Werner & Mertz are ready for the Industrie 4.0 age with a contracting compressed air solution from KAESER.
Although not many people are familiar with the company name – Werner & Mertz – almost everyone in Germany knows their products: the wide range of environmentally-friendly Erdal and Frosch household care and cleaning products. Another little known fact is that the company utilises a highly advanced compressed air supply system that’s already capable of fully networked operations within the Industrie 4.0 environment.
Industrie 4.0 refers to the production environment of the future, characterised by seamless integration of machines and IT systems, which promises to deliver benefits to both customers and manufacturers In the case of compressed air supply systems, this means a sophisticated overall concept for highly efficient compressed air production. This concept networks all steps within the process, from planning and implementation to predictive maintenance, and is capable of managing everything intelligently to automatically deliver the required compressed air volume and quality necessary for each specific application. Moreover, this is achieved with maximum availability and efficiency with lowest possible life cycle costs.
Sustainable to the core
Environmentally-friendly business practices and sustainability aren’t just passing fads for Werner & Mertz, manufacturer of products for consumers and professionals, but have long been a company tradition. Not only have all the products distributed under the Frosch and Erdal brands been developed according to this philosophy, the company building was also built with environmental principles in mind – and even received the National German Sustainability Award. So, when the time came to modernise the entire existing system, the objective was not merely to replace the large number of disparate, outdated components – but also to achieve significant cost savings. Moreover, the company wanted to select a solution that harmonised with the sustainability and energy-efficiency philosophy of Werner & Mertz. Ultimately they found what they were looking for in the contracting concept proposed by Kaeser Kompressoren. In this contracting arrangement, the compressed system provider retains ownership of the compressed air station itself and the customer pays only for the compressed air that is actually used. In addition to all of the technical aspects, this contracting variant provides another advantage insofar as the costs incurred for compressed air become variable costs. And although Werner & Mertz has not yet officially released an Industrie 4.0 guideline, internal discussions are underway; the compressed air station therefore also had to be Industrie 4.0 compatible.
When it comes to integration of a compressed air supply system, such as that at Werner & Mertz, into a modern management system, far more is required than simply setting up a computer system of some sort or another. Rather, for optimal results, a complete analysis must first be performed, taking into account all of the relevant requirements. These requirements included: operational reliability, energy savings and integration of the compressed air system with the general production and energy management system. Because the company had grown organically over the years, its compressed air supply system was also distributed over various sites and was no longer suited to the company’s modern production activities. Since the old system was not equipped with any sensors at all, a detailed compressed air audit was performed to assess current consumption patterns and to detect weak points in the existing system. This thorough process took a total of 14 days, and yielded highly valuable information with relatively straightforward connections. Proprietary computer software then made it possible to produce a visual display of compressor performance characteristics, such as air consumption, pressure values and potential areas for improvement in the compressed air treatment process, and to establish software-aided recommendations for optimisation.
Werner & Mertz decided to take advantage of a contracting arrangement (in this case, Sigma Air Utility) whereby the operator only has to make suitable space available on its production premises, or at another location, in which a modern compressed air station can be installed and operated efficiently.
The Werner & Mertz compressed air station is housed in a separate, well ventilated building.
Networked for complete compatibility
It is crucial for the system that individual components featuring intelligent communication be installed and that the individual compressors should be equipped with industrial PC technology. This enables communication within the system for subsequent forwarding of data, for example, to a centralised management system, such as the Sigma Air Manager (SAM). This central system is then capable of automatically optimising the compressed air station’s performance based on the data collected and can also, based on the production situation, identify the volume of air that is actually required and control the system accordingly.
This compressed air management system also serves as the interface for processing all data associated with the compressed air station. This includes, first of all, the operating data for all compressors, which in this instance are transferred to the centralised Sigma Air Manager system via Profibus DP. Additional data relate to faults, consumption behaviour, overall system efficiency and that of connected peripheral devices, such as dryers, condensate drains and treatment systems, as well as the data involved in monitoring the environmental conditions of the compressor station. The system does not just operate as a data collector, but if required, it can also transfer relevant data to an existing centralised control system – using standard interfaces for convenience. If the operator does not have a centralised control system, the Sigma Air Manager is able to display the data independently on a standard PC using a web browser since it features an integrated web server. Users can then access corresponding information regarding air consumption, energy consumption, running compressors, faults and costs. If the system needs to be switched remotely due to an emergency, this can also be performed via the Sigma Air Manager. To ensure optimum compressor station performance at all times, the system is also able to forward the data, via the internet, to the operator’s central data centre – in this case, Kaeser Kompressoren’s data centre.
Sigma network ensures security
Innovations such as the Sigma Network offer users additional peace of mind: a powerful and secure Ethernet-based network that enables optimal monitoring and efficient control of the compressed air station, as well as utilisation within an Industrie 4.0 environment. Although this component has not yet been installed by Werner and Mertz, it can be retrofitted at any time.
This advanced system fulfils all of our company’s needs – it is energy saving, efficient, flexible and requires minimal maintenance.
The system determines what it needs
Kaeser’s central data centre therefore acts as the hub and dispatch point for all further activities. For instance, service activities are organised via a special service module. The international Kaeser Data Centre then forwards the data to the national service centres as appropriate. These centres can then coordinate emergency responses directly with local service technicians whose service vehicles are always equipped to deal with the issue at hand.