General Motors

Romulus Engine Plant | Detroit, MI

Automated Air System Monitoring and Scheduling Delivers Efficiency

Custom Solutions

Client Snapshot:

General Motors Corp.’s Romulus Powertrain plant relies on compressed power for production at its sprawling, 1.4 million-square-foot facility, which manufactures V6 engines and 10-speed transmissions. The Romulus, Michigan, plant, which began operations in 1976, uses compressed air to power assembly lines and to remove excess material in the machining process.

When GM recently prioritized a need to improve efficiency in how it generated compressed air power at the Romulus plant, the automaker turned to Bay Controls for a comprehensive solution.

Challenge: Compressors Working Separately via Manual Controls

Air power in the Romulus facility was provided by eight independently operating compressors from different manufacturers—five centrifugal machines from Cameron and Ingersoll Rand, and three Atlas-Copco rotary screw units. Each compressor retained its OEM-installed control mechanism, with no capability to communicate or work in tandem
with the other compressors. This mode of operation resulted in multiple inefficiencies:

  • Inefficient compressor operation: With each compressor functioning as a stand-alone unit, the minimum pressure set point had to be higher than optimal to ensure sufficient power, which resulted in unnecessary runtime and wasted energy.
  • Inability to match compressor output to production demands: Fluctuations in demand created an additional challenge to these separately functioning compressors, which could not respond quickly and efficiently to increased or decreased power needs.
  • Excessive compressor output: To ensure sufficient power generation, compressors often operated when they were not needed, which led to excessive electricity consumption and cost, and caused wear and tear on the equipment.

Finally, the compressors were operated by manual controls, which required on-site personnel for ongoing adjustments.

Solution: Bay Controls Instrumentation Brings Efficiency through Automation

After assessing the setup at the facility, Bay Controls suggested replacing the OEM controls on each compressor and linking the units in a network controlled and monitored by a centralized software system. This new setup would enable the compressors to work as an integrated system that could handle everyday production and respond to fluctuations in demand as well. Compressor operation could be automated via a scheduling program, and the system would function without the need for constant hands-on intervention.

The project was implemented in two phases. In the initial phase, Bay Controls replaced the controllers on the five centrifugal compressors. In the second phase, Bay Controls replaced the controllers on the three rotary screw compressors and then installed the BayView Server and Bay View Scheduler software to monitor and control the system.

The new compressor controllers enable the different types and brands of compressors to operate on a network with the optimum number of units running at full load, while allowing a single designated unit to step its load up and down to maintain pressure and meet plant demand.

The BayView Server compressor management system, set up in a workstation separate from the compressor area, gathers details of the compressors’ activity and displays key performance
data on a dashboard so that plant personnel can track their operation and make necessary adjustments. From this control module, plant personnel can start and stop compressors, change operating modes, modify pressure setpoints and adjust network priorities.

The BayView Scheduler enables plant personnel to program the compressors’ operating schedule to meet production requirements. By using data logged in BayView Server, it can create an automated compressor operation schedule that matches air supply with plant air demand with high energy efficiency, for example, by automatically lowering pressure during non-production and off hours, driving down compressed air costs.

By allowing plant personnel to control all of their air compressors as a single, unified and networked system, these automated monitoring, control, and scheduling features have enabled the plant to maintain consistent, desired pressure setpoints on its air compressor systems and achieve improved operating efficiency.

Benefits: Plant Syncs Production with Demand, Achieves Energy Cost Savings

Bay Controls helped the GM Romulus Powertrain facility achieve its goal of improving efficiency in its compressed air generation by installing updated compressor controls, networking, and automated monitoring and control features to more accurately synchronize production with demand. By automating the facility’s operation schedule using BayView Server and BayView Scheduler, Bay Controls was able to more closely match compressor operation to demand, and give plant staff significantly improved monitoring capability.

Networking the units and shutting down those that aren’t needed is extending the lifespan of the compressors and, most important, has significantly reduced the plant’s electricity consumption. In fact, the facility has realized a 15-percent savings in its annual electricity costs, which amounts to about $140,000 per year. And this type of energy-saving initiative pays off beyond showing a gain in the accounting ledger for a single plant; it serves to further GM’s goal of establishing its image as a “green” corporate citizen.

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