OEM Automotive

Automotive Facility | Detroit, MI

Turning Data into Savings with Cloud-Based Compressed Air System Monitoring

Custom Solutions
inefficient compressed air system


Since 1999, Bay Controls has worked with a Detroit Automaker to provide cloud-based data monitoring, reporting and alerting for their compressed air systems using the BayWatch platform. Over the course of almost two decades since our first BayWatch installation, we have partnered with our customer to implement BayWatch as the corporate standard for compressed air system monitoring in their North American plants.

Starting in 2010 with a new energy management team and focus on improving plant performance in manufacturing, safety, and energy use, Bay Controls has worked with the automaker to leverage plant data to identify and implement compressed air energy-saving projects using the data collection and reporting capabilities of BayWatch. In addition, BayWatch has been adopted as a benchmarking tool that enables the corporate energy team to quickly compare compressed air key performance metrics (KPMs) between plants while also enabling individual plants to evaluate the performance impacts of maintenance and major overhauls on individual air compressors.

At both the corporate and plant level, BayWatch has provided the actionable intelligence the automaker needs to continuously improve their compressed air reliability and energy efficiency.

Key Stats

  • Number of Customer Plants with BayWatch Installed: 18
  • Total Number of Air Compressors Monitored with BayWatch: 106
  • Average Air Compressor Horsepower Monitored with BayWatch: 1200HP
  • Average Number of Data Points Captured per Compressor: 40
  • Accurate, Reliable Data Collection

When Bay Controls first installed BayWatch at one of the automaker’s plants in 1999, the goal was simple: provide accurate compressed air system air data, reporting, and alerts to plant personnel regardless of where they happened to be throughout the day. BayWatch accomplished that goal with a cloud-based platform that captured and stored compressed air system data in 15-second intervals and then allowed users to view and manipulate that data using a suite of built-in reporting and analysis tools from anywhere they had access to an internet browser.

In the 18 years since that first plant installation, the need for accurate, reliable operating data to make decisions at the plant and corporate level has grown exponentially. To meet that need, the automaker has standardized on BayWatch for their compressed air system data collection at 18 North American plants. Using a suite of industry-proven hardware and software, BayWatch collects a wide variety of data points from the automaker’s compressed air systems. A collection of the key data points monitored by BayWatch are shown in the table below.

Key BayWatch Data Points

Discharge Pressure (compressor) Compressor Energy
System Pressure System Energy (plant)
System Flow Motor Power (compressor)
Blow-Off Position Run-time
Vibration (All stages) Efficiency (CFM/kW)
Oil Pressure  

Via BayWatch, operators, plant managers, and corporate energy team members can access every piece of compressed air operating data at the compressor, plant, and company level from any internet browser. To facilitate data analysis over longer time horizons, all BayWatch data is stored indefinitely on BayWatch servers.

Leveraging Data into Savings

Starting with a new corporate energy team in 2010, the automaker undertook a major energy management initiative to reduce energy use and improve energy efficiency across all facets of the company. As a major component of plant energy use, compressed air was viewed as a critical area in which to improve energy efficiency. To guide their efforts and ensure that projects delivered on their potential, the automaker utilized the data and reporting tools in BayWatch.

Before the automaker adopted BayWatch as the corporate standard for their compressed air systems, the vast majority of energy efficiency improvement projects originated at the plant level. The primary reason for this was that personnel at the corporate level simply did not have plant-level (or compressor-level) data on the performance and energy use of compressed air equipment, so there was no good way to identify or implement potential projects.

With the installation of BayWatch in all but two of the automaker’s plants, corporate energy managers went from having very limited data on compressed air performance to a complete picture of how every single air compressor was performing in near real time. This enormous increase in data availability enabled a fundamental change in the way that savings opportunities are identified and implemented: with BayWatch, the corporate energy team is able to analyze compressor (and plant) performance data, identify areas for improvement, and then work with the plants to implement projects.

Improving and Maintaining Data Quality

BayWatch has also helped the automaker improve the quality of their compressed air data. Before BayWatch, there was no formalized policy around data quality. After BayWatch was implemented, the automaker was able to establish baseline data quality standards for the compressed air system instrumentation by comparing the accuracy of like-for-like instrumentation across multiple plants (e.g., pressure transmitters, temperature gauges, flow metering, power meters, etc.). In doing so, the automaker was able to identify the optimum replacement and calibration intervals for each piece of instrumentation that ensures long-term data accuracy.

Benchmarking Plant and Compressor Performance

In addition to using BayWatch to identify savings opportunities across their plants and maintain data quality, the automaker has recently begun using BayWatch as a benchmarking tool for both plant compressed air systems and individual compressors. Benchmarking is an effective tool that enables the corporate energy team to quickly compare how all of the plants’ compressed air systems are performing compared to the others.

To facilitate this, the Bay Controls development team, working in partnership with the corporate energy team, built a customized reporting engine that automatically parses key performance metrics (KPMs) such as CFM/kW from all of the plant compressed air systems that the energy team uses to create a monthly performance report that is sent out to all of the plants on a monthly basis along with specific recommendations to improve compressed air system performance. An example of a chart from this report is shown below.

Plant Compressed Air Efficiency Comparison (CFM/kW)

At the plant level, operators and plant managers also use BayWatch to benchmark the performance of individual air compressors. This can serve different purposes, but one of the main uses is to evaluate the efficacy of air compressor overhauls/rebuilds.

The value of this capability was recently demonstrated when a plant used BayWatch data to confirm that a newly rebuilt centrifugal compressor was actually performing worse than it had before the rebuild. Given that the cost of a centrifugal air compressor rebuild can run into six figures, the plant was understandably upset when the rebuilt compressor performed poorly. However, using the operating data stored in BayWatch, the plant was able to definitively show their vendor that the centrifugal compressor was not performing as it should and work with them towards a solution. In this case, the data collection capabilities of BayWatch helped the plant hold their vendor accountable and ensure that the large rebuild expenditure was not wasted.

Continuous Improvement

What started as an installation of BayWatch on a single air compressor has grown into a decades-long partnership between the automaker and Bay Controls. This partnership is built on the philosophy that accurate, reliable data can yield big savings in the right hands. Over the course of our partnership, BayWatch has helped the automaker transform a stream of disparate compressed air data points into a cohesive, accessible source of actionable intelligence. This shift has changed the automaker’s approach to compressed air energy efficiency from reactive to proactive and fostered a culture of continuous improvement where plants are held accountable for their compressed air energy performance and the corporate energy team has the tools they need to make data-driven decisions about compressed air improvements.     

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