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How Byworth Boilers in the UK made the digital leap by partnering with ABB

In a world where the concept of going digital has become the norm, staying ahead of the pack relies on much more than just adopting the latest internet-connected devices.

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Here, the secret to digital success lies in manufacturers building alliances with major technology companies. This is just what happened when UK boiler manufacturer Byworth Boilers teamed up with ABB to develop a distributed control system (DCS) for steam-boilers that provides precise temperature control in the food and beverage market.

Why steam makes an ideal choice for the food and beverage sector

At the most basic level, the concept of a steam boiler is not far removed from the same physical process that occurs when you heat water in a pan on the kitchen stove. The energy from a fuel source such as burning gas heats the water to generate steam, which can be used to cook food.

Scale this up to an industrial level and, even today, steam is one of the most efficient and cost-effective means of transferring large volumes of heat. Add to this the sterilizing qualities of steam and it’s easy to see why steam makes an ideal choice for the food and beverage sector.

It’s no wonder, then, that the global market for industrial boilers is expected to reach a value of $14bn by 2024 according to research firm Global Market Insights. The growth will be driven by demand for packaged food, as well as regulations that promote energy conservation and emission reductions.

Main facts

Industry Food and Beverage | OEM
Customer Byworth Boilers
Country United Kingdom
Solutions
Year
2018

Boiler challenges

As with any boiler, the major challenge for the food and beverage sector is temperature control. Uniformity of temperature is critical for the even cooking and processing of food. Fluctuations or an inconsistent output from the boiler can result in spoilt product that may need to be discarded.

As a company that is celebrating fifty years of boiler manufacturing, Byworth Boilers understands this problem better than most. Based in the West Yorkshire town of Keighley, England, Byworth Boilers has been manufacturing steam and hot water boilers since 1968.

“Whether they’re microbreweries, distilleries, bakers, confectioners, soft-drink manufacturers or meat and poultry processors, our customers face many challenges with temperature control,” explains Jason Atkinson, control systems engineer at Byworth Boilers. “The growing demand from supermarkets and other retailers means that our customers can no longer rely on traditional hot water boilers or direct-fired ovens to accurately and continuously control temperature throughout the cooking process."

“By manipulating the relationship between pressure, volume and temperature, we can precisely control the temperature of the steam exported from the boiler to the process line. A steam pressure of 10 bar, for example, equates to a temperature of 184 degrees Celsius.”

As the steam exits the boiler, an external feed tank replenishes it with more water to maintain the water level. This feed water is pumped into the boiler at a temperature of 90 degrees Celsius, where it is reheated to maintain the pressure in the boiler. However, this process needs to be controlled effectively. Not adding enough feed-water will cause the level to drop; adding too much will cause the steam pressure to drop.

 

Jason Atkinson, control systems engineer at Byworth Boilers

"By manipulating the relationship between pressure, volume and temperature, we can precisely control the temperature of the steam exported from the boiler to the process line. A steam pressure of 10 bar, for example, equates to a temperature of 184 degrees Celsius."

Going digital - taking the advantage of Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities

Traditionally, this process was controlled using an on-off control loop where a set volume of water was fed to the boiler between high and low set points. However, the problem with this approach is that two control-loops are constantly fighting against one another to maintain equilibrium. Using this method, the fuel burner is having to work harder to maintain a constant pressure while the feed water is added over the course of a few minutes.

The alternative to this method of maintaining steam pressure is to use a modulating control loop. Here, the incoming flow of water is restricted in proportion to the water level in the boiler. To do this, the pump runs constantly, and the flow is reduced using a feed-water control valve.

In tests conducted by Byworth, the modulating approach used 1.7 per cent less fuel compared to the on-off system for the same amount of steam exported. However, as increasingly precise control loops such as these are used in applications, the fragmented nature of traditional control systems is becoming apparent.

“Traditionally, boiler houses have employed discrete, or separate, control signals for each piece of equipment,” explains Atkinson. “Whether it’s the feedwater pump, the main boiler level, the burner firing rate, or the bottom blowdown valve that removes the build-up of contaminants, each piece of equipment is regulated by its own control system.

“What’s more, these systems don’t talk to each other, and this fragmentation makes it difficult for the customer to see at a glance what’s going on in their entire network. As a result, they also often lack the ability to see trends in the data that’s generated or to use that data to create automated responses.

“Not only are our customers looking for safe and reliable boilers, they are keen to take advantage of Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities such as remote monitoring and control as well as digital integration across the board.”

Jason Atkinson, control systems engineer at Byworth Boilers

“Not only are our customers looking for safe and reliable boilers, they are keen to take advantage of Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities such as remote monitoring and control as well as digital integration across the board.”

Centralized control with the Freelance DCS

To solve the issue of efficiency and fragmentation, and to help its customers integrate advanced digital technologies into their setups, Byworth Boilers began the search for a suitable technology partner.

“We talked to some of the industry’s leading technology companies and decided to partner with ABB,” explains Atkinson. “We felt the company truly listened to us and understood our needs. As a result, we opted to use ABB’s Freelance DCS at the heart of our Unity program.”

Freelance is ABB’s DCS offering that provides a fully-fledged control system in a small footprint. It offers a way of integrating control engineering, commissioning, maintenance, and fieldbus management into a single package. It also features an all-in-one database, integrated HMI faceplates, logging of historical data and alarm management.

“With ABB’s Freelance DCS there is no need for separate PLC control,” explains Anders Forsberg, ABB regional sales for the Business Unit Control Technologies. “Freelance has been around for twenty-five years and you can still take that code and develop it into applications today.”

This is exactly what Byworth Boilers did. The company used Freelance as a platform on top of which it built its own software application. Unity is an intelligent boiler-house control system developed by Byworth to operate boiler applications.

The system uses a central interface with a built-in touch screen and it can also be accessed remotely using any PC or mobile device. It gives operators a way of seeing trended data such as boiler and manifold pressure, water levels, water conductivity, hot well levels and temperature, blowdown temperature, flue temperature and gas analysis, as well as a variety of other boiler configuration variables.

“As well as the flexibility of the control system, the training that ABB provided was pivotal,” explains Atkinson. “I didn’t have any coding or PLC experience prior to the Unity project, so I went on a week-long course delivered by ABB. Within three months, I had developed the code for the Unity application and within six months of working with ABB, we had sold our first boiler equipped with the new system.”

Jason Atkinson, control systems engineer at Byworth Boilers

“We talked to some of the industry’s leading technology companies and decided to partner with ABB. We felt the company truly listened to us and understood our needs. As a result, we opted to use ABB’s Freelance DCS at the heart of our Unity program.”

System-wide digital integration

“The partnership with ABB has been a success not only for our business, but it has also had a knock-on effect on our customers,” continues Atkinson. “One of our distillery customers in Scotland was able to achieve a 12 per cent saving on fuel costs using our new boilers. Six per cent of this was attributed to a new design of the boiler shell and six per cent was directly attributed to the efficiency achieved through the new control system."

“The implication for our business has also been positive. We have been able to standardize our project range, bring design engineering in-house, and have a lot more control over the technologies we develop for our customers.”

Following on from the Unity project, Byworth Boilers has expanded its relationship with ABB to include other technology such as variable speed drives and steam flowmeter sensors. In addition to helping its customers make cost savings, Byworth has also received industry recognition for its technology. In 2015, the company won the Lord Derek Ezra award for innovation, presented at the House of Lords, and in 2016 it won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation.

The tide of digitalization is shifting, away from the benefits provided by individual internet-connected devices, to system-wide digital integration that encompasses themes such as reliability, efficiency and long-term sustainability. As the battle for digitalization heats up, forging digital alliances may well be the winning strategy.

Jason Atkinson, control systems engineer at Byworth Boilers

“One of our distillery customers in Scotland was able to achieve a 12 per cent saving on fuel costs using our new boilers."

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