Everyone knows that, if left unsupervised or uncontrolled, any system will fall out of adjustment. Compressed air systems are no different, compressor pressure settings will drift, leaks will appear, and all manner of waste will be created by accident or design.
Consider a plant that makes farm machinery, the subject of the graphic in this blog post (below). This large plant had many hundreds of feet of piping and hoses feeding their process machines and tools. The plant was more than 40 years old, so in the time since construction, many things had gone wrong. However, the plant maintenance supervisor was unaware as the department, he felt, had no way of knowing that major problems were occurring.
Flow meters had been installed many years ago to assist the staff in determining their leakage level, but staff had changed. The new personnel were not aware of the purpose of these devices or what to do with the information they provided. In the meantime, their main compressor had failed and a compressed air auditor had been called in to determine the size of the replacement.
The auditor found that, even though the plant had only one main shift and one lightly loaded evening shift, the system was being left running 24 hour, seven days per week. When the auditor calculated the percentage leakage loading, the result was about 90%. Only about 10% of the compressed air produced by the compressors was going to production activities.
These findings embarrassed the maintenance manager — who immediately set out to correct the problems by hiring a full time leakage auditor for the plant who’s task was to find and repair leaks. He also arranged to have the compressors shut off during non-production times. Both measures, only two months into the effort, have saved this plant 45% in operating costs, with more to come. The manager also found he didn’t need anywhere near the size of compressor he had expected to purchase — this saved him many thousands of dollars in purchase costs.
This is but one example of what can happen if a system runs unmanaged over many years. Regularly monitoring your compressed air system through auditing, with continuous monitoring being best practice, can help keep the waste from developing in your system and reduce costs. Implementing managing systems, including auditing opens your eyes to your system problems and gives you the tools to correct the issues, and verify the changes have been effective.