Sustainability in all respects!
Have you ever looked at the base of a common plastic container? The one containing the cookies you may be enjoying right now? If so, it’s likely you’ll be looking at the logo of German manufacturer Fürst GmbH.
While you enjoy your goodies, come along with us as we look at the intelligent compressed air solutions used by the company to create these containers. The main production site of Fürst GmbH, a third-generation family company, is located in Hallerndorf. The company also has two subsidiaries in France. Fürst recently introduced an ISO 50001-compliant, certified energy management system. One of the numerous positive aspects of this process was that it presented the perfect opportunity to put all internal processes on the test bench – to review, evaluate, and improve them. The results were encouraging: the process enabled Fürst to identify significant energy savings potential in its overall energy costs, including the compressed air station. The subsequent modifications, adjustments, and new equipment introduced are helping to make energy usage more efficient while also ensuring that the company is ready and equipped to meet all future challenges, including those associated with the implementation of Industrie 4.0.
Quality and efficiency are top priorities
Fürst produces packaging for the food industry using injection-molding processes. Both the final product and the entire production process itself are subject to the most stringent quality standards. The international packaging market is a highly competitive sector, so as a company with production based in Germany, it is that much more important to use optimum production processes to maintain and enhance competitiveness in the global market.
Nadja Fürst, daughter of the current company owner, is responsible for quality management. “Quality is our top priority, and sustainability is also incredibly important,” she explains, “not only with regards to our products, but also to the manufacturing process itself. Just as we ensure that our containers are leak proof, dishwasher safe, and reusable, so that they provide as a long a service life as possible, we also place great emphasis on resource conservation in our manufacturing process.”
Compressed air all the way
From material transport to cleaning and transporting finished products, compressed air features prominently in all production activities and is a key energy source in every stage of Fürst’s process, including vacuum air. Since compressed air provides the main form of drive energy, it represents an important cost factor, so it’s only logical that Nadja Fürst wanted the company’s compressed air supply to meet the highest quality standards applicable to the food industry and be as energy-efficient and reliable as possible.
Following an in-depth compressed air audit, carried out to reveal the company’s compressed air consumption in detail, the plan for Fürst’s compressed air station was to take advantage of the very latest compressed air engineering technology. Of course, the focus was on high quality, reliable compressed air supply, efficiency, and cost savings.
Increased potential – thanks to SAM 4.0
The installation of a compressor precisely matched to air demand has significantly increased Fürst’s compressed air production efficiency. Furthermore, the addition of air-main charging systems and new dryers has resulted in a compressed air system concept that permanently ensures maintaining the required compressed air quality at all times.
In years past, Fürst’s compressed air station did not have a master controller. Installation of a Sigma Air Manager 4.0 (SAM 4.0) was therefore a milestone that opened up further potential for enhancing energy efficiency and ease of maintenance, as well as networking and control capabilities within the scope of Industrie 4.0.
Compressors and air treatment components with integrated controllers that are able to transmit their data to other controllers form the basis for this industry-changing approach. The SAM 4.0 master controller provides simultaneous monitoring of all compressed air production and treatment components and consequently enables precision matching of compressed air production to meet actual demand. It also improves pressure quality and precisely adapts compressed air production to match the actual compressed air requirement. In addition, it comprehensively boosts energy efficiency through constant evaluation of control losses, switching losses, and pressure flexibility. What's more, this advanced controller is ready equipped to accommodate future services such as predictive maintenance.
The controller also offers remote diagnostics capability. If requested by the customer, this option means that SAM 4.0 constantly sends performance data for monitoring to an operations center managed by the compressed air system provider. The master controller independently analyzes the situation at all times and, if appropriate, sends a message to the service team or directly to the local installation technician or data center.
All of these innovative measures help to enhance operational reliability, efficiency, and, at the same time, reduce both energy and total life-cycle costs.
Furthermore, the master controller will grow with the air station. A straightforward software upgrade allows for expansion with no need for additional investment in new hardware. The new SAM 4.0 and its components connect effortlessly with the master controller via an Ethernet-based Sigma network and integrate into Industrie 4.0 associated concepts.
Energy cost savings thanks to heat recovery
The measures implemented in this particular case have resulted in annual direct energy savings of some $18,000.
The new compressed air station provided Fürst with the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of heat recovery for the first time. The exhaust heat from the compressors generated during the compression process can heat the entire office complex, resulting in additional annual savings of around $6,500 in heating oil.
Nadja Fürst is more than happy with the new system and looks forward to further enhancements. “Ultimately, it is our decision as to how we use a product and the resources that are available to us. Whether we discard or reuse products, how we manufacture products and use resources, sustainability is all about mindset.”
To the products: