There is hardly a day I work that I am not talking about the importance of properly installed pressure gauges. These small devices can often get overlooked or thought of as not necessary on an installation. When troubleshooting or evaluating the compressed air consumption of an application, this is one of the first items I look for in the installation.
As Russ Bowman shows in the above video discussing proper piping sizes, you can see the importance of properly placed pressure gauges. This shows the worst-case scenario where the pressure drop due to improper line sizes gives the false sense to the operator that they are achieving full line pressure when in fact they are not. In order to accurately measure consumption rates, pressure AT THE INLET (within a few feet) to any compressed air product is necessary, rather than upstream at a point where there may be restrictions or pressure drops between the inlet and the gauge. So how exactly do these analog gauges measure the pressure of the compressed air at the installed locations?
The video below shows a great example of pressure increasing and decreasing moving the Bourdon tube that is connected to the indicating needle. The description that follows goes more in-depth with how these internals function.
Most mechanical gauges utilize a Bourdon-tube. The Bourdon-tube was invented in 1849 by a French watchmaker, Eugéne Bourdon. The movable end of the Bourdon-tube is connected via a pivot pin/link to the lever. The lever is an extension of the sector gear and movement of the lever results in rotation of the sector gear. The sector gear meshes with spur gear (not visible) on the indicator needle axle which passes through the gauge face and holds the indicator needle. Lastly, there is a small hairspring in place to put tension on the gear system to eliminate gear lash and hysteresis.
When the pressure inside the Bourdon-tube increases, the Bourdon-tube will straighten. The amount of straightening that occurs is proportional to the pressure inside the tube. As the tube straightens, the movement engages the link, lever, and gear system that results in the indicator needle sweeping across the gauge.
If you would like to discuss pressure gauges, the best locations to install them, or how much compressed air an application is using at a given pressure, give us a call, email, or chat.
I’ve heard it a thousand times… Communication is the key to success. No matter what avenue of industry, work, or even personal life you are in, this statement rings true. At home, communication between my wife and I, as well as our network of friends is always the easiest thing to forego and not want to spend time on. Once this easy path is chosen the work kicks in because one side of the team doesn’t know what the other side of the team is doing. Most of the time this works for us, when it doesn’t I quickly realize it would have been a better solution to discuss everything rather than assume or just make a vague attempt at what I think we need to do.
As for the network of friends, one of the best things I have learned is, we are not alone… Chances are, if you enjoy doing something or talking about certain topics, even if you are struggling, there is someone, you probably even pass them every day and don’t know. Heck, I even found a group of people that like to get outside of their comfort zones and exhaust themselves physically and mentally through rucking. The fact is, my network of friends is like my council on tough decisions or even daily life recaps, as humans we need other people and interaction is in our being.
At work, this need for communication is just as important. During times like we are currently experiencing thanks to the pandemic, we may be seeing a worst-case scenario when it comes to communicating since we have split into shifts and moved to remote work.
We have blogged before about our response as a company, we have successfully been ahead of the curve on response and how we handled our staffing as well as social-distancing before these “rules” were put out. The largest hurdle for my team was the separation and not being able to easily discuss together due to separating into two shifts. Sharing applications, or problems customers may be experiencing with each other is one of our strong suits. To be able to collaboratively use our experiences to build the best solutions or see improvements was cut in half.
So how have we been able to keep helping customers the same as before when we are divided among two shifts? In case you can’t guess, it is an abundance of communication. We use every tool available to us every single day to effectively discuss what is going on between shifts as well as seamlessly transition notes so a customer who may need contact with both shifts isn’t re-explaining themselves in the afternoon. Is this easy? No, in fact, we haven’t performed flawlessly this entire time yet we have always kept one focus at the forefront.
We do not want our customers to experience anything different or have any additional hurdles to getting the product they need to maximize their compressed air operation. In fact, if you have noticed a change I would love to discuss it with you personally. You see, we can’t improve without evaluating the methods, just like the 6 Steps to Compressed Air Optimization, you have to know where you are starting, then fix the leaks.
The past few months many of our lives have been altered in some fashion due to COVID-19. Personally, my three daughters began staying home full time and attending school through distance learning. I myself switched to working some alternate shifts which EXAIR changed to in order to optimize our availability to our customer base as well as protect our team members effectively. I know many in manufacturing that have been furloughed. Even worse, some have been forced to work in unsafe conditions.
All of this has made me thankful I am part of a team that cares about our employees first, and then we all work towards ensuring our customers are taken care of. Our new shift structure has also given me time to reflect on many aspects of my life.
When I was younger, like many kids, I always wanted something I received to be new. I didn’t want an older hand me down bicycle, I wanted new. Little did I know I would reach a point in life where I prefer things to be a little older, a little more seasoned, even broken-in if you will. The days are here where disposable is what everyone expects whenever they purchase anything. Repairable is often a thing of the past and or requires specialty tools and or software. I’ve been recently working on lots of small engines from friends and family members yard equipment and recreational vehicles.
I’ve worked on a 1970’s era Stihl chainsaw that the only safety is the weight of the saw and an on/off toggle switch, up to an imported 4 wheeler that instead of buying a single piece or carburetor kit, most people throw them away and buy new. Something about the older equipment makes me think I was born in the wrong era. The time of working hard for what you make and taking pride in products lasting a lifetime is often gone from consumer-grade products. When carburetors are riveted together to make them faster and cheaper to assemble, but also not easily repairable, the chance of someone repairing it 40 years from now diminishes.
It could be that I am closer to 40 than I am to 30, however, I find that being able to source parts direct from a manufacturer as well as being able to get support direct from the manufacturer is something I desire. This could also be because this is how we do business at EXAIR. Our compressed air products all carry a 5 year Built to Last Warranty, we service them, sell replacement parts for them and take pride in their ability to last.
There are few items that I am okay with going a cheap route on, spare screwdrivers, you know the ones you use as pry bars and oil filter punches, and anything I know I am only going to use once and I am okay if it breaks as long as it is worth a laugh. When I went to repair a weed eater for a neighbor I found the engine casing was plastic, there was barely anything to the motor and the lack of maintenance on his part as well as the ethanol in the fuel with lack of stabilizer had gummed up the entire fuel system.
This was a disposable weed eater and he admitted it wasn’t cheap but he also knew it wasn’t a big brand name. Experiencing this, made me laugh. I went to my older weed eater that has seen many days. It was bought used at an auction. I gladly started it up for him and offered to loan it out whenever he needed. That weed eater was built to withstand its use. Parts are readily available and it is so popular there are many of the parts reproduced through third party factories pretending to be the company.
Next up on my project list may be the biggest project yet, a tiller that is far older than I am. This again has been brought on by the want for a healthy garden and the ability to also help neighbors and friends when they are ready for their gardens. Rather than looking new, I started at the old, something I knew was built for hard work, and was ready for the task. I doubt there is a single piece of aluminum on this thing, it has probably seen more sweat throughout its years than I have in my lifetime. First, the research though. Parts, service manuals, and then the negotiation of the purchase. (Both with my wife, and the seller. Separately of course.)
Here at EXAIR, we can get nostalgic over some of our products and processes as well. At the same time, we continuously flex and work with the matters a hand. If you have an old product of ours that you think may not be worthy of use, give us a call. With a few pictures and some information, our team of Application Engineers should be able to help determine if it is in good working order or not. If we cannot determine from pictures, we can always receive the unit in and inspect it for you. In the event it is not in working condition, we more often than not can refurbish the unit and have you back up and running within a few days. Our Super Air Knives are a product that often gets overlooked when they get covered in debris from a process. We can inspect them, clean them, and often restore them to flowing like a brand new knife.
A few weeks ago I participated in a series of three events that spanned the course of three days. Each of these events was through a company called GORUCK which manufactures American made gear and conducts endurance events led by Special Forces Cadre that use some of the training methods they have experienced throughout their career in the armed forces. GORUCK also works alongside service projects that help to better and empower veterans as well as their communities. I believe this tag from their page says it best. “So, yes we build gear. Yes, we lead events, build teams, and strengthen communities. But only because if we didn’t, we’d have to find some other way to change the world, one day at a time.” (GORUCK,2020)
Our custom team weight, weighing in at 25 lbs. Commemorating the battle of A Shau Valley
Our custom team weight weighing in at 25 lbs and commemorating the battle for A Shau Valley
The events that weekend were to commemorate and tell the story of a battle from Vietnam, specifically the battles for A Shau Valley. This is where the battle that became known as Hamburger Hill took place. The valley was an unforgiving place that came with many disadvantages to try and overtake. For example, the elevation goes from 2,000 feet above sea level in the valley to 5,000 ft and anywhere in between thanks to the surrounding mountain ridges.
The valley is also a triple canopy jungle making air support and recon extremely difficult. This valley was a supply chain during the war and there is still turmoil as to whether the battles were necessary as there were many lives lost and several other options that would have achieved a similar supply chain disruption. In the end, there were 17 Americans involved in a battle with a constantly changing number of support forces. 100% of the soldiers became casualties, 5 paid the ultimate sacrifice during the battle and there were 2 Congressional Medals of Honor given due to actions during the battle for Hamburger Hill.
To learn all of this we started out Friday evening at 2100 hr. in a park here in Cincinnati, on a basketball court. There were 23 of us total participating in the event as well as Cadre Steve our leader and then a great friend of mine who shadowed and photographed a great portion of the events. After some administration, we did a quick warmup where we quickly learned what it meant to be in sync and to move as a team. When doing physical exercises, in the dark, with 23 people from all walks of life and varying physical ability it can get interesting. With a team leader assigned by the Cadre, we made around a 1-mile movement as a group carrying with us an American Flag, GORUCK flag, six empty sandbags, and a team weight that weighed in at 25 lbs.
The movement was to a public sand volleyball court where the sandbags quickly went from empty to filled. Thus adding around 650 lbs of extra weight to the team. Each movement, from the point we stepped off to filling the bags became a task as we had to stay within a certain distance of each other, everyone wanted to go different speeds and the urban terrain was an added obstacle. Adding in the weight and suddenly the team will quickly realize how important communication as well as cooperative work and supporting one another is.
We then moved to a small secluded area where the Cadre had done some excellent recon to locate a downed communication device that needed relocation. This was a downed telephone pole that we are estimating weighed in at well over 300 lbs and was around 20′ long. 6 people were assigned from the team to carry that and continued our movement to another park within the city limits that had no easy way to reach other than up and over several of the hills our great city offers. Around 5 miles later and 5 hours later we reached our destination to get some more history on the events that took place during the war.
Along the way, our tactics for the weight continued to vary and we eventually placed 9 people tripping over each other on the heavy communication device, then an additional six on the sandbags, two people on flags, one on the team weight, and the rest just falling in line. By the time we got to the park, everyone on the team had become exhausted, some believed they were carrying more of the load than others, people carrying sandbags would want to not carry weight and have to go under the log then back to a sandbag all because communications were breaking down and the team was beginning to fray at the seams.
At some point it is human nature to look outside rather than inside and begin to focus on what others aren’t doing rather than what you can personally do in order to improve the situation of everyone. The rhythm that the team had been keeping broke down with mental and physical fatigue. Once we had received some more knowledge on the battles the Cadre asked how we were doing and what could be done better. We gave the team leader at each of these sessions three items they did well and three items to improve on then they are removed from their position and another is placed before the next movement. This also helps those that were leaders to understand their importance when placed in a support role.
At this stop, we were able to pay out through exercises leaving the communications pole at a safe location and have a better understanding of how to better move as a team and be congruent even in the middle of the night. We were able to move faster and get to the last stopping point for more education then off to where we started everything at to finish out the event. From this point on we had constant communication, we were working fluidly as a team and everyone from the front to the back of the pack was in the know of what our goal was, our time, and what was needed to get there.
During these events, every single person gets to fight their own minds and questions whether or not they are being an asset to the team or being a liability. It is when you are feeling weak, have pain, see others not struggling, or just get tired that this simple question can become devastating. That’s when everyone has to be willing to communicate and expose their weakness to their team in order for their team to support and help them overcome these internal hurdles. Not everyone gets there and not everyone can overcome. The team as a whole will grow closer and become far more effective if the members all experience this.
Experiencing this throughout the course of the night and seeing the kinds of opportunities that the team here at EXAIR has made possible for me to grow goes hand in hand. When someone here has not experienced an application, or we are weak within a certain area of knowledge or ability, the rest of the team will support, strengthen and ensure everyone makes it through. This is one reason that communication will always be one of the most important traits I can find in a team member. It is also one reason EXAIR continues to progress and continue forward even through trying times.
We communicate from the front all the way to the back of the building fluently and concisely. When something doesn’t happen then we know there is a problem and rather than focusing on blame or what went wrong the teams here all focus on the solution and then we can debrief once the issue is resolved. This leads to on-time and shipping accuracy percentages that continue to improve over the past decade. We place our team’s focus on being able to take care of our customers, give them a safe and efficient way to utilize compressed air and be easy to do business with throughout the entire process.
If you would like to discuss any compressed air application you may have or if you would like to discuss an interaction that you have had with us and share anything good or bad, please feel free to contact me directly.