Podcast New Technologies Impacting The Compressed Air Industry

Podcast: New technologies impacting the compressed air industry

July 6, 2023
In this episode of The Tool Belt, Ron Marshall, founder of Marshall Compressed Air Consulting, discusses ways to skill up and improve your compressed air knowledge.

Ron Marshall is the founder of Marshall Compressed Air Consulting, a compressed air energy efficiency consulting firm, where he provides technical advice, system auditing, and training. He first developed his skills as an industrial compressed air systems expert at Manitoba Hydro, where he worked for 38 years, supporting more than 600 energy efficiency projects. Ron is a level 2 instructor with Compressed Air Challenge and conducts training internationally. Ron recently spoke with Plant Services editor in chief Thomas Wilk about training and professional development in the compressed air industry.

PS: I can't help but notice in the past couple of events that I've attended that there's a newer generation moving in, and moving rather quickly, to take the place of a lot of people who are retiring. A lot more Millennials, a decent number of GenX’s, and so Ron is with us today to talk about what options there are for people who are interested in professional developments in the compressed air area. Ron, welcome to the podcast!

RM: Thank you for having me, it's a pleasure to be here. There's a bunch of us compressed air experts out there. We've been doing audits for decades now, but we're getting older and I think the workplace is getting older and older. Some of the knowledge is leaving as people retire and new people are coming in, and the industry is also growing. There's all kinds of, it's almost musical chairs and people leaving, so there becomes a vacuum when it comes to knowledge of compressed air.

We're finding if you're talking about trends in training that some of the larger organizations are starting to look for some good training and using the Compressed Air Challenge training – the fundamentals and the advanced – to help their new starts to get up to speed on compressed air and compressed air optimization, helping the customers improve. Compressed Air Challenge is also starting to develop a new course on auditing as well, because similar to general compressed air knowledge, there's also a need to be able to understand the information coming back when these service providers hook their data loggers to the system.

So that that's coming. There's some very large players and also smaller players wanting to do the training as well, so we've had hundreds of new hires go through our programs and it really brings the industry up, I think, in doing that.

PS: I'm curious, are you seeing the greater hunger for the more fundamentals of compressed air, or is there a decent amount of interest in more advanced topics in this field?

RM: The fundamentals are the most frequently accessed. Salespeople and service providers like the mechanics, things like that, can take and understand the principles and fundamentals. And then, I call us the compressed air nerds, the people that need to know the technical things, the mathematics behind storage and calculating kilowatts and all that stuff – they take the advanced. I would say maybe 100% of the people should take fundamentals, and then maybe 20% of those people would be taking advanced. People also if they're helping customers out with the system, they might want to take the auditing course as well.

PS: We’ve worked together for close to 10 years now and I can remember when I first came on board Plant Services, the wave of (industry) retirements was kind of on the horizon, maybe already happening, and now I'm struck by the fact that here we are having moved through a lot of that and we are seeing newer workers come in looking for knowledge like this, looking for training. And sadly, training is sometimes the line item in the budget which gets cut first. In this case, I mean there's a real risk and not knowing the fundamentals of compressed air systems, because you might end up with either a needless capital purchase when in fact you could simply refine aspects of your system, or you might end up with a whole lot of compressor rentals in the yard that someone loses track of, just to put a band aid on a problem that could actually be solved using better training.

RM: Yeah, exactly, that happens. The lack of knowledge is the biggest obstacle in having an compressed air system running optimally. So yeah, that's quite important, and that was recognized back in the 1990s, right? And you know, as time went on, people working in Compressed Air Challenge and in the auditing field we get older and older, and the new people need to learn as well, so we can leave the field secure in the knowledge that people come coming to replace our vacancy know a lot about compressed air and auditing.

PS: Well, I say there's only half kiddingly, I think engines like ChatGPT are going to fill some of this gap too. That problem right now is that these engines are immature, so it's difficult to trust every answer you get back. I learned over the past week that the term for false positive answers for ChatGPT, the technical term, is now “hallucinations,” and that over time the hallucinations will go down in number, but right now they're still fairly prevalent.

RM Well, you know what? I'm trying to fill the Internet ether, with as much information as possible, accurate information about compressed air, and I think the artificial intelligence behind ChatGPT picks up on that, picks up on all the stuff that's written by experts like us and may come out with the right answers most of the time.

PS: Let me move to a related topic, which is certifications. Before we started recording today, you and I were chatting about how the Compressed Air and Gas Institute, or CAGI, has developed a couple of certifications for people who work on our neck of the industry. The standard maintenance and reliability certification is a CMRP and I do get a lot of questions from readers on what certification beyond the CMRP might be good for them. We’ve looked at certifications like the MLT for lubrication, the CMRT for more technical skill. But you mentioned that CAGI has two certifications, one that exists and one that is still being developed. Could you tell us about those two and what they might offer people?

RM: CAGI has developed a certification for compressed air system, actually it's CASS, so Compressed Air System Specialist. Uh, not the greatest acronym, but I think it sticks in your mind a lot. So that does the certified Compressed Air System Specialist, it's certifying that you know quite a lot about compressed air. They've set up a worldwide system of examinations, a library of questions that go into the examinations, and you can take the exam at your local testing center. And lo and behold, if you pass you’re certified, and you can use those acronyms behind your name.

They've also recognized that the people that do the assessment, so there'll be a certified Compressed Air Systems Assessor certification coming out probably within the year. And that'll be, you know, us compressed air nerds again, we will be certified nerds! It'll show that we know our stuff, we can do the calculations, we know high level compressed air system auditing and assessing.

PS: OK, so the CASS certification is one that exists already, and if people want to sign up to take that exam, they can go to the CAGI site website and get there?

RM: Yeah, www.Cagi.org, under certification (www.cagi.org/training-and-certification).

PS: Yeah, that's engineers, I love the fact that there's so many programs, certifications out there for engineers to sort of dive more deeply into the area that interests them. And especially with everyone being acutely aware of energy efficiency these days, I feel like the ESG buzzword has sort of subsided for a while this year, but this is going to be part of everyone's job description going forward, which is managing energy effectively. So if you’re an engineer in this field, and you’re looking to brush up or bolster your certifications, the CASS and the CASSA might be worth looking into.

RM: Exactly, we're really happy that Compressed Air Challenge Fundamentals and Advanced really fit right in with the certification. In fact, they're part of the body of knowledge people need to study to get it, so it's a real, real good connection.

PS: You've always mentioned this, that the Compressed Air Challenge plus CAGI, they've always worked well together as organizations.

RM: Yeah, we're looking at advancing the knowledge in the industry and bringing everybody up, and that's good for everyone.

About the Author

Thomas Wilk | editor in chief

Thomas Wilk joined Plant Services as editor in chief in 2014. Previously, Wilk was content strategist / mobile media manager at Panduit. Prior to Panduit, Tom was lead editor for Battelle Memorial Institute's Environmental Restoration team, and taught business and technical writing at Ohio State University for eight years. Tom holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Ohio State University

Sponsored Recommendations

Arc Flash Prevention: What You Need to Know

March 28, 2024
Download to learn: how an arc flash forms and common causes, safety recommendations to help prevent arc flash exposure (including the use of lockout tagout and energy isolating...

Reduce engineering time by 50%

March 28, 2024
Learn how smart value chain applications are made possible by moving from manually-intensive CAD-based drafting packages to modern CAE software.

Filter Monitoring with Rittal's Blue e Air Conditioner

March 28, 2024
Steve Sullivan, Training Supervisor for Rittal North America, provides an overview of the filter monitoring capabilities of the Blue e line of industrial air conditioners.

Limitations of MERV Ratings for Dust Collector Filters

Feb. 23, 2024
It can be complicated and confusing to select the safest and most efficient dust collector filters for your facility. For the HVAC industry, MERV ratings are king. But MERV ratings...