in its entirety. 

The topic of key figures is more complex than pure reporting. Currently, we still use conventional key figures for most consumers. For example, we look at the electrical consumption of the injection molding machines per kilogram of plastic processed or the cubic meters of compressed air generated per kilowatt hour used. However, this approach is not always sufficient. Many influencing factors remain unconsidered, so that key figures can develop positively or negatively without this being intentional or easy to explain. 

In the case of injection molding machines, for example, the mold, number of cavities, cycle time, materials used, etc. have a strong influence on the key figures. Therefore, conventional key figures are currently in a state of flux. One possibility is to reduce the scope of a key figure. This can be done at order level when conditions are the same. With changing conditions, many influencing factors can be removed by giving each combination of production machine and order its own KPI. 

The most difficult but most informative way to generate a key figure is regression analysis. This statistical method takes into account all known variables and provides a model that represents the target state. The resulting key figure is then the deviation from the target. 

Depending on the technical field of application, we take different approaches to the creation of key figures, since key figures are the decisive variables for demonstrating self-optimization and increased energy efficiency. They serve as the most important points of reference. Therefore, the accuracy and credibility of a KPI is crucial. 


What challenges do you see for the future integration of sustainable energy management in the plastics processing industry and general? What opportunities and innovations do you expect in this area? 

The future integration of sustainable energy management in the plastics processing industry, and in the industry in general, faces a number of challenges. One important factor is the complex and energy-intensive nature of production processes in plastics processing. The challenge is to find ways to reduce the energy consumption and environmental impact of these processes without compromising product quality and efficiency. 

Another obstacle is the initial investment cost of sustainable technologies and renewable energy. Although these investments can pay off in the long run, they can initially be a financial burden for companies. Thus, strategic planning and a long-term commitment on the part of companies is needed to provide the necessary resources to transition to a sustainable energy infrastructure. 

Increased activity is currently occurring in the area of energy law that is unprecedented in scale. Laws and regulations are being enacted quickly due to climate change, while lead times for companies are getting shorter. The potential exists here for companies to be overwhelmed or for projects to be delayed by red tape. 

However, there are also numerous opportunities and innovations in this area. One of these is the increased use of renewable energies, whether through the use of solar energy, wind energy or biomass. The continuous development and cost reduction of these technologies opens up opportunities for companies to decarbonize their energy consumption and reduce their environmental footprint. 

In addition, new technologies and digital solutions can help make energy consumption more efficient. For example, smart energy management systems can provide real-time data to monitor energy consumption and quickly identify and address bottlenecks or inefficient processes. 

Overall, there is an opportunity for companies to not only achieve their environmental goals through sustainable energy management, but also to reduce costs, increase energy efficiency, and strengthen their image as an environmentally conscious and responsible organization. 

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