Advanced control system cuts costs for companies
October 18, 2017
FAPESP Research for Innovation – Suzano Papel e Celulose, the world’s second-largest producer of eucalyptus pulp, controls its boilers using advanced control technology developed by I.Systems. Each boiler is powered by different energy sources with different combustion speeds, including biomass, gas, and black liquor, a byproduct of the chemical treatment process used in the pulp and paper industry. Leaf, as I.Systems’ advanced control system is called, enables Suzano to forecast variations in consumption and control air flow and fuel intake, among other measures that ultimately cut costs. Previously, whenever Suzano needed to increase or decrease steam consumption, it had to control each boiler to keep pressure stable and avoid a rise in operating cost.
Leaf is designed to solve common problems in the regulation of industrial automation. Based on fuzzy logic, the technology enables manufacturers to control a large number of variables in any production line (read more at i.systems.com.br/en/product).
Leaf was first tested at Coca-Cola Femsa in Jundiaí, São Paulo State, Brazil. Using the system, the brand’s largest bottler in Latin America achieved a 31% reduction in waste due to variations in injected liquid levels and a 42% reduction in losses due to excessive fizzing, as well as being able to control pressure and flow valves at the same time. The result was a savings of 500,000 liters of soft drink and 100,000 PET bottles per year.
The system is also used by Votorantim Metais, Ambev, Oxiteno, Usina São Martinho and Ajinomoto, among other customers in 25 industries.
Product development began in 2007, when Igor Santiago, a computer engineer with a degree from the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), founded the startup I.Systems with three other partners. FAPESP’s Innovative Research in Small Business Program (PIPE) supported some components of the system, including a mini-simulator, a proof of concept for the controller, and later IntFuzzy, the first version of Leaf (read more at agencia.fapesp.br/17230).
The business model was ambitious. “We planned to supply the same product to any company,” Santiago says. It was also daring: “We focused on the customer’s problem and on the technology. We ignored market size, which to our way of thinking was infinite.”
The innovative potential and scalability built into the system attracted the attention of Pitanga Fund, which has US$380 million under management and is run by biologist Fernando Reinach. Pitanga entered into a partnership with I.Systems.
The association with Pitanga was crucial to defining the value-based pricing model implemented by I.Systems. The customer firm uses Leaf for a certain period, during which the benefits are measured. “Only then does the customer decide whether to purchase and license the product,” Santiago says. “If the product doesn’t add value, there’s nothing to remunerate. It’s a sophisticated commercial model used by few companies, but it’s the model of the future.”
I.Systems has begun prospecting for its first overseas customers. “At the end of 2015, we applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a patent to protect the technology for a Windows-based control system,” Santiago says.
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