Every manufacturer using compressed air shares the challenge of keeping compressed air systems running efficiently and reliably. Depending on the industry, the compressed air system accounts for 10-50% of a plant’s energy usage and is as essential to uptime as electricity.
But compressors are inherently inefficient. Leakage, irregular maintenance, pressure settings, and controls contribute to energy inefficiencies. In many cases, modernizing and integrating obsolete systems with IoT solutions uncover potential energy savings from 25-50%.
“We’ve been in business for over 30 years, doing energy savings via automation for most of that time and focusing on compressed air for the last 25 years plus,” said Lou York, director of business development at CaseiZ. “The driver behind the Internet of Things is using the latest tools available to provide our customers with the information they need to make decisions and even help facilitate some of that decision-making for them.”
CaseiZ collaborated with Rockwell Automation to develop AirView Cloud, a monitoring system based on the ThingWorx IIoT platform that connects disparate devices, applications, and data streams to enable secure access to industrial operations data. The company’s motivation was to provide its customers — mainly energy engineers, those who focus on the corporate side of utilities, and plant-level professionals — with a better experience using cloud-based tools.
“Everyone has less time to delve through data and do their own analysis,” said York. “So, we’re taking these tools and providing good information and very clear information from that data. We’re doing some of that analysis piece for them as well.”
Previously, CaseiZ generated static PDF energy reports that customers could download at the end of each month. By the time customers received the report, the information was outdated and uninformative for current operations. The best they could do was adjust their systems and then wait another month to see if it worked.
“That’s not that acceptable these days. We need real-time data and real-time analysis,” said York. “We still summarize things monthly so they can see the history, but we really need to give them more information on a real-time basis. That’s what drove the cloud-based solution.”
Into the foreseeable future, energy savings will become more critical with global carbon footprint legislation, net-zero targets, market inflation, and the dynamic supply chain. AirView Cloud allows companies to be more proactive in energy efficiency and take action immediately when KPIs exceed acceptable levels.
“In most plants, there’s a lot of existing equipment with individual levels of efficiency. But without it being automated and working together, or even having awareness of how it’s being used, it’s just very wasteful,” said York.
A solution such as AirView Cloud is less expensive than replacing all the equipment for underwhelming efficiency gains. And problems can often be solved by optimizing, integrating, and automating current equipment.
“Most compressors and compressed air systems that we work on are already electrified. But even then, there’s a degree of waste and inefficiency that automation and optimization can help with,” said York. “IoT and the cloud bring visibility to that because it’s not always clear in the beginning. And the best way to optimize is to be data-driven.”
York notes that there’s a push for plants to get rid of compressed air and use electric servos or electric actuators, which improves efficiency but takes a significant capital investment and multiple years to complete. Though he supports the effort, York encourages plants to continue prioritizing compressor optimization to avoid wasting energy in the meantime.
“It’s very scalable,” said York. “We can piece in the building blocks needed to build a solution, but it also allows us to be very flexible in the future. So, if you want to add more machines later, take away machines later; you don’t have to start over. We do implementation with zero downtime, so we can integrate one machine at a time and bring it all together.”