Industrial facilities can have a multitude of piping and utilities within them. Some of the piping can all look similar, especially if it is not labeled. water, sprinkler lines, compressed air, even steam, and refrigeration lines are just a few of those that can easily be seen within a number of manufacturing facilities. Proper labeling of these helps to ensure plant safety and can also lead to higher efficiencies within the system.
So how does labeling lead to safety? Well, in more than one occurrence I have been inside of facilities where piping that was not intended for compressed air, such as PVC was used for it. When the incorrect piping gets used it can become easily confused and if the contractor that is installing new equipment doesn’t do their homework then it can lead to catastrophic errors. For instance, piping can rupture, or even worse, you could easily pipe the incorrect utility into a piece of equipment. Imagine seeing PVC pipe, which is used for water, and hooking it to a rinse application only to find someone improperly used the piping for industrial compressed air. Or vise versa, an unlabeled pipe thought to be compressed air is actually city water and the next thing happening is water raining down on a packaging blowoff.
This all can and should be easily prevented by properly labeling any and all piping systems thoroughly throughout the facility. This not only names the utility but generally shows the flow direction as well which an help determine where the source is coming from as well. When performing the first step in the 6 Steps To Compressed Air Optimization knowing the direction of flow is critical when installing a Digital Flowmeter in order to assess system efficiency for compressed air.
The proper labeling and utilizing proper piping within industrial environments can easily prevent accidents and ensure ease of troubleshooting or new installations because the piping is already labeled. If you would like to discuss more on what types of piping are acceptable to use with compressed air, feel free to contact an Application Engineer.
Last year I hosted a Webinar about the NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls and compressed air safety! You can watch that here on our website!
The hierarchy of controls is a strategy that originates from NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). NIOSH is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. This hierarchy is their recommendation for increasing safety for personnel by taking specific steps and how each step increases safety moving from bottom to top of the pyramid. In this blog I will explain the main elements of the HIERARCHY OF CONTROLS and illustrate how to reach the highest level of control with important compressed air safety standards.
The least effective methods are Administrative Controls and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Administrative Controls involve making changes to the way people perform the work and promoting safe practices through training. The training could be related to correct operating procedures, keeping the workplace clean, emergency response to incidents, and personal hygiene practices, such as proper hand washing after handling hazardous materials. PPE is the least effective method because the personnel themselves make the choice to wear them or not wear them in any particular situation. They can be trained on the risks of not using PPE equipment (ear plugs, gloves, respirators, etc.) but we all know it does not always get used. PPE can also become damaged, may be uncomfortable and not used, or used incorrectly.
In the middle range of effectiveness is Engineering Controls. These controls are implemented by design changes to the equipment or process to reduce or eliminate the hazard. Good engineering controls can be very effective in protecting people regardless of the the actions and behaviors of the workers. While higher in initial cost than Administrative controls or PPE, typically operating costs are lower, and a cost saving may be realized in the long run.
The final two, Elimination and Substitution are the most effective but can be the most difficult to integrate into an existing process. If the process is still in the design phase, it may be easier and less expensive to eliminate or substitute the hazard. Elimination of the hazard would be the ultimate and most effective method, either by removing the hazard altogether, or changing the work process so the hazard is no longer part of the process.
EXAIR can help your company follow the Hierarchy of Controls, and eliminate, or substitute the hazards of compressed air use with relative ease.
Elimination and Substitution are the most effective methods and should be used whenever possible to reduce or eliminate the hazard and keep people safe in the workplace. EXAIR products can be easily substituted for existing, unsafe compressed air products in many cases. And to avoid the hazard altogether, remember EXAIR when designing products or processes which require compressed air use for cooling, cleaning, ejection, and more.
If you have questions about the Hierarchy of Controls and safe compressed air usage from any of the 15 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution
Growing up as a kid of the 80’s I remember wanting a Nintendo 64. This was very much a want due to the excellent advertising and having friends that got them when they first came out. So, like many kids of the times, I set forth to present my case to my parents and sell them on the benefits to me receiving this 64 bit wonder of the world. These benefits all revolved around me doing chores and “helping” to earn money to go towards the end goal. Thinking back now, I really should have started to learn more about negotiating earlier in life because my parents and older brother really made out on the deal. The point is, I had to make sure that they saw a return on their investment. Mainly, I would be entertained and they would get some stuff done around the house without complaints.
Well, flash forward to today and I still feel as though it is always an easy justification if I have supporting evidence of the benefits and even better, if there is some form of cost savings that will be had by spending money on a project or a tool. Often times the justification is the amount of time spent on a task. Well, here at EXAIR we completely embrace that justification culture and, in many cases, can provide you the information necessary to present to management or budget committee – the simple ROI your company will see when investing in EXAIR products. The best part is, this study is always free.
The way it works is pretty simple, we want to compare your current solution to our engineered products. EXAIR has a simple form that gets filled out (or you can call, e-mail or chat) explaining your application to us. We ask for a few key pieces of detailed information, and for you to send one of your current solutions (the nozzle, homemade device, or open tube for example). Then we run side by side tests in house to determine air consumption, noise, and force at the same pressure you are using at your facility. That’s right, this testing is all done here at EXAIR through our EXAIR Efficiency Lab. We document these performance characteristics and send a report showing a simple return on investment for you if you replace your device with an EXAIR engineered solution.
This information is then easily backed up by our 30 day guarantee on stock products. Get the EXAIR solution in, test it in your facility and see how the savings stack up. If there is anything that doesn’t stack up, you simply let us know and send the units back.
The entire Efficiency Lab and 30 day guarantee are offered to all of our customers that are within the US and Canada. If you would like to discuss what is possible for you and your team, please reach out to an Application Engineer.
If you’re a follower of the EXAIR Blog, you’re probably well aware that compressed air is the most expensive utility in an industrial environment. The average cost to generate 1000 Standard Cubic Feet of compressed air is $0.25. If you’re familiar with how much air you use on a daily basis, you’ll understand just how quickly that adds up. To make matters worse, many compressed air systems waste significant amounts of compressed air just through leaks. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, a typical plant that has not been well maintained will likely have a leak rate of approximately 30%!! Good luck explaining to your finance department that you’re carelessly wasting 30% of the most expensive utility. To make sure you get the most out of your compressed air system, it’s important to follow the Six Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System.
Starting with Step 1: Measure the air consumption to find sources that use a lot of compressed air. In order to have an understanding of your compressed air usage across various processes and in your entire facility, you have to measure and produce a baseline. Without a measurement of usage, there’s no way to determine your actual costs or evaluate opportunities for savings. To do so, EXAIR offers a range of Digital Flowmeters from stock. The Digital Flowmeter provides a digital readout of the exact amount of compressed air being used. Many companies will install the DFM on each major leg of their air distribution system to allow for constant monitoring and provide a benchmark of compressed air usage.
Once you’ve measured your baseline, it’s time to explore another simple avenue of savings. Step 2 in the process is finding and fixing leaks in your current system. EXAIR offers our Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector to allow you to locate and fix any leaks within your distribution system. With an unmaintained system wasting on average 30% of the produced volume, this one seems like a no-brainer but is often overlooked. If you can hear the leak without the help of a device like the ULD, it’s a VERY bad leak. These should be located, tagged, and repaired ASAP!
After getting a baseline measurement of the air consumption in your facility of compressed air usage and locating and fixing leaks in your system, it’s time to begin implementing some changes. Step 3 of the 6 Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System covers upgrading your blowoff, cooling, and drying operations using engineered compressed air products. EXAIR manufactures a variety of products that can help to ensure you’re using your compressed air in the best way possible. While it may seem simple, easy, and cheap to use something like an open-ended pipe or tube for blowoff, the fact of the matter is that the volume of air that these homemade solutions use quickly make them more expensive. Look no further than EXAIR when seeking a safe, efficient, and reliable engineered blowoff solution.
Step 4 may be the easiest of any of the others. TURN IT OFF! You can’t waste compressed air when it’s turned off. By strategically placing valves at various points throughout the distribution system, it allows you to isolate areas of the facility that may not require continuous compressed air usage. It isn’t exactly feasible to eliminate every single leak, so even if you’ve closely followed Step 3 it’s still beneficial to close some valves here and there to further reduce your consumption. In some applications, such as products traveling on a conveyor, it may be possible to utilize a product like EXAIR’s Electronic Flow Controller to ensure air isn’t wasted in between parts on the conveyor.
The 5th step in the 6 steps to optimizing your compressed air system highlights the use of intermediate storage of compressed air near the point of use. Receiver tanks are installed in the distribution system to provide a source of compressed air close to the point of use, rather than relying on the output of the compressor. Compressed air receiver tanks are an integral part to many compressed air distribution systems. Compressed air is stored at a high pressure after drying and filtration, but just upstream of point of use devices. The receiver tank is charged to a pressure higher than what is needed by the system, creating a favorable pressure differential to release compressed air when needed.
Think of a compressed air receiver tank as a “battery”. It stores the compressed air energy within a system to be used in periods of peak demand, helping to maintain a stable compressed air pressure. This improves the overall performance of the compressed air system and helps to prevent pressure drop. They should be placed strategically to provide a source of compressed air to intermittent high-volume applications.
The last step, Step 6, discusses the use of pressure regulators at the point of use. Pressure regulators are available to control the air pressure within the system and throttle the appropriate supply of air to any pneumatic device. As the last of the six steps to optimizing your compressed air system, controlling air pressure so that you’re only consuming as much as necessary can have a dramatic impact. EXAIR sells a variety of systems that will include a suitably sized pressure regulator to ensure you’re operating as efficiently as possible.
Follow these 6 steps and make sure you get the most out of your compressed air system!