Along the road to Industrie 4.0 the number of users generating compressed air with their own compressors is declining. Instead they are purchasing it from specialists at fixed prices. "In the past few years, we have seen a trend toward outsourcing secondary activities in large and medium-sized enterprises," says EnergyAgency.NRW. The advantages are obvious: Companies who use rental or contracting models do not need their own energy departments or to make major investments. Large compressed air technology providers offer services to keep installations up-to-date and adjust the compressed air supply to meet demand. Greater cost transparency is another benefit.
However, SMEs appear to be playing catch-up. "Whereas the contracting model is quite widespread in the automotive, paper, and chemical industries, the idea is relatively unknown in many small and medium-sized industrial enterprises," says EnergyAgency.NRW.
Among compressed air specialists that are greatly expanding and applying their services is Atlas Copco Airpower (Halls 26, Stand B32). SmartLink plays a key role here: This data monitoring program enables Atlas Copco to monitor a contracting installation around the clock. "The program helps predict and prevent potential problems," says Volker Kühn, Key Account Manager for Oil-Free Compressed Air with Atlas Copco. "The data is dynamically captured according to need, compared and evaluated and warnings are sent promptly." This provides greater service efficiency and guarantees the customer's security of supply.
Along with innovative single units, the compressed air specialist Kaeser Kompressoren is also presenting complete solutions to cover the entire life cycle of compressed air systems at ComVac (Hall 27, Stand E18). The aim is to "provide all users – no matter the scale of their operation or industry – with the right solution for a compressed air supply that is reliable, efficient, and completely ready for integration into Industrie 4.0." The Kaeser range runs from highly efficient rotary screw compressors to generate and process compressed air to intelligent monitoring and managing systems, and from customizable service offers to predictive maintenance and operator solutions.
"In terms of Industrie 4.0, it’s a given that machine networking and communication capabilities are highly beneficial," says the provider. For example, in order to integrate its rotary screw compressors seamlessly into Industrie 4.0 environments, Kaeser is equipping them with its Sigma Control 2 compressor controller as a standard feature. The compressed air management system Sigma harmonizes all components at a station to ensure maximum availability and energy efficiency.
For Industrie 4.0 services like predictive maintenance such systems are indispensible. Kaeser's operator model Sigma Air Utility builds on this. "Not everyone whose business relies on compressed air necessarily wishes to take on the effort and responsibility of maintaining their own on-site compressed air supply," says Kaeser. Usually it is worthwhile to "pay for compressed air as a service; the amount paid is directly linked to actual consumption. Fixed costs are transformed into variable costs."
Two operator models are available. In the contracting model Sigma Air Utility, responsibility for the compressed air station is entirely in Kaeser’s hands; customers retain operator responsibility with the Sigma Flex model. Either way, they save on investment costs – compressed air comes at a contractually agreed upon price per cubic meter. "This provides you with maximum cost security and allows you to benefit from all the advantages an advanced compressed air system has to offer, e.g. outstanding energy efficiency," states Kaeser. The company takes care of all service and uses a demand-based billing plan.
The compressor manufacturer AERZEN (Hall 26, Stand E12) is also expanding it services with the aid of new monitoring software such as AERtronic and WebView: All process data such as vibrations, oil levels, temperature, or system pressure can be read and evaluated via the Intranet or Internet. Service and maintenance can be scheduled and carried out in good time. Around 30 service technicians in Germany are responsible for the company’s after-sales service. Aerzen Rental Division provides rental units and accessories for research and development, operational leasing and contracting.