Unplanned plant shutdowns are a killer on the bottom line, requiring lots of patience and the use of scarce reserve funds. As with anything, the pain is rarely permanent, and the most we can do is grin and bear it — and also try to keep ourselves productive.
It is a time for future planning on how we can reduce future operating costs, so rather than being idle, we should be looking for low cost ways to become more efficient during the production times.
Some continuous demands on compressed air systems is usually leakage, artificial demand and inappropriate uses. Often times, these three components will consume half of the expensive operating cost of a compressed air system!
When an industrial plant is quiet, it is a good time to search out and eliminate these expensive consumers with an inexpensive tool: your ears. Typically, a wasted flow of 10 cfm will consume about $2,000 per year in electrical costs at 10 cents per kWh. Fixing about 10 audible leaks can generate that kind of savings for you in only a couple hours of work — and the savings are gained this year, and for many years to come.
While you are at it, you can look for pressure regulators that have been cranked up to the maximum setting on pneumatic machines and equipment. Every one psi in extra pressure consumes about 1% more power in leakage and the compressed air consumed by the device. Setting the regulators back to normal reduces the compressed air flow and saves energy at the air compressor.
And have a look at the users of the compressed air. You’ll hear these, too, in your inspections. Often, plant shutdown will reveal equipment that is left running, but could be turned off.
Consider Figure 2, at right, which is a picture of a compressed air powered motor that was left running for at least 10 years even though the cleaning brush it was driving was worn out and not functioning. This motor consumed 30 cfm, costing $60,000 in lost profits over its 10-year operating period!
If you happen to have an ultrasonic leak detector, or can get one, you should use it to get an even finer picture of your leakage loss. The time is now to become more efficient and lower costs!