Startup helps food companies reduce risk and maintenance costs with IBM Cloud solution

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EcoPlant is helping food and beverage companies significantly improve energy use, optimize maintenance and save money. Our software as a service (SaaS) solution continually monitors and optimizes compressed air systems in near real time to help food and beverage makers, as well as companies in other industries, maintain and manage air compression systems.

Air compression systems are vital to the food and beverage industry. The systems are used every day to manufacture, shape, package and process the food and beverages products. Air compression systems are also used to help clean manufacturing equipment.

The challenge for food and beverage makers is keeping air compression systems and their multiple sub-systems well maintained and running at optimal efficiency. Systems that run inefficiently can cost businesses millions in wasted energy and emit tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. They can also put food safety at risk. A single filter leak, for instance, can introduce a host of contaminants and microorganisms into food containers.

Our EcoPlant platform, a smart monitoring and control system solution built and powered by IBM Cloud technologies, offers a solution.

Accelerating platform deployment with IBM

As a young startup, we wanted to develop our platform quickly, but it was important to keep infrastructure costs down. We didn’t want to have to set up, configure and maintain our own servers. We wanted to focus on writing code and building our proactive engine logic and AI algorithms. We also needed advanced capabilities to aggregate and analyze the data we were capturing from compressors, along with security features and scalability.

We found all of this, and more, in the IBM Alpha Zone accelerator. During the 20-week program, we talked to IBM experts and received technical training and support. We also had access to IBM infrastructure, like IBM Cloud Functions, a functions as a service (FaaS) programming platform and a service of IBM Cloud. Using the built-in platform capabilities, like events and periodic execution, we built our advanced analytics engine. Best of all, we only paid for the time we used, not a penny more.

Some very talented software architects helped us develop the platform the right way. For instance, we chose the IBM Watson IoT Platform to process, secure and analyze our customers’ air compression systems data. And because the Watson IoT Platform is a service of the IBM Cloud, we also get the scalability and security capabilities we need as our business grows. Plus, telling customers we use Watson technology gives us credibility.

Bringing predictive maintenance to air compression systems

Our platform collects data from air compression systems in near real time using strategically placed sensors and smart devices called EcoBoxes. The EcoBoxes send the data to the Watson IoT Platform where it’s analyzed by the predictive, AI-powered algorithms of our advanced analytics engine. If it detects a problem with the air compression system, like a leak in a filter, it sends an alert to the operations manager so he or she can address the problem proactively.

But what’s unique about our predictive maintenance solution is that it can also dynamically control the air compression systems. So, when it detects a leak in a filter, for instance, it sends the operations manager a suggested plan to fix it, such as closing a problematic valve or compressor. If the manager agrees, the platform sends the plan to the EcoBox, which then runs it and closes the valve.

Improving facility maintenance is win-win for business and environment

Today, we have customers throughout Europe and we’re rapidly expanding into the US market from our Minnesota office.

Through predictive maintenance and by optimizing the efficiency of air compression systems, we’re helping the food and beverage industry prevent contamination. We’re also helping companies reduce energy consumption, energy waste and costs.

For instance, a global food and beverages provider in Israel cut its energy consumption by roughly 25 percent. By reducing energy use it saved a total of USD 85,000 in less than five months, and USD 170,000 annually. The plant also reduced its annual CO2 emissions by nearly 700 tons by using our platform.

Even hospitals and commercial buildings can realize these benefits by applying the technology to pumps and chillers. In fact, on average, industrial plants can realize up to 50 percent in energy savings.

It’s a win-win for businesses and the environment alike.

Learn more about the EcoPlant solution.


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