A board plant production line had a quality problem. When the sheets exited the saw that cut the product into standard dimensions, some sawdust and chips stuck to the surface. When the sheets were stacked, this debris would bind itself to the product and be hard to remove, causing quality problems.
Faced with this problem, the production staff came up with a solution, installation of a compressed air blowing device, basically a pipe with holes drilled into it that was placed across the input and output conveyor belt. The compressed air flow would blow off the sheets as it entered and exited the sawing operation.
Plant staff knew that compressed air is expensive, so rather than using drilled holes, they mounted specialty nozzles on the blowing device to restrict the flow and better direct the blowing force. These nozzles consumed 5 cfm each, rather than the 15 cfm for each of the bare drilled holes consumed, but the staff calculated that this consumption would cost about $9,000 per year in electrical costs if the operation was continuous.
The staff knew that the blowing was not needed unless product was passing through, so sensing eyes were placed on the blowing so the operation could be shut off when not needed. Because the required blowing was only an average of 7 seconds every minute, this reduced the blowing cost by 90%. Further reductions were gained by regulating the blow to a lower pressure because if was found that high pressure was not required.
Excellent innovation can take place if your staff know the compressed air costs and do something to help conserve the flow.
Ron Marshall is a compressed air energy expert and owner of Marshall Compressed Air Consulting (www.compressedairaudit.com)