Maybe, as Harold Wilson once said, ‘a week is a long time in politics’, but if we take the average seven days in the life of a compressed air distributor, it’s probably not long enough. As far as is known, no distributor ever died of boredom, and that’s simply because of the nature of the calling. It’s about being on duty 24/7, 365 days of the year, and the sheer complexity of services that have to be available.
It’s also about coping with an infinite variety of industries and applications, mastering the technologies of the latest compressor innovations, responding to the vagaries of the logistics and engineering tasks involved, and, ultimately, running a healthy business within the financial constraints of a near-recession economy.
The challenge can be a physical one – delivering a compressor with only a grassy incline access to the site, or having to crane a unit into a tight space after the factory roof has been removed – or it may require a financial involvement, such as presenting a convincing case for a customer’s equipment replacement to sceptical management.
Compressed air is not lightly dubbed ‘the fourth utility’. It is a vital ingredient in production processes across industry, commerce and public sector organisations and, as such, it may be thought by those outside of the business that selling essential compressed air equipment to industry is an easy task for a distributor.
That scenario is far removed from reality. It is a busy life for a compressor distributor. Here, Richard Hewitt, Sales Director, tells us about a typical week for him and the team from Anglian Compressors, Atlas Copco’s distributor in the East Anglian region.
Monday – “Visited an aerospace customer to price up pipework alterations. A new CNC machine is being installed to improve the speed of component manufacturing, which required a new air supply. Atlas Copco AirNet pipework system was identified as the ideal solution.”
Tuesday – “Met with an engine manufacturer to present an energy report showing the possible savings from fitting Energy Recovery Units to the GA200 and GA160 Atlas Copco compressors on-site. The customer was impressed with the 9-month payback and potential CO2 savings and will be placing an order shortly.”
Wednesday – “Post-installation customer care site visit to ensure a pet food producer was happy with their new GA90VSD FF compressor. The machine was needed to provide air to the new cat food line, with the customer very conscious of energy usage. The new compressor is connected to an Atlas Copco ES8 control system which links in all the compressors on site.”
Thursday – “Visited site of a warehouse and logistics company to discuss reducing air usage. An air survey was recommended to identify leaks, so they could be fixed with Air Flow Meters linked to their BMS system. This was to help identify when leaks occur to ensure energy isn’t wasted.”
Friday – “Performed an energy survey and data logging at the site of a precision gears manufacturer. It was shown how energy savings of over £6,000 per year could be achieved with a new Variable Speed Drive compressor. Better still, with the improvements to machine outputs in recent years, the new compressor was identified as a smaller GA15VSD, with an output of only 15kW.”
Saturday – “Visited a detention centre, where compressed air is required to lift the industrial-sized washing machine on-site. The existing vane type compressors were identified as old and inefficient. New Atlas Copco LF piston compressors were recommended to improve reliability and reduce running costs.”
Sunday – “My highlight of the week. Received notification that Anglian Compressors has won the coveted Atlas Copco Distributor of the Year award for 2012. All the hard work has paid off, but without the team effort none of it would have been possible.”
From these examples it is clear there is much more to a distributor’s role than conducting sales transactions. Whether the compressed air application is as varied as agitating mud at a sluice gate, helping produce snow at an indoor ski slope or making a museum dinosaur move, it’s always an in-depth involve- meant to implement, manage and maintain the continuity of a user’s compressed air supply in the most cost-effective and energy-efficient way.