Smart Factories FEATURE NEWS

Smart Factory of the Future: How IIoT Improves Compressed Air

By Special Guest
Megan Ray Nichols, Science Correspondent
October 24, 2017

Compressed air hardware isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when discussing the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), but it’s another system that has much to gain from IIoT integration. Many plants and factories do depend on compressed air for a variety of means, including energy efficiency, predictive maintenance and general energy management, so regulating and streamlining your compressed air usage will improve operations across the board.

Energy Efficiency
“As industry demands more efficient equipment to maximize investments, compressor manufacturers are developing creative connectivity solutions to empower users with more data than ever,” explains John Smithey, Connectivity Manager at Quincy Compressor.

The typical air compressor connects to the IIoT via a programmable logic controller, or PLC. Serving as a bridge between the compressor hardware and the network gateway, the PLC ultimately dictates the compressor’s actions. A human machine interface, or HMI, provides a visual means for users and engineers to monitor network connectivity.

Such large amounts of data are difficult to rein in, especially if you’re just now integration the IIoT, but the benefits are numerous.

  • Improved Reporting: Detailed reports – generated in real-time – will provide greater insight into your daily operations than ever before. Most IIoT systems will monitor the energy consumption of your hardware, thereby letting you fine-tune your infrastructure for maximum efficiency.
  • Greater Service Delivery: The ability to remotely monitor your system lends itself to greater service fulfillment and delivery across the board. Customized recommendations will provide you with step-by-step plans for bolstering your plant’s energy efficiency even further
  • Prevent Hardware Failures: The marriage between the IIoT and air compressor hardware will notify you of errors or malfunctions. Some will automatically shutdown to prevent additional damage.

Many factories rely on the IIoT for predictive and preventative maintenance. Not only does this minimize your downtime, but it also preserves the condition of your expensive hardware and equipment.

Predictive & Preventive Maintenance
“This evolution in advanced controls and monitoring is pushing companies to adopt a proactive approach to system efficiencies. By looking at demand trends and equipment run times, users can identify opportunities to save money, and now, we can even predict production interruptions before they occur,” Smithey said.

But these datasets aren’t restricted to your day-to-day operations. The advanced connectivity of the IIoT helps customers, partners and end-users of all types.

“With an Intelligent connectivity system, we can tell users there’s a problem before it even shows up on their radar. This kind of technology is making operations even more efficient and putting industry on the cutting edge.” 

  • Predictive Maintenance: Predictive maintenance uses established statistics to predict maintenance needs. Sometimes referred to as condition-based maintenance, this strategy is highly effective. It also happens to be an area where the IIoT excels.
  • Preventive Maintenance: Instead of using facts and figures to forecast maintenance timelines, preventive maintenance utilizes regular care and attention to mitigate risks and circumvent any possible malfunctions. Although this result is effective, it often results in higher costs due to unnecessary maintenance, repairs and upgrades.

Both of these approaches are possible with the IIoT, and both are helpful when maximizing the lifespan of your air compressor hardware.

General Energy Management
The IIoT also helps with general energy management throughout your factory. Although most systems don’t inform you of actual energy or cost savings, they do offer continual energy auditing that is highly useful in developing and implementing new energy-saving strategies. They are also much more relevant, accurate and reliable than weekly or monthly audits.

For best results, try to find an application that provides you with visual charts or graphs when disseminating such information. Not only does this make it easier for you to read, but such visual aides are much more effective than oral reports or drab presentations.

How to Make the IIoT Work For You
The IIoT is quickly taking the world by storm, including the niche of compressed air. What once involved years of field testing and complex trial-and-error processes is now calculated – using established facts and figures – within a matter of seconds. Instead of guessing at a machine’s maintenance needs, we now have hardware that can self-diagnose and automatically shutdown in the event of an emergency. Not only do these changes make it easier to attract customers and provide exceptional service, but they affect the overall energy efficiency of the entire industry.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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