Kikkoman Netherlands uses a VPVision system with eight flow meters to monitor compressed air leakage and to allocate costs to various production lines. In the first weeks after installation a 20,000 euro per year leak was discovered by VPVision.
Kikkoman Foods Europe BV has been producing this world-famous Japanese soy sauce for the European market in the Dutch town of Hoogezand‑Sappemeer near Groningen since 1997. It has been doing so following a centuries-old tradition of natural brewing. Six years ago, an Energy Savings Committee was established at the factory with the aim of minimizing energy consumption per litre of soy sauce produced. Results were impressive and energy consumption was drastically reduced.
Paul Meerman explains, “although Kikkoman markets several varieties of soy sauce, the basis is always the same. Not only is the basis the same, but production methods are also the same at all locations around the world. In theory, there is absolutely no difference between the soy sauce produced in the Netherlands and that produced elsewhere in the world. Its taste is the same everywhere. The latest development in our range of soy sauces is a gluten-free variety.”
In addition to electricity, gas and water, Kikkoman also uses compressed air as a power source. Compressed air constitutes an essential part of the production process described above and is also the largest cost item. For some time now, Kikkoman has been researching options for reducing its compressed air consumption as part of the above mentioned cost savings programme.
In order to monitor compressed air consumption throughout the entire plant, VPInstruments installed air flow meters with diameters ranging from 25 to 76 mm (1 to 3″) in each department. Pascal van Putten (CEO at VPInstruments) explains, “all these air flow meters take readings on a continuous basis and transmit their data to the VPVision visualization system installed in the compressor room. The screen displays real-time compressed air consumption data for each department. Pie charts illustrate which loads are consuming the most air.”
Renting adds, “The maintenance department investigates whether there are any compressed air leaks in the system during off-peak hours. Depending on the severity of any leaks found, a decision is made as to whether to take immediate action or to postpone repair. It isn’t always an option to seal leaks immediately, as there are parts of the production process that are always in standby. For example, line pumps and bottle checkers.”
Meerman adds, “since opening this plant in 1997, we’ve succeeded in cutting energy costs by 32% for compressors alone! We’re currently using six air flow meters and soon we’ll have eight – one in each department. In order to monitor the process properly, it’s important that we can address each factory department individually. This wasn’t initially possible. Back then, we were using one main air line with multiple branches to each department, which made monitoring particularly tricky.”
Now we have a distribution station that splits supplies properly. If maintenance is being performed in a particular department, then that section can be temporarily shut down. We’re currently researching whether options exist to temporarily shut off non-operational departments from the compressed air system altogether. This would reduce consumption even further.”
Kikkoman Corporation’s worldwide production facilities are benchmarked every year with regard to energy savings in order to minimize the energy used per litre of soy sauce produced. The Netherlands scores well as a production facility. “We have to remain alert to maintain this level in the future. Especially when expanding operations in the future. We’ll be examining every new system very critically with regard to its energy consumption levels” Renting states.