One of the ways it is possible to exceed customer expectations is to produce effective and innovative solutions to the challenges that they contend with. When Rand-Air Business Development Manager Henry Fourie was faced with a dusty and demanding challenge, he needed to come up with a solution which would address the problem effectively.
The problem was that the customer manufactures an industrial mineral and, in so doing, produces a very fine, but exceptionally abrasive, dust. This would get into equipment such as compressors and forklifts and clog them up in a very short space of time.
What prompted the request from the manufacturer was the fact that they were upgrading and doubling the size of their plant. This new plant would produce an even finer product. However, they were experiencing downtime with their two existing compressors, which – as the plant works 24/7 – were essential for its operation. Faced with ongoing downtime, the manufacturer approached Rand-Air for a solution.
Fourie and his colleagues put their heads together and devised a plan. Although this specific solution was a first for Rand-Air, the team was prepared to develop the solution specifically to address this particular customer’s challenge.
The answer to the abrasive dust problem lay in placing the compressor into a specially designed, hermetically sealed housing – somewhat like a shipping container. This sealed housing was fitted with special filtered air intakes to make sure that none of external dust reached the compressor.
Air filtration is not a particular speciality of Rand-Air; however, to provide an effective solution in this instance, the Rand-Air team tested various air filtration solutions until they came up with one that was optimal.
“We put this proposal and the pricing structure to our customer, who was very pleased with the idea and accepted it,” says Fourie.
In October 2018, Rand-Air commissioned the construction of the compressor housing and its special filtration arrangement. “We had everything ready for delivery to site on December 21,” he explains.
The compressor that was supplied for this hire is an electrically-driven Atlas Copco GA132FF full-feature unit.
To source the housing for this compressor, Rand-Air contracted a manufacturer of portable, insulated cold rooms and refrigerated truck bodies to build the housing for the GA132FF. This housing has special doors built into it to allow for the removal and replacement of the compressor if necessary. The container walls are constructed of a robust, waterproof aluminium board which has an interior filled with polystyrene foam. While it is designed to keep out fine silica quartz dust, it also protects the compressor against severe weather conditions and prevents unauthorised people gaining access to the compressor.
“In summer months, the insulation in the container walls will also protect the compressor against overheating,” says Fourie.
The fineness of the dust was an issue that Rand-Air had to deal with. “First of all, we installed two high-density filters which we believed would cope with the incoming particles. However, these filters clogged up very quickly; and so, to get around this, we installed lower density filters which, as part of our service to the customer, we change frequently. On the housing, there is an inlet for filtered air, and there is an outlet opposite it, to help dissipate heat. Over and above that, we have two extra filters on the container as well as an extraction fan.”
Asked about feedback from the customer, Fourie explains that they are very happy with their uninterrupted supply of compressed air.
“At Rand-Air, we are constantly aware that we are in a very competitive market and, to keep ahead, we have to be extremely innovative and ahead of the market. By doing this, we will continue to successfully differentiate ourselves in the eyes of our valued customers,” he concludes.