Sustainability in all respects!
Have you ever looked at the base of a common plastic container – such as the one containing the sweets, biscuits or crisps you may be enjoying right now? If so, it’s fairly likely you’ll be looking at the logo of German manufacturer Fürst GmbH.
While you enjoy your goodies, accompany us as we take a 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, Franconia; the company also has two subsidiaries in France. Fürst recently introduced an ISO 50001-compliant energy management system which has since been certified. 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: Significant energy saving potential was identified in the company’s overall energy costs, including the compressed air station. The subsequent modifications, adjustments and new equipment introduced in this area are helping to make energy usage more efficient and are also ensuring that the company is ready and equipped to meet all future challenges – including those associated with Industry 4.0 implementation.
Quality and efficiency are top priorities
Fürst produces packaging for the food industry using injection-moulding 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 utilise optimised 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 says. “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 through to blowing out and removal of the finished products, compressed air features prominently in all production activities and is a key energy source in every stage of the process. Vacuum air is also used. 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 not only to meet the highest quality standards applicable to the food industry, but to also be as energy-efficient and reliable as possible.
Following an in-depth compressed air audit, which was carried out to reveal the company’s compressed air consumption in detail, Fürst’s compressed air station was planned and designed to take advantage of the very latest compressed air engineering technology. Of course, the focus was on high-quality and reliable compressed air supply, efficiency and cost savings.
Increased potential – thanks to SIGMA AIR MANAGER 4.0
The subsequent installation of a compressor that is precisely matched to compressed air demand has significantly increased 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 that required compressed air quality is maintained at all times.
Prior to modernisation, 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 Industry 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 & treatment components and, consequently, enables precision matching of compressed air production to meet actual demand. It is also able to optimise pressure quality and to precisely adapt 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 performance data are constantly sent to a machine operation centre operated by the compressed air system provider for monitoring. The master controller independently analyses the situation at all times and, if appropriate, sends a message to the service team, or directly to the local installation technician or the central data centre.
All of these innovative measures help to enhance operational reliability and efficiency, and, at the same time, reduce both energy and total life-cycle costs.
Furthermore, the master controller is designed to grow with the air station. A straightforward software upgrade allows for expansion with no need for additional investment in new hardware. The new components can be simply connected to the SAM 4.0 master controller via the Ethernet-based Sigma Network and integrated into Industry 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 €14,500.
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 as a result of the compression process can be used to heat the entire office complex, resulting in additional annual savings of around €5,400 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: