Condition monitoring 3Manufacturing companies around the world are leveraging data generated from fully-instrumented plants to improve productivity and adjust processes, but also to reduce consumption of key resources such as energy, water and raw materials. The Internet of Things paradigm enables a smarter way to monitor production assets, and wireless networks are critical for implementing advanced sensor architectures to closely monitor key parameters such as temperature, pressure, emissions and vibrations, thus achieving greater control over plants performance and sustainability indicators.

Within Symbioptima consortium, the Swiss technology company Paradox Engineering is working with nxtControl and Synesis to develop a multi-layer technological framework for wireless sensing, monitoring and distributed supervisory control, allowing companies to collect and transport industrial data and feed plant-related decisions, demand-response strategies and repeatable dynamic models.

Two wireless hardware platforms are being engineered, both enhancing 6LowPAN wireless functionalities and integrating the IEC 61499 technological protocol. The first platform deals with Low Power Nodes: these wireless nodes stand out for a very limited power consumption, and are therefore suitable to connect battery-powered applications to the network and enable bidirectional communications. The second platform supports the implementation of High Performance Nodes to interface smart industrial devices, and Wireless Gateways to attach and detach nodes across the wireless mesh network. An integrated software architecture has also been developed to manage the entire infrastructure and its components.

The wireless sensor network solution is planned to be tested and validated in a small-scale industrial environment at the project partner Spirax-Sarco industrial site. It will be demonstrated at the production plant, where a set of complex thermal energy production facilities and a distribution network are also in use, including steam and condensed water returns.

The ultimate goal - to improve the overall sustainability of industrial processes from an economic, environmental and social point of view - cannot be achieved only through the classical scheme of competition. Indeed, the cooperating management of resources (including energy, waste and by-products) and the consequential integration of processing activities, by means of a nature-inspired industrial symbiosis, has to become a major driver in the transition to truly sustainable process industries. Many motivations exist for pursuing this type of industrial symbiosis, either directly or indirectly as a result of trying to meet other objectives.

Industrial clusters are groups of inter-related industries that drive wealth creation in a region, primarily through export of goods and services, while Industrial Symbiosis (IS) can be considered a way to handle activities among companies in the same Industrial cluster. Inside decisions are related to the single plant and they can be related to the single Production Units (PUs) within each plant. These decisions are optimized respect to own KPIs. We deny the PUs as the atomic decision units within an industrial cluster and we treat each of them as a single decision maker. Indeed, when dealing with a symbiotic cluster, the moment we have to take some decisions we have also to consider what is happening at cluster level. For this reason, we can introduce the concept of outside decisions. They are optimized respect to cluster-level KPIs, which in turn have a twofold purpose: from one side they have to increase the wealth related to a symbiotic approach at cluster level, on the other to maintain the single PU decision autonomy.

We introduce the concept of cluster coordinator, namely an organization that coordinates the cluster. This can be a physical organization or, more easily, a virtual platform, and this depends on the working context as well. At Company-level, each Industry performs its Supply Chain Optimization (SCO) to gain a high efficiency at operative level optimizing its short-term and long-term decisions. These decisions do not take into account any of the decisions of the other industries in the cluster or, in other words, are completely independent. To govern the whole cluster performance we introduce the Cluster-level optimization, whose aim is the increasing of the global cluster efficiency.

SUPSI and Gr3n organized with the Association of Tessin Industries (AITI) a workshop at SUPSI facilities on 31st January 2017. The workshop "Circular Economy experiences: sustainable product, process and business models" was meant to provide to participants a wider definition of Circular Economy, going beyond the mere recycling concept, and share tools and business models that lead to a ridefinition of production processes, products and services, maximizing circular economy impacts. Within the workshop, diverse experiences from industries have been shared, discussing the effective implementation of circular economy practices.

The workshop included the following speeches:

  • Introduction to Circular Economy
  • Life Cycle Thinking and LCA role in the context of Circular Economy
  • Reverse logistics and servitization
  • Cluster of companies, industrial symbiosis and innovative business models
  • Gr3n recycling and the SYMBIOPTIMA project

The workshop was attended by about 20 participants from both scientific (though few) and local industrial communities from different sectors (pharmaceutical, chemical, textile, mechanical and consumer goods). The audience was very interested and gained a deeper knowledge on the concept and methodologies for the adoption of circular economy business models. In particular, the discussion pointed out:

  • Companies' interest in understanding the practical implementation of proposed methodologies: how industrial symbiosis-based business can be implemented in a real case? How to assess the sustainability impacts of circular economy approach adoption?
  • Companies' discovery of new business models for embracing circular economy and, in particular, industrial symbiosis;
  • Stimulated reflection on possible new exchanges between participating companies in the workshop and their suppliers or other companies:
  • raised new opportunities of application of the Gr3n technology developed within SYMBIOPTIMA to other sectors, for example the textile one. 

IMG 2099

The first SYMBIOPTIMA newsletter has been released. The newsletter includes a brief introduction about the project, an interesting article about sustainability in industrial cluster and a view of upcoming events. To view the first SYMBIOPTIMA newsletter please click here

SPS IPC Drives is the leading exhibition for electric automation in Europe., being held in Nuremberg on 22-24 November. The exhibition covers all components down to complete systems and integrated automation solution in the following sectors: control technology, electric drive systems and components, human-machine interface devices, industrial communication, industrial software and technology, mechanical infrastructure, sensor technology. 

nxtControl will participate in the exhibition with their advances in control technology and software solution for industrie 4.0 and IIoT, and several projects they are developing. 

For more info, you can meet SYMBIOPTIMA and nxtControl at booth 228, hall 6.



With the growth of environmental and social pressure, the structure of the traditional groupings of enterprises has changed towards symbiotic clusters or business combinations able to reuse unwanted flows to produce new goods and services.

The recent growth of available technologies for the recycling and reuse, as well as growing competition in this area is further driving this transformation. In fact, the goal of sequestrating unwanted flows (e.g. emissions or the by-products) within the techno-sphere becomes only a preliminary aspect. The current trend seems to emphasize the need to promote efficiency even within the context of industrial symbiosis. The use of these tools allows the systematic tracking of operations of flow reassignment and the identification of more sustainable scenarios for this breakdown.

The implementation of Symbioptima paradigm required the evolution of traditional criteria of sustainability analysis (LCSA):

  • From a methodological point of view, the congruent alignment of the LCA with LCC and SLC analysis perspective of circularity requires the development of methodologies that focus on effects due to re-allocation of flows.
  • From an operational point of view, the generation of LCSA indicators to be implemented within the production dynamics of business clusters requires the development of modular quantification criteria, standardization and interoperability.

Cooperation should become a key element in the path to the process industries that are truly sustainable and can be based on the availability of critical resources in the long term. In this sense, the availability of the sustainability analysis methods and procedures can help to break down barriers for the shared management of resources (e.g. energy, waste and by-products) and the consequent integration of processing activities.