New research effort aims to help Hoosier manufacturers cut energy costs

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Organizers of a new research project aim to use data analytics and other high-tech tools to help Hoosier manufacturers reduce their energy consumption.

The effort is part of AnalytiXIN, a program launched in September 2020 to build connections between Indiana’s manufacturing and life sciences industries and the state’s research universities.

In this manufacturing energy project, researchers from Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame will use data gathered from the state’s new Energy INsights program, which helps participating manufacturers collect and analyze information about their energy usage.

The big picture: In combining the data sets from these individual manufacturers into a publicly accessible database known as a “data lake,” users will be able to tap that data in ways that are useful to both manufacturing and academia.

It’s an early-stage and complex project with a lot of partners, and those involved say it could spark insights and innovations that have not previously been possible.

“This is the democratization of manufacturing data,” said Fred Cartwright, the president and CEO of Indianapolis-based project partner Conexus Indiana. “It’s big for the state.”

Manufacturing is one of the state’s major industry sectors. Indiana is home to 8,000 manufacturers, Cartwright said, most of them small- to medium-sized businesses that lack the resources to analyze their own energy use.

Other partners in the new manufacturing research project include Indianapolis-based Energy Systems Network; the Emerging Manufacturing Collaboration Center, or EMC2; and Amazon Web Services, all three of which are involved in the Energy INsights program.

Energy INsights, which launched in March, offers participants the chance to install sensors in their manufacturing area, collect data and transfer it to an AWS account where it’s stored, analyzed and modeled using artificial intelligence. The participating company then receives insights it can use to help reduce its energy costs.

To date, about 30 companies have signed up to participate in Energy INsights, Cartwright said. The program’s goal is to enroll 100 companies within the first year. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has provided $5 million to defray all or part of the participation cost for companies.

The new piece of the equation is that the Energy INsights participants can choose to also contribute their data to the data lake, creating a larger data pool that will be accessible to both manufacturers and researchers.

“I could potentially see a lot of interest in that data,” said Valentina Kuskova, who heads up Notre Dame’s AnalytiXIN activities at 16 Tech.

Electrical engineers, for instance, could tap into the data when developing their models, she said, and professors would have access to real-world data they could use in the classroom. Manufacturers can access the data lake to see a wider range of information than they could collect from their own operations.

And manufacturers should find the data of interest, Kuskova said, because manufacturing is typically so energy-intensive that a company can see significant savings by cutting its energy use by even 10%. “That is directly impacting the bottom line.”

Kuskova said the universities will begin adding Energy INsights data to the data lake starting in late August or early September.

AnalytiXIN launched a YouTube webinar series on the manufacturing research project this month. Kuskova said another 20 or so monthly webinars are planned, along with short tutorials on using and understanding data.

AnalytiXIN is also planning two conferences, one in May 2023 and one in January or February 2024.

“We plan to have a lot of interaction between academia and industry,” Kuskova said.

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