Business challenge

Seeking to add value beyond pump efficiency, Armstrong wanted to help customers address the issue of predictive maintenance through continuous learning to improve efficiency and by sharing best practices across industries and buildings.

Transformation

Armstrong developed an intelligent cloud-based performance tracking service that manages pump performance and delivers real-time insights to help building owners operate and maintain HVAC systems for optimal efficiency.

Results

Reduced HVAC energy use by 78% at Zheng Zhou University

and cut CO2 emissions by 43,303 kg, saving CNY 45,499 (USD 6,600) annually

Cut CO2 emissions by 131,053 kg in a commercial tower

by using 87% less energy, saving CAD 121,692 annually

Saved a US healthcare facility USD 4,325 annually

by cutting energy use by 74% and CO2 emissions by 18,735 kg

Business challenge story

A different approach to energy efficiency

The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity.

The buildings sector is estimated to account for roughly 39 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 30 percent of global energy consumption, according to the US Green Building Council. One of the largest energy consumers within a building — responsible for nearly 40 percent of the structure’s overall energy use and carbon footprint — is the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

Buildings can substantially reduce their carbon footprint by adopting energy efficient HVAC solutions. For today’s new construction, energy efficiency measures are widely implemented as standard practice. For the world’s existing stock of buildings, however, retrofits to address GHG emissions are forecasted to progress at a mere 1 – 2 percent per year.Why so slowly? The answers, from the perspective of building owners, include a lack of trust in the proposed solutions and expected ROI. Pratik Sharma, Armstrong’s Global Director for Services and Performance Management, elaborates: “We interviewed a lot of building owners to understand the problem and two things stood out for us. The first was about the economics of sustainability. They say yes, I want to be green, but I'm held accountable for ROI on all my investments.”

He continues: “The second issue was transparency of savings. The whole idea of building efficiency has been around for some time, but the solutions provided in the marketplace haven’t built a lot of confidence in the owners. They’ve been given a solution and told that in two years you will save so much, but that has never come through.”

In their efforts to improve energy efficiency, most building owners have focused on retrofitting the most expensive equipment in the HVAC system: the chiller. Armstrong, however, recognized a better approach and focused, instead, on one of the smallest components of an HVAC system: the pump.

Mr. Sharma explains: “Fluid flows through the HVAC plant, which is controlled by the pump. So the pump, in essence, is the heart of the building. But building owners did not see the pump as that important. For them, it’s a motor. If it’s pumping water, it’s fine. Pumps are mechanical devices — they’re not intelligent or haven’t been intelligent.”

That’s when Armstrong, a company strongly committed to global sustainability, saw an opportunity: what if the heart of the building also had a brain?

IBM Watson can look at large amounts of data and make predictions related to maintenance, so customers can get in front of issues before performance drift becomes a problem.

Tunji Asiwaju, Global Manager Performance Management Service, Armstrong Fluid Technologies

Transformation story

Buildings with hearts and brains

Armstrong teamed with IBM to create Pump Manager, an intelligent, cloud-based asset performance management service available to customers through the company’s line of Design Envelope pumps. Powered by IBM Watson IoT technologies which include IoT platform and predictive maintenance analytics, Pump Manager continuously tracks and analyzes equipment performance, delivering real-time insights that help building owners operate and maintain their HVAC systems at optimal efficiency. The solution is part of Armstrong’s Active Performance Technology offering suite.

Through the use of code embedded in Design Envelope pumps, Pump Manager collects operating data, such as pressure levels, flow rate, energy use, vibration and other metrics. The data is automatically streamed to the company’s private cloud via the IoT platform for predictive and long-term trending analyses, and made available to customers through the company’s app or web-based dashboard.

Should the analyses find anomalies, such as excessive run-hours or vibration, Pump Manager sends real-time alerts and warnings so that operators can take action to avoid equipment failure or spikes in energy consumption.

Tunji Asiwaju, Global Manager Performance Management Service at Armstrong, shares a scenario: “Our sensors record vibrations, which are at the heart of our analytics and tell us what's going on with a piece of equipment. Every type of failure has its own unique vibration signature. So when a pump starts vibrating in an unexpected way, it’s a signal that something's wrong. Based on that information we can send alerts within our network to arrange for service. Depending on a given customer’s preference we can also advise them of what is happening with their pumps. Customers often find this helpful. They don’t want to be directly involved in arranging a solution, but they like to stay informed.”

By analyzing performance trends, Pump Manager also provides valuable insight into potential maintenance requirements and the overall health of the equipment. For example, it can identify efficiency drift.

“Predictive analytics can help customers identify small changes in trends over long periods that a human being would never see,” says Mr. Asiwaju. “IBM Watson can look at large amounts of data and make predictions related to maintenance, so customers can get in front of issues before performance drift becomes a problem.”

The greatest benefit of Pump Manager is that it provides peace of mind for the end user. With Pump Manager in place, the network of Armstrong partners can be  activated and the issue resolved without any involvement of the end user. Pump Manager notifies the service provider and sends all the details about an issue, allowing the service provider to arrive on site equipped with tools and parts to fix the issue as soon as possible. 

With the kind of intelligence that we’re able to get from the [building] plant level in partnership with IBM, I think we can play a major role in the development of smart cities.

Pratik Sharma, Global Director for Services and Performance Management, Armstrong Fluid Technologies

Results story

Slashing energy use and CO2 emissions

For building owners, getting ahead of problems helps generate financial returns. In addition to significantly reducing a building’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, customers who install or retrofit their equipment with Pump Manger realize tremendous cost savings right from the start.

“We said we will be able to make these upgrades cash flow positive for our customers from day one,” says Mr. Sharma. “That means, if they upgrade their assets with an Armstrong asset, they will save more from day one than they spend.”

To prove its claim, Armstrong sponsored upgrades for 20 buildings across the world, including India, China, the US, Canada and Europe. The impressive results, which were verified by third-party Bureau Veritas S.A., an international certification agency, are available on the company’s website and include:

  • The Zhengzhou University in Zhengzhou, China: Armstrong retrofitted a 50,000 sq meter administrative building with 10 Design Envelope Vertical In-Line pumps and Pump Manager to maintain and extend the efficiency of each pump. The retrofit reduced the university’s annual energy consumption by 78 percent and CO2 emissions by 43,303 kg, translating to CNY 45,499, or USD 6,600, in annual savings and a cost recovery period of less than two years.
  • Carlson Court in Toronto, Ontario, Canada: After installing four new Design Envelope pumps and Pump Manager for pump analytics, the 300,000 sq ft facility uses 87 percent less energy and has reduced its CO2 emissions by 131,053 kg, saving CAD 121,692 annually.
  • Bernardin Manor, a 180-apartment assisted living facility in Calumet, Illinois, US: Armstrong replaced the facility’s existing equipment with three Design Envelope Tango pumps and Pump Manager for performance management. The upgrade cut the facility’s energy use by 74 percent and reduced its CO2 emissions by 18,735 kg, resulting in USD 4,325 in annual savings.

Pump Manager also helps deliver ROI by extending efficiency. That is, by continuously managing asset performance, it helps prevent efficiency drifts — and the associated creeping energy costs — that come from the natural degradation of equipment over time. What’s more, by delivering ongoing insight into a building’s actual operations, the solution helps owners make more informed decisions related to capital expenditures and repair and maintenance.

“With our data analyses, maintenance and repair technicians can have a high degree of confidence about what’s happening with a piece of equipment before they even set foot in the building,” explains Mr. Asiwaju. “That's powerful. They can see if they have the right replacement parts. They don't have to do an assessment and then return the next day. So there’s fewer truck rolls.”

For Armstrong, reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of buildings is just the beginning. Smart cities may be next.

“None of this would have been possible without performance management of those assets,” concludes Mr. Sharma. “That’s something we've been able to do with Pump Manager, which is basically built around Watson IoT. With the kind of intelligence that we’re able to get from the [building] plant level in partnership with IBM, I think we can play a major role in the development of smart cities.”

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About Armstrong Fluid Technology

Founded in 1934 and based in Toronto, Canada, Armstrong is an innovator in the design, engineering and manufacturing of intelligent fluid flow equipment for the healthcare, education, government, retail, commercial and residential sectors, among many others. Offerings include Design Envelope technology, system automation and optimization services, and solutions for HVAC, plumbing and fire safety. The company operates eight manufacturing facilities across five continents and employs more than 1,200 people.

Take the next step

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