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With the help of digital technology, energy performance at Airbus is preparing for takeoff

ENGIE Cofely, which has been operating the electricity, heating, ventilation and air conditioning facilities at Airbus for over 30 years, decided to use the Blu.e digital solution to boost its energy performance contract and potentially lower energy consumption at the aircraft manufacturer’s Toulouse site.

Close to 300 ENGIE employees are working on this multi-site assignment in Toulouse, Nantes, Saint-Nazaire, Marignane, Élancourt and Paris-Le-Bourget, tasked with providing Airbus with continuity of service, managing its energy production and distribution facilities, and maintaining its equipment.


An industrial Energy Performance Contract

Since 2015, these services have been covered by an Energy Performance Contract (EPC) that offers the prospect of a bonus commensurate with the results obtained at each of the sites. With the establishment of these EPCs, the commitment to achieving virtuous energy management at the sites has become a major stake for ENGIE. Right from the first few months, ENGIE was led to bring in no-cost management initiatives such as daily monitoring of energy consumption, schedule optimisation and a reduction in energy production when the Airbus workshops have less work. This worked well, but three years down the road, some sites are approaching their performance limit asymptote. Today a different course of action has to be considered to keep improving energy performance.


Big Data analysis and predictive management

To continue improving energy performance, ENGIE Cofely had to choose between investing in having work done, in which case the notion of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is of prime importance, or using a digital solution for Big Data analysis and prediction. For the Airbus site in Toulouse, it chose the latter solution. “For six months, we made regular trips to Toulouse to carry out a study designed to identify best practices in three areas: the biomass power plant operated by ENGIE Cofely, the assembly lines and the paint booths,” says Gonzague Hétier, project manager at Blu.e.


Energy savings on the paint booths

The analyses of the paint booths revealed a potential for substantial energy savings. ENGIE Cofely technicians studied the variability of three Energy Performance Indicators (EPIs): electricity, heat and quantity of exhaust air, all expressed per cubic metre of supply air. The analysis showed that electricity consumption could be reduced by 5% by not overheating or over-humidifying the booths. Another finding: the data showed that the temperature and the ambient hygrometry in the booths were far from optimised for the booth utilisation phase, since the most energy-hungry phase (the painting phase) was over-used by comparison with the theoretical times for this phase of the aircraft painting process.


Management tools for monitoring energy performance

Because of the absolute necessity of maintaining it production rates, Airbus gives precedence to the quality and productivity of its industrial process, afraid that it might take too long to bring the booth back up to the required temperature and restore the conditions for applying paint to the fuselages. Blu.e’s predictive analysis, using a model based on the data history, demonstrated that it was possible to model the time taken to restore the desired temperature and hygrometry in the paint booths, so that they could be left in economy mode for as long as possible. This would reduce gas consumption by around 15%. Lastly, the ratio of exhaust air to supply air varied greatly, suggesting that substantial energy savings could be achieved by supervising the ratio in real time.

“These promising results prompted us to provide Airbus with a dashboard for monitoring the variability of the three EPIs: kWhheat/m3 supply air, kWhelectricity/m3 supply air and the exhaust air/supply air ratio, the time taken to bring the paint booths back up to temperature, and the weather conditions. We also have the capacity to provide a personalised energy performance report for each aircraft. These are effective energy-performance management and monitoring tools, which ENGIE Cofely was able to bring to its client Airbus!” says Gonzague Hétier.


Pending the digital solution’s deployment for utilities in the Airbus process, ENGIE Cofely has entrusted the Blu.e teams with the task of optimising management of the hot and cold networks at the Toulouse facility. Formerly stand-alone production equipment has recently been interconnected, creating production and distribution networks that are difficult to manage. The “investment” and “Big Data and predictive analysis” components are being rolled into one to maximise savings for Airbus and ENGIE Cofely under the EPC.