The information contained in this article, will help the operator to assess his/her systems, and identify where these systems fall within a three-level category. There are many ways, and opportunities to make a compressed air system produce reliable and good quality air. The three levels discussed here could also be characterized as a “continuous improvement plan” which can be achieved over the course of time, and with the occasional investment of money.
At the paint booths, FRM team members typically use conventional High-Volume Low-Pressure (HVLP) paint sprayers to prime the chassis and car bodies. Paint pressure pots (also called paint tanks) feed paint to the paint sprayers. The compressed air system supplies air to the paint pots at a steady 65 psi. The tanks regulate air output for the sprayers at 12 to 15 psi in order to deliver the precise amount of paint to a given chassis or car body.
A major automotive company needed a newer and more efficient compressed air system at one of its manufacturing plants. The original system had been operating inefficiently with old equipment and controls. Faced with a major capital investment, the plant switched to a performance contracting model.
When an automotive company added a new 200-horsepower (hp) rotary screw air compressor and accompanying dryer to a satellite building at its Chicago-area assembly plant, it needed a cost-effective way to integrate the equipment into its existing compressed air network. Doing so would allow plant personnel to easily monitor the air compressor’s performance and ensure it operates in harmony with the plant’s centrifugal air compressors. Importantly, it would contribute to efficient and reliable air compressor operation at all times.
Products manufactured at the 100,000-square-foot plant in Kentucky include columns, I-shafts, covers, keylocks, and other dressings, along with shifter applications, such as straight, tap-up/tap-down and gated shifters. In all, the facility supplies automakers with products used in more than 100 different applications, all of which are designed keep vehicles operating safely, smoothly and reliably.
The Ford Motor Company Kentucky Truck Plant (KTP) not only manufactures upscale SUVs and pickup trucks painted in wide variety of stellar, high-quality colors and finishes – it does so cost-effectively by conserving annual compressed air energy of approximately 9.2 GWh thanks to a major overhaul of the plant’s compressed air system.
A Tier 1 automotive supplier was concerned its compressed air system was not operating as efficiently as it could be. The situation called for a site visit and metering and evaluation of the company’s air compressors to generate a representative data sample that accurately captured the compressed air needs during typical production and non-production periods.
While many businesses strive to plan, install and maintain a compressed air system that fulfils the company’s specific needs, I’ve found that implementing compressed air best practices not only accomplishes specific goals, but also results in time-tested advantages that aid in the overall business and production goals of the organization.
In a strategic approach to improving its management of compressed air, the company initiated an upgrade of its compressed air system at its Midway plant. In so doing, SumiRiko Tennessee saves 2.1 million kWh and \$100,000 in energy costs per year at the plant. Additionally, lower energy use resulted in the reduction in CO2 of 800 tons per year. With a utility rebate, the project paid for itself within two years.
The project, which also involved the addition of a booster air compressor and receiver tank – along with the installation of an important pressure control valve – gives the automaker the ability to run fewer centrifugal air compressors during peak production. In so doing, the plant saves nearly 6.1 million kWh and more than \$600,000 per year in energy costs. The project also qualified for a \$369,374 rebate from the local utility, resulting in a six-month project payback – all while improving system reliability.
Often, multiple centrifugal air compressors are set up to simply react to air demand, which requires the system to not only meet the new demand, but also make up for air depleted in the main header. This typically results in too much supply, which results in bypassing the air to atmosphere. The result is wasted energy use.