Columnists: Jason Erwin, Borg & Co
Published on: 6 Apr 2021
Efficiency at industrial plant improves safety, leads to new line of business
A year ago, Giangiacomo Mussa did not pay much attention to the compressed air system at his factory. He was pleased as long as his company, Perardi e Gresino (PeG), met their production targets and delivered the high precision mechanical parts their customers expect.
He certainly wouldn’t have guessed that PeG, an Italian supplier in the automotive industry, would invest in a whole new line of business focused on compressed air optimisation.
What a difference a year makes! After audits revealed troubling safety issues, Giangiacomo’s perspective shifted 180 degrees.
“We didn’t realize how many critical aspects of our business compressed air affects,” relays Giangiacomo. “The audits made it clear to us that (the existing system) risked the safety of our employees and was costing way too much.”
Audits reveal safety concerns, cost saving opportunities
Indeed, an energy audit and subsequent noise audit revealed several significant, though addressable issues:
- The compressed air system was over-pressurized, risking staff eye-injuries,
- Noise levels inside the factory exceeded safe threshold standards of 80dB, and
- The system configuration made maintenance difficult and time-consuming.
Outdoor noise was also an issue in the Italian village near Turin, where the plant is located. Increasing production and the resulting noise from the outdoor compressor room generated a series of complaints from neighbours.
Optimisation efforts correct course, yield competitive benefits
Along with his audit and service partners, Direktin (Italy) and Safen srl (Italy), Giangiacomo developed an action plan. Implementation is currently underway – PeG started by right sizing the components (e.g., fittings) on the production machines and then optimised the compressed air distribution line. The next steps are to optimise the compressor room and then introduce a condition monitoring system to help maintenance keep the system running optimally.
The project contributes in significant ways to PeG’s competitive advantage (see figure). Not least PeG’s employees will be able to work in a safer and higher-quality environment.
Click on the image to see a detailed explanation of the process.
The investment decision was aided by considering all of the anticipated multiple benefits associated with the project, not only energy cost savings. By weighing the project’s contribution to value proposition, costs and risks, the investment proposal was more compelling. And by including maintenance and insurance cost reductions in the financial analysis, the simple payback dropped from nearly 2 years (energy costs only) to less than a year and a half (all cost reductions).
Lessons learned, unexpected opportunity
The project was not without its challenges. For instance, PeG had to consider how to install a new line without impacting production. The team addressed this challenge by creating a parallel new line during full operation, and then switching over to the new line once it was operational.
PeG also decided to implement the project in phases. In this manner it can gauge results by first installing measures on one production line and then, if successful, implement the solutions plant-wide.
What was the most unexpected result of the project? How about a spin-off business focused on improving compressed air systems!
“We decided to invest in a whole new line of business focused on compressed air optimisation”, explains Giangiacomo. “Obviously, this was unexpected. But together with our partners we want to help our customers and the industry realize the benefits we did.”
A detailed case study including contact details will be made available at the EU-funded Multiple Benefits website: www.mbenefits.eu. The PeG case will also be presented as part of the Multiple Benefits Digital Event on May 11, 2021. Event information and registration is available at: https://www.mbenefits.eu/final-conference/.