THrough-life Energy and Resource Modelling (THERM)
The THERM project has been set up to tackle one of the major barriers to uptake of more sustainable manufacturing practices – the ability to model and understand what is possible. Currently, no ‘tools’ are in regular use by manufacturers to assess environmental performance, identify improvement areas and help suggest concrete actions.
THERM seeks to integrate ‘Sustainable Building Design’ tools and ‘Sustainable Manufacturing Process’ tools to achieve an ‘Integrated Sustainable Manufacturing’ system. It is concerned with the creation of a new, innovative commercial modelling tool specifically for the manufacturing industry.
The project will develop, use and deliver a new integrated sustainable manufacturing modelling tool that simulates the manufacturing process as an integrated system of energy, material and waste flows to help identify more resource efficient and sustainable opportunities. Current tools do not integrate the analysis of the production system and the buiding system and so they cannot identify opportunities that are sensible for both the environment and production performance criteria.
The THERM project and tool aim to help move the manufacturing industry towards a more resource-efficient, low-carbon future; by highlighting the sustainability and economic benefits of an integrated modelling process, and highlighting facts and figures that prove just how huge the potential for energy reduction is.
Any sustainable manufacturing modelling tool must be capable of modelling the interaction between the production system and its physical environment – firstly the building itself and then the locality (for example, sustainable manufacturing tactics include the potential to use local waste to power production processes, or the provision of waste heat from production to other local businesses).
This project will develop a tool that through such integrated modelling can help identify improvements via its database of tactics. These sustainable manufacturing tactics have to account for location and time, as well as production process, in a manner that is not currently supported by either manufacturing process simulation tools, or building energy tools.
The demand for manufacturing to become low-carbon and resource-efficient is coming partly from governments through various UK, EU and even US strategies, with the UK Low Carbon Economy Summit in March 2009 announcing the Low Carbon Industrial Strategy (currently in consultation). The Chinese Premier has announced plans to move China beyond an industrial civilisation to become the World’s first ‘ecological civilisation’. The signal for manufacturing to act is loud. The ability of manufacturing to act is much lower – there are a few leading companies, but in general manufacturers have limited experience of the concrete actions needed and have a limited tool set to call upon.
The THERM project is made up of an independent consortium of academic and business partners working together as part of a Technology Strategy Board Competition winning group.
The team includes Airbus UK (aerospace) and Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK (automotive) who are highly representative of UK manufacturing and will provide test sites. Cranfield University and De Montfort University are experienced modellers and researchers in manufacturing processes, and buildings and services. IES Ltd has the simulation tool development expertise, and market presence and clear motivation to exploit the tool for the benefit of the whole UK manufacturing industry.
Airbus and Toyota are already sophisticated in their energy reduction efforts, but recognise the potential through this tool to increase savings and spread their knowledge to the manufacturing community as a whole. Extensive academic research will be undertaken alongside development of the tool and results substantiated in real-life situations at the pilot project sites; Airbus Creep Age Forming/ Anodic Surface Treatments and Toyota Paint Shop.