ZF already had a strong foundation to build upon thanks to an outstanding digitalised network that captures any systems that either require or actually generate energy. As a result, a uniform architecture was already in place, offering bidirectional connection via OPC. The SPHINX OPEN load management system (LMS) now enables ZF not only to predict energy requirements, but also to control and manage them accordingly. To do this, energy managers define rules for temporarily shutting down systems that consume energy or switching on systems that generate energy. Operators can also lay down any parameters that should be adhered to and if necessary make independent adjustments. The system can operate autonomously when managing loads – it requires zero manual intervention.
The system is fed with continuous data on power generation, consumption and demand. It is also supplied with information on any other components connected to the energy system. This is enriched with historical data, weather forecasts and production planning data, thus making it possible to set priorities on a minute-by-minute basis and define which system components should be switched on or shut down to ensure loads remain within defined levels for a defined period.
At the heart of the solution lie digital twins, providing virtual mirrors of all relevant machinery based on SPHINX OPEN. As well as updating energy readings, these also provide continuously reviewed information on energy sources and the current degree of system flexibility. By linking up-to-the-minute data with historical readings and external data, the system produces the required forecasts based on intelligent estimations.
To do this, it is given a simple and straightforward target: don’t exceed defined loads. It then adheres to this target by gathering data from all machines or systems producing or consuming energy, checking and reviewing information every minute. Responsibility for data connections, evaluations, monitoring and forecasting is given to the coordination system that lies at the core of this solution: the Model in the Middle. Its architecture makes it possible to link digital images of all data sources bi-directionally, such that the originators of data not only submit information, but also derive benefit from this information in executing optimisation protocols. The Model in the Middle also reacts to changes in operational parameters, technical problems and system failures by autonomously initiating predefined remedies. For example, in the event of an impending outage, corrective action may be to postpone energy-intensive processes or place certain equipment on hold. These predefined rules are set up and catalogued by ZF experts, who regularly compare and contrast parameters with operational requirements. The open interfaces offered by the system make it possible to connect up any required control technology, as well as external sources of data on temperature forecasts, wind levels and sunshine. The result is a comprehensive energy management system that can be extended at any time.