Webinar Series Provides Fresh Insights On Driving Sustainability

Learn to accelerate your sustainability goals using time-series data

Green globe on gress

Matt Saxton

This is the first of a series of interviews with customers, market analysts, and any other subject matter experts who will explore a topic that we believe is important to a successful advanced analytics transition. Our first interview is with our head of customer success in the DACH region, Laura Linnig. Today, Laura is going to talk about our ongoing webinar series, The Sustainability Labs, where we are demonstrating how driving sustainability can be achieved using time-series data.

Matt: Why did TrendMiner decide to host these webinars?

Laura:  Actually, the idea of the sustainability labs stems from some research we did about industry focus areas where we know TrendMiner will provide massive value. Traditionally, the process manufacturing industry is using time-series data mainly for production process improvements. But the more research our team did on the buzzword “sustainability,” the more and better we understood how data analytics could be a game changer. Our annual user event, TrendLab, served as a template for The Sustainability Labs. Water, Energy, and Data Science are treasure troves where we think we not only can unearth solutions hiding in operational data, but also support companies and industries to achieve their sustainability goals. Everyone is talking about data, efficiency, and sustainability. But how are those three words related, and why are they so relevant to us? The idea of the webinar series is to take the audience onto a journey where we take a closer look on how those questions could be tackled.

Digitalization is more than just a tool for achieving climate-neutral production; it could be a complete game changer. TrendMiner provides a way to lower CO2 emissions and their equivalents, thereby protecting the climate, all while optimizing productivity.

 Jörg Hellwig, chief digital officer at LANXESS

Manufacturing companies are presented with new challenges, and sustainability is among the biggest. A framework for sustainability, “Environmental, Social, and Governance” (or ESG for short), has become popular in the past few years and often is used interchangeably to mean sustainability. Closely linked to these ideas are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The topic of sustainability becomes increasingly crucial as regulations and public awareness continue to strengthen. Companies in all industries are investigating heavily how best to be prepared for that challenge.

Additionally, organizations have learned to function during a global pandemic and an intense political uprising in Europe that threatens the energy supply.

Matt: You mentioned new challenges. What are some of the ways companies are facing those challenges?

Laura: One of the main goals in Customer Success is to support our customers to achieve one or multiple business objectives. That’s why they bought our product, and why they invested in our solution. Furthermore, by closely and mutually working with them toward achieving their business objectives, we form strong and lasting relationships most of the time because they trust TrendMiner and our product. Hence, we learned a lot about our customers’ ideas and vision, including specifically their sustainability goals, including:

  • Environmental: Reduce energy, pollution, waste, and emissions
  • Social: Provide workforce enablement and efficiency
  • Governance: Increase transparency and regulatory compliance

All three areas, which make up the ESG framework, must be incorporated into a company’s long-term goals. Everyone needs to be able and enabled to contribute to improvements. We are convinced data analysis can help organizations achieve those goals.

Matt: What do you hope to accomplish during this webinar series?

Laura: Our intention is to inspire companies, process experts, and anyone who might play a role in supporting in-house initiatives by showing them how data can help make their company more efficient and help them achieve their sustainability goals. The immense progress in technology recently has made it possible to collect large amounts of sensor-generated production data from various sources. Because of a lack of knowledge and solutions, it sometimes is impossible for operators and engineers to extract meaningful and valuable information from those large datasets. Most often, data is collected and digitally stored but not used. In my opinion, this is unfortunate, as there are areas where sensor-generated production data can accelerate potential sustainability goals. They include reducing resource and energy consumption, improving plant performance, and cutting carbon emissions while maintaining overall profitability.

Matt: Why do you think a solution such as TrendMiner can help companies achieve these goals with their data?

Laura: I am a strong believer that advanced analytics solutions offer companies the opportunity to maximize and harvest value stored in the wealth of data they already possess. Our customers recognize that evaluating this data can support them in accomplishing their sustainability goals. Analysis of time-series and contextual data might not be a first thought when talking net zero operations, decreasing carbon emissions, or increasing energy savings, but they can and should be linked to sustainability. That’s why we created The Sustainability Labs webinar series. With WaterLab, EnergyLab, and DataScienceLab, we want to provide food for thought. We want to inspire the industry to have everyone use operational data more efficiently for working toward a more sustainable future. It’s about rolling out successful projects locally, on a large scale, and globally.

map of the world

Gridded wastewater production (a) collection (b) treatment (c) reuse (d) around the world. Source: Earth System Science Data

Matt: TrendMiner’s series focuses on three specific areas. One is water and wastewater, while the others are energy and the use of data science in process manufacturing. Let’s start with water. Can you talk about some of the challenges the water industry faces today?

Laura: It is common knowledge that water plays a crucial role when it comes to sustainability. If you look at the water cycle, it quickly becomes clear that everything is connected to everything else. Households and industries need clean water from a municipal water treatment plant. In industry, water use ranges from high-purity process water in the pharmaceutical industry to cooling water for the chemical industry.

Downstream of the plant, industrial wastewater is an undesirable by-product with varying degrees of pollution depending on the industry. Wastewater from the oil & gas industry requires different treatment than in the food and beverage industry, for example. Some facilities generate wastewater that can be treated in sewage treatment plants, while others have their own specialized facilities to treat wastewater. In the end, treated wastewater must comply with the regulations regarding disposal into sewers or into rivers, lakes, or oceans.

Engineer takes water sample

Some sustainability challenges have become more relevant. They include water quality, environmental regulations, and operational efficiency. Each influences the process manufacturing industry and the water industry. Water, and especially wastewater treatment, consumes huge amounts of energy. Furthermore, water treatment is intrinsically energy intensive because of the need to move large streams of water. During 2020, North America and Europe alone produced more than 67 billion cubic meters of municipal wastewater!

And yet, in each of these challenges for the water industry, the clues hidden inside operational data can help process experts achieve sustainable outcomes.

Matt: And this is where a sustainability focus on water and energy overlap, correct?

Laura: That’s right. Industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plants are huge energy consumers. In our second water webinar, we discussed optimizing the aeration system to save energy. The pressurized system in the aeration tank usually requires the greatest amount of energy by far of all the process steps in a municipal wastewater treatment plant. On average, the energy consumption for aeration is about 50 percent of the total energy demand of a plant. This number alone shows how important it is that wastewater plants run optimally and as energy-efficiently as possible.

Matt: We’ve crossed into the area of energy management. You already hinted at a couple of the challenges industries face when it comes to energy, but those are not the only ones, correct?

Laura: Yes, and some challenges have become more urgent to resolve. For example, industries are changing from fossil energy sources to renewable energies. They must comply with increasingly stringent environmental regulations. Energy and CO2 reduction toward net zero operations, or workforce & process efficiency desires – they all influence the process manufacturing industry and the energy industry itself.

Matt: How have these changes affected the process manufacturing industry?

Laura: We did some research while preparing for the labs. The industrial sector uses more delivered energy than any other end-use sector. It consumes about 54% of the world’s total delivered energy. With 24% greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, the industrial sector is in third place after transportation (27%) and electricity generation (25%) in terms of CO2 production. In the process manufacturing industry, greenhouse gas emissions primarily come from burning fossil fuels for energy and from certain chemical reactions necessary to produce goods from raw materials. And in 2018 alone, manufacturers consumed 37% of natural gas and 7.2% of oil, which means they have a long way to go to address their dependence and achieve these goals.

Matt: Are there future challenges to consider?

Laura: My honest answer is yes, and they will be plentiful. In addition to what we’ve already mentioned, there may be other problems in the future if current trends do not change. For example, process manufacturers will have to consider additional changes if oil & gas prices continue to rise, their availability continues to decrease, or more environmental regulations to counteract climate change affect their use. In each case, companies that embrace advanced analytics will have at their fingertips the information necessary to make those changes. As they find clues for improvements hiding in their own data, they find that spark for changing ideas.

Matt: Are there other resources available?

Laura: We still have four webinars remaining! Two more webinars will focus on water, while two will have energy in their spotlight. Our data science labs have yet to begin. And remember, when you register for one session, you are registered for all remaining sessions!

Check out the full schedule of The Sustainability Labs and register for the upcoming events.

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