Next month will see Kaeser Compressors Australia celebrating its 25th anniversary. As Alan Johnson reports, the company has had quite a journey.
From humble beginnings with just two employees, Kaeser Compressors has exponentially grown with state branches and a dedicated network of partners throughout Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, yet remains in the same location; Dandenong, Victoria
Not surprisingly, Peter Eckberg, Managing Director of Kaeser Compressors Australia since the company’s inception in 1990, has seen many changes over the past 25 years.
“Where once the user was simply purchasing a piece of equipment, today they are looking to purchase a solution,” he told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
Eckberg said the rising cost of electricity and the growing environmental obligations a company now has are two significant factors that have contributed to this change.
“As a result, the majority of compressed air users today are not only interested in the energy costs attached to running a compressed air system, but moreover its total life cycle costs.”
Looking back over the past 25 years, Eckberg says the development of variable speed drive (VSD) controlled compressors has probably been the standout advancement in air compressor technology.
“By precisely matching output to actual compressed air demand, VSD controlled compressors can save energy for users with a fluctuating demand for compressed air.
“As well, the revolutionary developments in information and communication technologies have had a profound effect on the control, monitoring, communication and inter-connective abilities of air compressor technologies.”
Eckberg said it is now commonplace for compressors to have an industrial PC-based controller with a display which allows the user to see at a glance key data such as load, operation and maintenance hours.
“Solutions such as our Sigma Air Manager 2 (SAM 2) PC-based master compressed air management system have pushed the capabilities of this technology even further.”
While there have been major advances in technology in the past 25 years, Eckberg says owners and operators are still making mistakes regarding their compressed air systems.
“Most manufacturers still underestimate the efficiency of their compressed air systems, even though many are acutely aware that it is a large energy consumer.
“An inefficient compressed air system costs more to run, and with the energy cost of a compressed air system accounting for around three quarters of its lifetime costs, knowing the efficiency of the system is paramount in keeping this cost to a minimum.”
Eckberg says compressed air is one of the easiest technologies with which to generate relatively quick and significant energy savings.
“By undergoing a simple compressed air energy audit, users can identify where opportunities exist within their system and what the savings potential may be.”
As well, Eckberg is surprised to see some manufacturers still neglecting the maintenance requirements of their compressed air equipment, or see price as the key consideration in selecting a maintenance provider.
“When you look at the lifetime costs of a compressor, maintenance only accounts for around 6 per cent, and this drops to around 3 per cent for an optimised compressed air system. It therefore pays to follow the manufacturer’s prescribed maintenance schedule.”
Eckberg says opting for the cheapest service provider or the cheapest spare parts is often false economy.
“Only genuine OEM spare parts have been rigorously tested by the OEM for their durability, performance, efficiency and safety with the compressed air equipment. Inferior parts or service may lead to inferior compressor performance and may be considered a safety hazard.”
Incorporating a back-up system is another area Eckberg says manufacturers tend to overlook.
“This can be costly. Whether it be for maintenance or due to a system failure, whenever a business relies on its compressed air system, it is imperative it has a back-up system in place.
“Once you start to weigh up the costs of lost production, the necessity of having a back-up system becomes clear,” Eckberg said.
As a leading innovator in air system technology, Eckberg says Kaeser places great importance on developing progressive system solutions with optimised performance and energy efficiency at their core.
As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of rotary screw compressors, Eckberg says many readers might be surprised to hear that Kaeser Compressors remains owned and operated by the same Kaeser family with all products still manufactured in Germany.
Eckberg says Industry 4.0, the collective term for technologies and concepts of value chain organisation, is playing a key role in both new product and service developments as well as the company’s manufacturing capabilities.
“By utilising cyber-physical systems, Industry 4.0 brings the real and virtual worlds closer together in order to guide and optimise companies manufacturing
processes as well as entire value chains.”
He explained that two new “innovative” factories are currently being constructed at Kaeser’s head office in Coburg, Germany.
“The manufacture of compressors and compressed air equipment in these futuristic production halls will be networked with internal and external logistics, as well as their sales and marketing arms.
“By taking advantage of all that Industry 4.0 has to offer, the new production halls will allow Kaeser to build new and innovative products whilst optimising productivity and minimising lead times.”
Capable of seamless integration into an overall system and communicating with one another, Eckberg said all Kaeser products are ready to take advantage of the future-orientated benefits of Industry 4.0.
“All elements of a Kaeser compressed air system can be networked together from; production planning to implementation and predictive maintenance, enabling intelligent control, which allows for the automatic delivery of the compressed air volume and quality required by each specific user.
“This strategy will help to maintain availability and efficiency, and keep lifecycle costs to a minimum,” Eckberg said.