Compressed air efficiency at a distance

Remote monitoring tools allow effective measurement when no one is around. An optimized compressed air system is integral to a manufacturing facility’s success. Remote monitoring is a vital part of compressed air system optimization and offers a highly efficient strategy on the pathway to the connected plant.

04/08/2015


Imagine a world where your business is always one step ahead, where production uncertainties don’t exist, where strategic business decisions are made based on clear data analysis, where maintenance is proactive instead of reactive, and where the amount of compressed air energy use on any given day is calculated and compiled in real time.

Today’s manufacturing facilities are upgrading automation systems and introducing mobile connectivity to meet the demands of the fast-paced and global manufacturing world. A vital part of a facility’s optimization strategy includes identifying ways to become more efficient in order to increase competitiveness, productivity, and market share.

Remote monitoring systems continuously monitor and analyze the performance of your equipment and energy efficiency of your compressed air installation. (Images courtesy of Atlas Copco)Energy use and compressed air

Of all the energy used in manufacturing, compressed air systems have the largest potential for improvement. It is estimated that compressed air systems in the U.S. consume approximately 30 billion kilowatt-hours per year, and account for $3.2 billion in wasted energy costs annually due to preventable maintenance issues and inefficient operations.

Additionally, compressed air production typically accounts for up to 40% of a facility’s total energy consumption; therefore, when the compressed air system is optimized for energy efficiency, the entire operation benefits.

Energy consumption matters, and not just because of the capricious nature of energy prices. There is a growing global emphasis on conservation and environmental stewardship, and energy represents a pressure point that has businesses, governmental agencies, and the general public zeroing in on sustainable practices. This concern over energy is forcing industries to reevaluate their energy options, thus creating a demand for innovative and energy-efficient solutions across the board.

Industry surveys indicate that the average manufacturing facility can reduce its energy consumption by 10% to 20% by implementing energy-efficient technologies and practices. The recovery of wasted industrial energy is an opportunity to improve financial performance in an increasingly competitive marketplace. However, many facilities lack clear strategies for the implementation of energy efficiency measurement within production processes.

Additionally, many facilities are concerned about jeopardizing the availability of compressed air in order to reduce production costs. To abate this concern, energy efficiency measurement must happen at the rate of production and offer real-time data for both immediate and long-term decision-making. Remote monitoring of the compressed air system can help improve energy efficiency through predictive maintenance alerts and the identification of production inefficiencies.

Remote monitoring for predictive maintenance

Until recently, compressed air system maintenance was reactive—an unforeseen event required immediate intervention from a service technician. In this scenario, the facility is in the dark about maintenance needs, suffers from inefficiencies, and is at increased risk of breakdown.

Remote monitoring of compressed air equipment is one of the most effective strategies to help facilities avoid downtime. Whatever the facility’s production schedule, 24/7 remote monitoring is constantly compiling compressed air data in real time—data that can be analyzed for key performance indicators to predict potential problems. This helps plant managers develop an ongoing plan to improve system usage and efficiency throughout the production cycle.

Without a robust remote monitoring system, the facility manager is responsible for initiating service calls and keeping track of key measurement parameters such as running hours. The service call is therefore reactive instead of proactive, pushing the date of service beyond the recommended machine service interval.

You may recall the $3.2 billion in wasted energy costs—remote monitoring systems that alert managers of maintenance needs can help facilities recover thousands of dollars each year through predictive maintenance strategies.

Remote monitoring systems are intelligent and connected systems, generating emails or text messages when abnormalities in the compressor functions are detected. This provides a level of security and immediacy without requiring a physical presence. Though daily walk-by checkups on the machines provide a small amount of security as it relates to compressor uptime, a missed compressor warning could mean drastic consequences.

Overdue maintenance has its costs, both in high energy consumption and increased risk of breakdown. And a breakdown has a snowball effect, resulting in increased costs from breakdown maintenance and a reduced production schedule that could have detrimental effects on important relationships with customers.

Remote monitoring for optimization

Understanding the entire compressed air system’s dynamics is the first step toward efficient air energy usage and energy savings. Remote monitoring of compressed air data will provide transparency into a compressed air network from the supply side through distribution. The collection and analysis of machine information can be a key factor to determine if changes are occurring on the demand side of a system. Logging critical parameters from the network is the only valid approach to show the current energy performance of the installation. These parameters include but are not limited to power, flow, and pressure.

Because remote monitoring technology is constantly gathering operating data from the connected machines, it provides industry professionals with the information they need to proactively maintain maximum uptime (e.g., by identifying potential leaks from changes in pressure) and reveals where production can be optimized through analysis and simulation.

Knowing exactly how the system is running makes identifying ways for improvement much easier, and detailed analysis on a variety of performance indicators helps determine energy peaks and valleys to maximize efficiency.

For example, a typical manufacturing plant’s Saturday data revealed that a large machine was being used to cover a low demand. Performance data revealed the potential for immediate energy savings by switching Saturday production to a smaller machine that can sufficiently cover the demand. When facilities have clear access to system performance data, improving system usage and reducing energy consumption costs is much easier to accomplish.

Remote monitoring of compressed air data also allows facility managers to establish a baseline of system data before making changes to the system, record any system changes that are implemented, and record maintenance data and trends. The gathered energy data can then be analyzed, compared, and benchmarked against the rate of production to support requests for capital purchases or new production lines.


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