Sometimes, the smallest changes can have the most profound impacts on the overall performance and cost-efficiency of an industrial system. This is particularly true in the case of compressed air systems, where every component, down to the smallest hose barb, can influence the total system efficiency.
A hose barb, for those unfamiliar, is a specially designed fitting used to connect flexible hoses to different types of pipes, valves, or other hose segments. The barb is the section that the hose fits onto, and it typically has a ridged or serrated surface to facilitate a tight connection and prevent leakage. The size, geometry, and material of a hose barb can all impact the amount of pressure drop within the connected tool or machinery.
This concept was vividly illustrated in one recent audit of a large industrial facility. The purchasing department had identified a cheaper alternative for the hose barbs used in thousands of on-site tools. While this may have initially seemed like a savvy cost-saving measure, the cheaper barbs proved to be a false economy.
The alternative barbs had a diameter that was smaller by 0.05" - a seemingly minor difference, but enough to reduce the size of the barb by 24%. This reduced size significantly increased the pressure drop in some of the tools. Pressure drop is a critical factor in compressed air systems as it directly affects the system's efficiency and energy consumption. High pressure drop requires the compressor to work harder and consume more energy to maintain the required operating pressure.
As a result of the increased pressure drop caused by the smaller hose barbs, the maintenance department was forced to raise the operating pressure in the compressor room. This seemingly insignificant change in equipment ended up creating a ripple effect, increasing energy consumption and operating costs across the entire compressed air system.
In the end, the apparent savings of $10,000 on hose barbs resulted in an overall loss, as the increase in energy costs outweighed the initial cost savings. This case underscores the critical importance of understanding the role and impact of every component within a system, no matter how small. When optimizing industrial systems, it's essential to consider both the direct costs of components and their impact on overall system performance.