Kaeser Compressors is celebrating 30 years in Australia this November. Peter Eckberg, Managing Director of Kaeser Compressors Australia, discussed how the company’s latest innovations can assist users in optimising the availability, reliability and efficiency of compressed air systems, through the current pandemic and beyond.

Kaeser Compressors has been present in the Australian market for 30 years, establishing its head office in Dandenong, Victoria, in 1990. Over the past three decades Kaeser has opened branch offices and developed a dedicated network of distributors that are strategically located to be able to deliver Australia-wide sales and service support.

Globally, Kaeser celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2019. From humble beginnings in Germany, the company has grown to become one of the world’s largest compressed air system providers and compressor manufacturers, today employing in excess of 7,000 people worldwide and represented throughout the world through a network of branches, subsidiary companies and authorised partners. The company remains owned and operated by the Kaeser family, now in their third generation, with all products proudly manufactured in Germany.

An innovative spirit

An innovative spirit continues to pervade all aspects of Kaeser, as Eckberg explains: “This has resulted in a steady stream of innovations in compressed air technology, and applying equally to hardware, software and services. From the refrigeration dryer to revolutionary controllers (Sigma Air Manager 4.0), from the portable compressor through to digitalisation and Industry 4.0, Kaeser still blazes a trail in the industry for the cost-effective, reliable, efficient generation and use of compressed air, thanks to its innovative, top-quality products and services.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has led Kaeser to develop a number of initiatives, including contactless service, to ensure that compressed air users could continue to operate reliable and efficient compressed air systems. The company has remained open for business throughout the pandemic, ensuring that essential manufacturers have been able to continue to access high-quality, German-made compressed air equipment, local service support, and genuine essential spare parts.

One of the company’s most recent innovations brings many benefits to the end user in terms of complete lifecycle efficiency, and most importantly right now, the ability to view – remotely and in real time – key information and diagnostics, for maximum reliability.

Complete connectivity

“Every part of a compressed air station, whether it be the compressors, compressed air treatment components or distribution system, should operate as efficiently as possible for its own sake,” says Eckberg. “Modern compressors and compressed air treatment components are therefore equipped with internal controllers based on industrial PC technology. But these components are not individual players – they must act together as a team, and a team works best when it is perfectly co-ordinated. A sophisticated compressed air management system is therefore required to perform this particular function.”

The Sigma Air Manager 4.0 (SAM 4.0) from Kaeser is an example of a progressive, Industry 4.0-ready compressed air management system that binds all individual components into a complete team, monitoring and controlling them so that the required volume of compressed air is available at all times, at the required quality.

Advanced management systems must successfully meet some highly demanding challenges. Not least, they must be capable of predictive compressor control, taking into account a range of contributing factors, such as switching losses, control losses, and so on. However, modern master controllers are now expected to do far more than optimise compressor operation according to current demand.

Efficiency is playing an ever-increasing role. Here, through the development of a patented, simulation-based optimisation process, the SAM 4.0 is meeting these requirements by predictively selecting the most efficient switching operations based on compressed air consumption profile analysis and equipment and system behaviour, in relation to the prevailing technical operating conditions. Decisions are no longer dictated by a narrow pressure range. Instead, the key is to achieve the lowest possible compressed air production costs through intelligent, energy-saving switching strategies.

Predicting service requirements

The SAM 4.0 also allows for varying levels of involvement by external service providers. The end user can still perform all of the maintenance, evaluation and servicing of the system themselves (the SAM 4.0 will send notifications when service is required). Alternatively, the end user can choose a predictive maintenance service model with remote diagnostics.

Here, the physical meets the virtual world within the framework of a structural model such as Kaeser’s Sigma Smart Air, in which the specific compressed air system – configured according to the operator’s requirements – is represented virtually by a digital twin. Operating data from the compressed air station is securely transmitted to the Kaeser Data Center, where it is analysed in real time.

Such real-time availability of operating data makes it possible to monitor the ‘health’ of a compressed air station. This means maintenance is carried out precisely as needed and potential faults can be detected in advance and appropriate maintenance measures automatically initiated at the right time. Ultimately, the end user benefits from significantly reduced compressed air production and operating costs, as well as improved compressed air availability.

The combination of remote diagnostics and demand-oriented predictive maintenance ensures maximum compressed air supply availability and complete system effectiveness – preventing unplanned downtime, increasing energy efficiency, reducing service costs by up to 30% and delivering demand optimised compressed air system control throughout the system’s entire life cycle.

Remote and real-time monitoring

Probably one of the greatest advantages of such advanced compressed air technology in the current pandemic – where many facilities still have staff working remotely, where the number of people in a facility may have been reduced, and where many facilities are still limiting access to suppliers – is the ability to remotely monitor a compressed air system in real-time.

From a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone, the SAM 4.0’s integrated web server provides a visual display of all compressed air system data in the form of HTML pages. All operational and energy consumption data, as well as cost information, can therefore be called up on any network-compatible device – anytime, anywhere. In addition, the end user can choose to configure the system so they receive alarm and maintenance messages for individual components, as well as timely warnings or service requirement notifications via email or text message.

When the end user integrates an advanced compressed air management system with a service model such as Kaeser Sigma Smart Air, they have the added peace of mind that a team of compressed air experts are also monitoring the real-time data and acting accordingly.

At the best of times a fully networked compressed air system offers the end user numerous benefits. However, many of these benefits – from remote monitoring and diagnostics, to achieving the lowest possible compressed air production costs through intelligent, energy-saving switching strategies – are even more advantageous in the current climate. After all as an essential utility to industry, many businesses rely on their compressed air system and will now more than ever demand maximum compressed air supply reliability.’

Investing in the future

Construction is due to start any day at Kaeser’s Australian head office of a brand new factory. This will double the size of the existing facility – increasing the warehousing, workshop and office capacity. While COVID-19 may have slowed down proceedings it has not stopped the company’s reinvestment plans.

“Kaeser Compressors has always reinvested heavily into the business,” says Eckberg. “The current pandemic has not halted those efforts. When we finally come out the other end, the company will be in an even stronger position to continue to support its customers.”