When air compressor-related inefficiencies, mechanical breakdowns and constant repair work began to significantly impact a Fortune 100 company responsible for producing military and passenger aerospace parts, the firm decided to take its compressed air system out of a nosedive.
To manage the repeated breakdown of four of the plant’s fixed speed water-cooled compressors, which range from 125 HP to 250 HP, the manufacturer was regularly arranging on-site repair work and paying large air compressor rental fees in order to avoid downtime and keep the plant operational. However, this was not always achievable; at one stage, downtime was so high that some machines were only able to deliver three days of production in a month.
In order to gain better control of their assets’ repair and preventative maintenance schedules, the firm’s facilities supervisor decided it was time for a change from their current provider, so he called I&M Industrials. I&M Industrials was able to step in and quickly service and rebuild all existing equipment so that all compressors and dryers were properly functioning. However, this did not solve the energy and manual monitoring issues.
Whilst the compressed air asset base was of a high standard, in the absence of a system controller with the ability to optimize all assets when running together, the compressed air system was wholly reliant on manual analysis and intervention. To compound the issue, the compressors are located several hundred feet from the site’s offices, which made manual intervention a time and physically intensive exercise.
In-between repairs, and following a compressed air audit, it was established that in addition to the air compressors being of different ages, all of which offered varying degrees of efficiency, they were not sequencing in a unified way. In fact, the audit revealed that this inconsistency was quite often consuming approximately 30 per cent more energy to power the compressors than required, at huge cost to the business.
Hall Todd, Upstate Region Territory Manager for I&M Industrials said, “Our audit was extensive. We installed flow meters to measure the exact amount of scfm the plant demanded versus a calculated flow from simple amperage clamps. We measured consumed power to determine dynamic efficiency. We also placed pressure sensors throughout the plant to identity where the system was losing pressure. The results were staggering and revealed the amount of energy wasted along with the potential savings for the manufacturer.”
The AERO command and control unit is locally installed and digitally connected via the cloud.
Upgrading the System Without Upgrading the Air Compressors
Following the compressed air audit, I&M Industrials consulted ENERGAIR, the sustainable compressed air specialists. As part of CMC, the experts in compressed air control, performance and monitoring solutions, it was able to draw on AIRMATICSTM - a cloud-based air compressor monitoring, performance and control solution that provides real time data, analytics and insight at the push of a button. Working together the decision was made to install:
- AIRMATICSTM Aero to efficiently and uniformly control all air compressors, regardless of each of compressor’s power variance and age
- IoT remote monitoring platform covering:
- System flow, pressure, pressure differential over air treatment equipment, dewpoint and cooling water temperature monitoring
- Compressor health and performance monitoring functionality spanning status and alarms, delivery pressure, sump pressure, separator differential, cooling water IN/OUT and discharge temperature monitoring
Remote monitoring not only supported automatic optimization of the plant’s four key compressed air assets, but also negated the need for engineers to walk the several hundred feet to the air compressor room to manually make any adjustments. The manufacturer’s engineers can now view a real-time visual depiction of their system from a screen located in their offices at all times.
Likewise, the team at I&M Industrials can remotely access and view the firm’s compressed air system 24/7 from their offices and intervene when required, or when automatically alerted of any anomalies.
The manufacturer agreed to run a trial in which the newly installed remote monitoring platform was turned off for one week to provide a comparative analysis. Click to enlarge.
Like Night and Day
To assess their investment and explore the savings afforded by installing AIRMATICSTM, the manufacturer agreed to run a trial in which the newly installed remote monitoring platform was turned off for one week to provide a comparative analysis. The results demonstrate a clear jump in performance.
During 12 – 19 February, the Aero control system was switched off to allow the 125 HP air compressor to run continuously loaded with the larger 250 HP air compressor loading and unloading. During this period, non-productive and productive energy stood at 37 per cent and 63 per cent respectively.
It was then switched back on again on for the period 19 – 26 February, during which time non-productive energy decreased to 23 per cent whilst productive energy increased to 77 per cent. The average efficiency level reached when switched off amounted to 25.8kW/100CFM compared to the 20.1kW achieved with it switched on.
The Deciding Factor
In the absence of the control system, the air compressors were loading and unloading according to pre-set pressure bands, which forced the system to operate at higher pressures and run inefficient combinations of compressors in order to effectively match air demand. When switched on, irrespective of air demand, the control system was able to control all compressors on a single, tight pressure band and efficiently match output with demand.
With a continuous saving of 5.7kW/100CFM, it is now expected to save the business 500,721 kWh a year and reduce the annual compressed air energy bill at the plant by \$35,050, delivering a return on investment in only one year.
Nicolas De Deken, President at ENERGAIR said, “The beauty of a system like AIRMATICSTM is that it continually monitors a business’s compressed air system every minute of every day. By using the system, the manufacturer now has the equivalent of a full-time engineer optimizing its system’s performance around the clock, which is something that simply cannot be achieved through human intervention alone.”
About I&M Industrials
Founded in 1967, I&M Industrials has built a business on providing engineered compressed air solutions and products throughout South Carolina and Augusta, GA. Tailoring its services for any customer, no matter the size, I&M can design and install a completely new system, provide consulting for current system improvements, and/or simply service the existing equipment. Over fifty years since it was established, I&M Industrials remains a privately-owned firm that includes a team of 30 compressed air specialists. I&M continues to build upon its customer base, which includes multiple Fortune 100 companies.
ENERGAIR is the sustainable compressed air management arm of CMC – the global experts in compressed air control, performance and monitoring solutions. Harnessing over three decades of knowledge and experience, and tapping into CMC’s growing range of brands, products and technologies, ENERGAIR provides a fully integrated compressed air management service that includes independent expert advice from compressed air specialists, brand agnostic compressed air monitoring and auditing tools, and the latest in IoT-applied air compressor management platforms
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