Atlas Copco: Sustainability Across the Board

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Atlas Copco: Sustainability Across the Board

Atlas Copco’s business areas are investing heavily in sustainability, as they know that improving energy efficiency and reducing waste go straight to the customers’ bottom line.
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Friday, April 8, 2016 - 7:55am

CAMPAIGN: Sustainable Innovation at Atlas Copco

CONTENT: Article

Atlas Copco has been recognized as a global leader in sustainability for more than a decade, earning high rankings in innovation from Forbes and making the Global 100 list of most sustainable companies announced at the World Economic Forum. Atlas Copco’s customers around the world appreciate the cost benefits of premium products as well as the strides that Atlas Copco’s energy-efficient products make toward helping them meet government regulations to reduce CO2 emissions and increase conservation of natural ­resources established by the United Nations Conferences of the Parties (COP).

Atlas Copco invests in sustainability because saving energy and resources increases prosperity for both company and customers.

Atlas Copco has been building the equipment and tools needed to develop infrastructure and resource development since 1873, and it remains at the forefront of creating the foundations of nations by providing state-of-the-art machinery to make possible such work as material extraction, paving roadways and building cities. A primary key to maintaining such dedicated longevity is a reputation for understanding customers’ needs and responding with the best possible products to get their jobs done. In today’s world, with climate change at the forefront of concerns, Atlas Copco is committed to its goal of sustainable innovation by ensuring that the company and its customers achieve prosperity while meeting increasingly ambitious government regulations on energy usage and emissions.

Now the Fortune 500 global company is taking its commitment even further by expanding sustainability innovation productivity goals. In addition to its established commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility and the environment, it seeks to ensure the profit sustainability of both company and customers. Atlas Copco addresses these needs through four main business areas: Industrial Technique, Construction Technique, Mining and Rock Excavation Technique, and Compressor Technique.

In the Industrial Technique business area, Industrial Assembly Solutions President Tobias Hahn puts these principles to use helping auto manufacturers create more efficient vehicles. “We are very innovative,” he says. “We help our customers design and produce cars so they can meet the current legislation. We help them use fewer resources, and we help them reduce the weight of cars, resulting in higher fuel efficiency, and that takes down fuel emissions. We can measure our level of innovation in the way we are succeeding in helping our customers meet current and future legislation.

“We are living and breathing environmental trends at the moment, and our industrial solutions are applying systems that help make cars much lighter, driven by legi­slation pushing for a decrease of CO2 emissions of private cars in particular,” Hahn says. “Our products are a result of that trend. The only way to be the premium product is to have the highest-quality product and the highest customer value of the product. We need to have a very effective supply chain, and we don’t want our customers to have to scrap goods and metals – that’s a waste of energy, money and natural resources.”

The Industrial Assembly Solutions division is the premier provider of special rive­ting and adhesive-dispensing systems that enable this state-of-the-art technology. “Our technology makes it possible for us to develop and supply to our customers systems that make it viable and technologically possible to join aluminum car parts together in a way that makes them less expensive to produce, much lighter and more efficient.”

An example of this is the most popular car in the world, the Ford F-150 pickup truck. “Ford is one customer that fully utilizes our self-pierce riveting technology to be able to produce their F-150 lightweight truck,” Hahn says.

Atlas Copco helps make that work efficient. “We are dispensing a lot of adhesive on these products,” he says. “The chemicals in these glues are quite expensive, so we are aiming to minimize the waste. It’s one example where we can work to make them more sustainable. If our end users can save 10% of adhesive, that can be a lot of money for them. 

“For us it’s about making a high-quality product. The more innovative we are, the faster they can implement new technologies, so there’s a higher probability they can meet the new regulations. The fewer resources used to produce it, the better in terms of the resource and environmental footprint, and the products are less costly to produce, so we meet our sustainability targets and we actually make our customers’ products more efficient.”

In the Mining and Rock Excavation business area, Victor Tapia, President Surface and Exploration Drilling, has the challenge of producing machinery that can be relied on in the most remote parts of the world – and still meet energy and emission requirements while increasing sustainable prosperity for his customers.

“We achieve this by focusing not just on the product itself but on the complete value chain – suppliers, internal processes and customers – to meet our KPIs [Key Performance Indicators] for innovation in sustainable productivity,” he says. “We’re talking about big investments for our customers, and we have to be sure that our custom­ers ­receive a return on their investments in line with their expectations. We are the world leaders in tech­nology along with the service we ­provide at the work site, and we want to keep that posi­tion.”

One challenge for Tapia is the diverse activities of his customers. His division designs, produces and sells equipment for exploration and surface drilling applications in the mining and construction industries. Some need to drill holes to blast with different drilling techniques, while others need to drill very deep holes for mineral investigation. His division has a large portfolio of products to meet these needs. “We want to increase our customers’ energy efficiency by reducing the energy needed by the equipment we provide in relation to the outcome, tons of mineral blasted or meters drilled,” he says. “Every new piece of equipment we design must be more efficient than the previous one.”

The drillrig SmartROC, launched in 2014, helps mining and excavation crews limit their drilling by using state-of-the-art software technology to locate materials and expend the energy to drill only where needed, reducing fuel consumption by 45%. “Our value is to increase this result,” he says. “Then we have energy savings.”

That is only the beginning of Tapia’s commitment to sustainable productivity. “We are not looking at just the energy source of the equipment in order to achieve this,” he says. “We need to have very good performance of our machines when they are in operation combined with excellent service at the work site. We train operators and technicians to avoid breakdowns and make sure they have the right parts available when needed. We need to make the equipment very easy to maintain on site in remote places where it is very difficult to get access to replacement parts, so we design and produce the equipment to have zero unplanned stops during the lifetime of the equipment, and this involves the functions of all the value chain in our organization.”

Another challenge is to comply with the legal requirements emerging worldwide in relation to sustainability. “This is an opportunity as well because more and more, not just the government but the companies also are looking at this sustainable role as a competitive advantage for their business.”

The Construction Technique business area, like other players in the industry, has invested heavily in clean technology engines, but business division President Paul Hense says Atlas Copco Road Construction went a step further. “The newest generation of pavers is using new digital technology in operator assist systems like our DYN@LINK that enables our customer not only to become more fuel-efficient, but also to measure and improve the quality of their paving and as such enhance the lifetime of new road surfaces,” he says.

Axel Mooren, Design and Development Manager Pavers, oversees the crew that builds pavers, machines that can lay an asphalt mat up to 14 meters wide in one go. “I am proud to say that we are first in class compared to our competitors when it comes to energy efficiency,” Mooren says.

Since the cost of the fuel over the lifetime of a paver is one of the major contributors to the total cost of ownership, energy efficiency is a premium concern for customers. “Our premium pavers are significantly better regarding energy efficiency, which is reflected in a reduction of the total cost of ownership for our customers,” Mooren says. “Within a few years you have gained back the money spent on the premium paver.”

Mooren’s department achieved this significant reduction by incorporating VarioSpeed, which automatically adjusts the engine speed and fuel use, depending on its current application, whether paving one lane or three, with a heavy base coat or thinner top layer. “Operators could reduce the engine speed on their own, but they are very busy doing so many other things that most of the time the engine speed is far too high, resulting in a fixed-speed engine,” Mooren says. His department has taken the operator variable out of the picture and fulfilled the task with smart sensors in its hydraulic motors, steered by an algorithm in the engine control module, for which it has filed a patent. “The optimization is the VarioSpeed engine,” Mooren says. “It can go to a minimum required engine speed as needed so that the systems run by hydraulic pumps and motors are not working more than needed. This means lower fuel consumption, less engine noise and a longer lifetime of all rotating components due to less wear.”

With the goal to increase energy efficiency by 20% from 2010 levels by 2020, and to follow engine emission ­legislation, Atlas Copco now offers the Tier4 final paver with VarioSpeed as its premium model. In 2016 the Vario­Speed innovation will be standard in all premium paver models in combination with the Tier4 final diesel engine. “It’s a nicer, cleaner engine with a minimum of diesel particles and a reduction of NOx, but also slightly better on fuel consumption, which means lower CO2 emissions. We are continuously working on optimizing systems to have less fuel consumption, and VarioSpeed is one of the biggest contributors from the past year to achieve this result.”

In the Compressor Technique business area, Atlas Copco’s Industrial Air division helps customers achieve energy efficiency with the VSD and VSD+, variable speed drive compressed air compressors. Atlas Copco launched the first VSD compressor in 1994. Today VSD compressors are recognized for superior energy-efficient compressors available, and Atlas Copco offers a wide range on the market.

 “An important objective in product development is to enable our customers to save on energy, because in the long run that gives them the biggest benefit,” says Joeri Ooms, President Industrial Air.

The initial investment and maintenance costs for a compressor do not compare to its energy costs, since 70% of a compressor’s total life-cycle cost is energy. Producing compressed air can account for more than 40% of a plant’s total electricity bill. “A compressor can use in one year roughly the same amount of energy as the initial investment costs,” Ooms says.

VSD compressors have a dedicated variable speed drive (VSD) motor that regulates the element speed to match the compressor’s output to actual demand. “Compare it to a car,” Ooms says. “An ‘idling compressor’ either drives 100 kilometers per hour or not at all. That is fine if the application requires either a full load or no-load compressed air supply, but most applications don’t. They have a fluctuating air demand, and that is where a VSD compressor comes into the picture. A VSD compressor simply adjusts its motor and element speed to match the demand.” 

In 2013 Industrial Air launched the GA VSD+, with the introduction of an interior permanent magnet motor, creating energy savings of 50% on average compared with a fixed speed compressor. “A big improvement that comes with the new technology is that thanks to the reduced footprint and noise level, the customer no longer needs a separate room for the compressor,” Ooms says. “This reduces his or her total cost of ownership once more.” VSD+ technology not only lowers energy consumption, but it ­also offers an industry-­leading operating range.

As all good managers realize, taking good care of customers is the best way to succeed. “Different customers have different needs, and with our innovations we give an answer to those needs,” Ooms says. “For example, oil-injected screw compressors have always been the most obvious type of compressors to be outfitted with VSD. The rotary screw elements are particularly suitable to be VSD-controlled. However, some applications demand oil-free air, so for those we have other solutions available such as the oil-free tooth compressors ZT/ZR VSD, water-injected screws AQ VSD and oil-free screw compressors Z VSD.”

The large-scale impact of global companies like Atlas Copco means that these businesses can make a huge difference to our future, and Atlas Copco is leading the way by ensuring that its business practices and products are good for the planet, good for people and good for prosperity. The long­evity of Atlas Copco leaders Hahn, Tapia, Mooren and Ooms, all of whom have been with the company for nearly 20 years or more, and Atlas Copco, in business for  almost 150 years, demonstrates that this company clearly has a commitment to the future.

“At the end of the day, it’s good if you convince the rest of society that you’re going to be good not just for you as a person for but for society,” Tapia says. “We’re good people. If you have good companies working with good companies, everybody will follow. We need to really deliver ­results, not just to our company but to our customers as well, because we are the leaders. And the rest will follow us – not just because we are nice and good, but because we believe this is giving us a competitive advantage. Things are going to be good.” 

Atlas Copco is a world-leading provider of sustainable productivity solutions. The Group serves customers with innovative compressors, vacuum solutions and air treatment systems, construction and mining equipment, power tools and assembly systems. Atlas Copco develops products and services focused on productivity, energy efficiency, safety and ergonomics. The company was founded in 1873, is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and has a global reach spanning more than 180 countries. In 2015, Atlas Copco had revenues of BSEK 102 (BEUR 11) and more than 43 000 employees. Learn more at or follow us on social media at FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Youtube

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CAMPAIGN: Sustainable Innovation at Atlas Copco

CONTENT: Article