Compressed Air Efficiency: Measure, Then Manage It: Part 2

March 26, 2015

Here's some effective strategies to use to optimize your system

Last month I discussed the importance of monitoring your compressed air system to determine what is happening.  The key point: If you are not measuring your system, you are not managing it. 

In the blog I mentioned a large Northern Canada mine where I was assisting the staff in finding an unknown large air demand that was causing increased costs.  After I posted the piece someone asked what my best strategies were to assess the problem.  I responded that the methods I use are described by these letters SSG, MBWA, and AQ!

First of all, SSG; Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.  I greatly benefit from those who have come before me, the innovative and knowledgeable auditors who developed the field and told the world that compressed air systems were inefficient and persuaded everybody that something could be done about it.  At the mine I was fortunate that someone who had come before me had encouraged this customer to install an excellent metering system.  The customer could see what their flows were doing and how it affected power.  They knew they had a problem as soon as it started happening.  Had they not installed the meters, it is unlikely anything would have been done, except pay the big power bill.

Second MBWA; Managing by Walking Around.  A good audit of a facility requires a thorough visit to all areas of a plant.  This was and is constantly stressed by the compressed air auditors who pass on the craft.  While visiting each area a careful scan of the equipment using a keen eye and sensitive ear draws an auditor in to areas of concern.  While visiting the mine we identified some pretty significant compressed air consumers that occurred regularly, negatively affecting compressed air pressure and operating costs.  Some finicky dust collector blast valves, agitation of a vat of chemicals, dust transport pipes left to constantly purge were found, but unfortunately these were not the main cause of the issues at hand.

AQ; Ask Questions.  Ask, ask, ask questions of many people.  Those who work in the facilities know their equipment, where it is, why it works that way, when it experiences issues.  If there is a problem, somebody in the plant likely knows about it, but they may not know the compressed air problems that this initial problem is causing.  The source of problems are found by asking questions, constantly inquiring why, where, what, how, when.  I was fortunate that my trip to the Northern mine site was a success.  The large air demand that was causing increased costs and low pressure was identified.  But not by me, by the site personnel who took my lead and started asking their own questions, leading to a successful identification of an issue caused by a faulty sensor on a pneumatic powered material transfer pump.

Learn about the value of measuring your energy baseline at a Compressed Air Challenge Fundamentals of Compressed Air Systems seminar.  Our calendar of trainings is here.

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