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Food factory deploys digital twin to cut carbon emissions

by Mark Cantrell
A supermarket group's food production arm has become the first in the retail sector to deploy digital twin technology to reduce its building energy use and carbon emissions.

A supermarket group’s food production arm has become the first in the retail sector to deploy digital twin technology to reduce its building energy use and carbon emissions.

Myton Food Group, part of Morrisons, is using digital twin technology from IES at its 49,000 sq ft site in Winsford, Cheshire, to help inform its path to net zero food production.

This live digital replica of the Winsford site will respond and behave like its real-life counterpart, providing operational insights, and forecasting the impact of retrofit options in order to inform the company’s decarbonisation plans.

The project estimates that energy savings of up to 20% will be achieved in the short term, with further savings to be made down the line.

Adam Goves, sector lead for manufacturing and infrastructure at IES, said: “This collaborative project is a major milestone that sets a precedent for the wider food manufacturing industry. It’s great to be on board with Myton Food Group at this major milestone in its sustainability journey, providing the business with the evidence base to help make informed decisions about future operations at its Winsford facility.

“The energy, carbon, and cost savings we expect to deliver at Winsford through the IES digital twin and IES Live point to significant opportunities to improve the way we manufacture food here in the UK going forward – which could go some way to help tackle our increasingly pressing climate challenge.”

A major contributing factor to the industry’s emissions stems from energy-intensive production lines and the buildings that house them. To tackle this issue head-on, Myton has commissioned IES, a global climate technology firm, to create the first ‘live’ operational digital twin within the UK supermarket manufacturing sector to support in-use evaluation and performance optimisation across the buildings on the site, as well as mapping the site’s pathway to net-zero.

The technology works by first developing a digital energy model of the site using the IES Virtual Environment, giving detailed information on the building fabric, layout, HVAC systems, and occupancy profiles. The model is then fed with metered data from the factory, to create a performance digital twin – a digital replica that responds and behaves just like its real-world counterpart.

This performance digital twin can then be linked to the energy and carbon management platform, IES Live, and used to forecast the effectiveness of various energy and carbon conservation measures.

These may range from simple operational adjustments, such as changes in control setpoints, through to more intensive retrofit measures or deployment of renewables on site. The technology accurately identifies the most technically and cost-efficient interventions, enabling Myton Food Group to develop a measurable, verifiable, and actionable net-zero roadmap for Winsford, built upon science-based analysis and reporting.

Once retrofit options have been implemented, IES Live can then be used to track and verify that the predicted savings have been realised. By establishing a live-data link to the digital twin through the use of building management systems, energy sensors, and heat meters, incoming data can be collected and analysed to test the effectiveness of the renovation measures.

Based on IES’ evidence-based forecasting, the Winsford site is projected to achieve significant energy and cost savings against 2022 figures. Initially, the project will be targeting a minimum of 5%-20% savings, through the identification of short-term operational and shallow retrofit ‘quick wins’ alone.

However, it is anticipated that these savings will continue to rise over time as further energy conservation measures, informed by the digital twin and IES Live, are implemented across the site.

Sophie Throup, manufacturing technical and sustainability director for Myton Food Group, said: “We are looking forward to working with IES to help create a digital footprint for the Winsford site. We hope that through this partnership, the technology will improve our efficiencies throughout the site and help us work towards our goal of having net zero carbon emissions across our own operations by 2035; giving us learnings we can use across the rest of our manufacturing sites.”

Read next: GCCA agrees decarbonisation deal with UN body

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