When 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 from its South Carolina site, 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 PM schedules, the firm’s facilities supervisor called his trusted compressed air service provider, I&M Industrials. I&M was able to expertly 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 optimise 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 physical-intensive exercise.

The compressor setup

In-between repairs, and following a compressed air audit by I&M Industrials, 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.

“Our audit was extensive. We installed flow meters to measure the exact amount of cfm the plant demanded versus a calculated flow. 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.”

Hall Todd, Upstate Region Territory Manager at I&M Industrials

Upgrading the system without upgrading the compressors

Following the compressed air audit, I&M Industrials consulted ENERGAIR, the sustainable compressed air specialists. 

As part of CMC, the global experts in compressed air control, performance and monitoring solutions, ENERGAIR 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 with I&M Industrials, ENERGAIR installed:

Remote monitoring not only supported automatic optimisation of the plant’s four key compressed air assets, but also negated the need for engineers to walk the several hundred feet to the compressor room to manually make any adjustments. The manufacturer’s engineers now can 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 they are automatically alerted of any anomalies.

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 AIRMATICSTM Aero control system was switched off to allow the 125 HP to run continuously loaded with the larger 250 HP loading and unloading. 

During this period, non-productive and productive energy stood at 37 per cent and 63 per cent respectively. 

AIRMATICSTM 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 AIRMATICSTM was switched off amounted to 25.8kW/100CFM compared to the 20.1kW achieved with AIRMATICSTM switched on. 

“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 optimising its system’s performance around the clock, which is something that simply cannot be achieved through human intervention alone.”

Nicolas De Deken, President at ENERGAIR