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Atlas Copco Compressor Technique blows profit into the Low Pressure market

Atlas Copco Compressor Technique Business Line Manager, Oil-free Air Division, JC Lombard, sees tremendous opportunity for growth in Southern Africa’s Low Pressure segment. “Our extensive product line up of lobe, screw and centrifugal blowers incorporate our innovative, cutting-edge Low Pressure technology to meet virtually every application and customer requirement in the mining, waste water treatment and cement industries.” 

The first LP piston compressors were introduced to the Atlas Copco offering in 1904, followed by more new technologies such as lobe, screw, turbo and centrifugal Blowers with the Variable Speed Drive (VSD) innovation pioneered by Atlas Copco over 25 years ago. “This deep-rooted history positions us as a global market leader in Low Pressure and VSD technologies,” states JC.

Atlas Copco’s Class Zero oil-free Low Pressure range delivers premium air quality which is carried over to the customers’ end products. As one of the most energy efficient ranges on the market, the rugged reliability of these air compressors ensure long life cycle, extended service intervals, low maintenance and optimised machine and subsequent plant and process availability. Moreover, the smaller footprint of these air compressors facilitates transport and installation.

“These features boost uptime, adding value for customers and end-users through increased productivity, production, lowest total cost of operation and ownership and ultimately, business sustainability,” says JC.

Atlas Copco’s advanced Lobe blower range is also available in various options. “We can offer anything from a basic unit with no starter panel or canopy up to a complete ‘Plug & Play’ option depending on the customers’ individual requirements. We also offer flexible solutions; most of our products are available in either standard fixed speed configuration or full VSD, once again depending on the customers’ needs and goals.”

The complete range of Atlas Copco high-end-technologically oil-free blowers includes Lobe (ZL1-4), Screw (ZS), Turbo (ZB and ZH/ZHL), and Centrifugal Blowers (ZM) as well as Low Pressure Screw Compressors (ZS/ZE/ZA).

Lombard attests that their Screw Compressors (ZS/ZE/ZA) are the top performers in the mining, cement and waste water treatment industries where the direct benefits of energy efficiencies, reduced power consumption and reliability are associated with the Atlas Copco brand promise. “Our customers also rate our distributor services, customer support, the total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) for these units very high,” adds JC.

The low capital lay-out and reliability presented by the Lobe Blowers (ZL), make these machines sought after in the waste water treatment and cement sectors. Customers also applaud the ease of maintenance of the ZL, with many standardising on this Blower.

“Our Low Pressure Screw Compressor range (ZE/ZA) is the preferred option on the bigger mining plants for flotation and pneumatic conveying applications due to the higher-pressure ranges offered by these machines,” continues JC. “Their high energy efficiency combined with extra savings on the VSD configuration make these units a must-have for any cost-conscious and performance-driven operation.”

“We see an estimated potential of around R120 million for the Low Pressure market in Southern Africa and with our solid range of low pressure solutions, we are successfully growing our current 10% market share,” states JC. He adds that mining, cement and waste water treatment present the biggest growth potential.

“However, with any opportunity comes a challenge. The 525v applications present us with one of our biggest challenges because these are seen as special requests which make for higher pricing and longer lead times. Our approach, to communicate effectively with our competent products support team on each request and to treat each request on a case-by-case basis depending on specification and configuration, is paying dividends.”

JC says that standardisation of equipment on some sites can also be a challenge. He explains that customers carry stock of the common parts for these installed units which they have sometimes been using for years. “However, when customers learn about our excellent support structures i.e. our national distributor network which extends to four neighbouring countries, to assist them with the changeover to Atlas Copco equipment, it’s not difficult to convince them to make the switch. They are keenly aware of the TCO and ROI as a result of our machines’ unmatched efficiency and reliability. Furthermore, our extensive network offers excellent support and after-sales service to ensure maximum uptime for our customers.”

There are Lobe Blowers available in the market that can provide higher flows and which are cheaper than the Atlas Copco machines. JC explains that while it is an initially lower capital investment, it is a much less efficient solution that will cost customers in the long run. Compared to Atlas Copco’s screw technology, these machines consume a lot more energy which, over the life time of the units, is essentially a lot more expensive. “The initial cost for a new unit might be more, but it’s important to keep in mind that screw technology is up to 30% more energy efficient with a lower TCO over the life of the equipment,” asserts LC. “Educating customers on the benefits and cost savings associated with changing from Lobe to Screw technology will enable them to make well-informed decisions, to the ultimate benefit of their business.” Given the growing demand for quality products in the Low Pressure sector, JC says the highly qualified oil-free air team is focused on expanding the footprint in this market and building long-term customer relationships. “Our value proposition – premium quality, efficient and reliable product solutions, supported by service and after-market excellence – perfectly positions us as the preferred Low Pressure Blower solutions partner,” concludes JC.     

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