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A steadying hand in uncertain times

20 July 2016

In times of political and economic uncertainty trade associations such as the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) become even more important in listening to and representing its members, states Vanda Jones, executive director for BCAS.


There is no doubt that the economy has flattened with the growth on GDP nudging 0.5 per cent in the last quarter of 2015. This muted performance is further seen from the statistical bulletins from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). These present the monthly estimates of the Index of Production (IoP) for the United Kingdom production industries. The IoP measures output in the manufacturing, mining and quarrying, energy supply, and water supply and waste management industries, which also declined in the last quarter of 2015.  

Crucially all of these industries are significant end users of compressed air systems.


Needless to say, the ‘elephant in the room’, when talking about the economy is the UK's recent Brexit vote. BCAS members are already reporting a more cautious approach to business. Companies do not like uncertainty and the management of events through this period is key if we are to mitigate the consequences and make the most of any opportunities. It is at times like this that trade associations typically flourish.

In times of adversity there is a real need to work smarter to support both members and the industry.

BCAS is the only UK trade association that represents manufacturers, distributors and end users of compressors, vacuum pumps, pneumatic tools and allied products.

This means that it represents the needs of the entire supply chain for compressed air to the United Kingdom and European and overseas institutions.

And it is particularly important at the moment that the industry provides a united voice in the face of a changing political climate. It is a role that BCAS is well used to having done so since its inception in 1930.

Clearly BCAS’ work with international standards and legislation will be critical. The UK is recognised for its skills in this area and BCAS continues to be at the heart of the international standards world. The Brexit vote means that it will need to leverage that position even more to ensure that the UK compressed air market retains a strong voice.

Working as partners with Pneurop, Orgalime and CAGI will ensure that BCAS continues to be a strong partner representing the UK compressed air industry in legislation, which in this global era of manufacturing will impact us all.


One area where legislators and non-government organisations will continue to voice concerns over for many years to come is energy saving.

Compressed air production uses 10% of global electricity production, so energy efficiency is an area of particular importance for BCAS and its members.

New legislation is now having a major impact on industry with larger organisations having to carry out total energy audits in accordance with the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), as mandated by the adoption of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive by the UK government.

Part of ESOS includes assessing compressed air systems, for which there has been no accepted industry process for carrying out an audit. Recognising this gap, BCAS, working with industry, developed a new standard ISO 11011.

ISO 11011:2013 sets the requirements for conducting and reporting the results of a compressed air system assessment with clear roles and responsibilities for those involved. It considers the entire system, from energy inputs to the work performed as a result of these inputs.

The standard considers compressed air systems as three functional subsystems: 

•  Supply, which includes the conversion of primary energy resource to compressed air energy;

•  Transmission, which includes the movement of compressed air energy from where it is generated to where it is used

•  Demand, which includes the total of all compressed air consumers, including both productive end use applications and various forms of wastage.

It also sets out the requirements for analysing the data from the assessment and the reporting and documentation of its findings. Most importantly, it identifies actions to provide estimated energy savings.

In light of this new legislation, there is now a tool, designed by experts, to help the end user assess their entire system to potentially save both energy and money.

In addition to ESOS, BCAS is heavily involved in the energy efficiency directive. This particularly impacts new compressors placed on the EU market. With globalised manufacture we will see the impact of this legislation for manufacturers, distributors and end users alike from 2020.

What is certainly true is that new compressed air systems are much more efficient than older systems. Speak to your compressed air supplier and you will be surprised at the energy savings and how the payback can offset the capital cost far more quickly than you might imagine.

End user support

If your business is a major compressed air user then legislation has had a significant impact in the past and will continue to do so as we head into a new uncharted future.

BCAS has invested in supporting the end user of compressed air in a number of ways:

•  A new website www.bcas.org.uk features a specific end user area allowing access to information and assistance from BCAS and its members. It is also an area where you can post projects and request a quotation for a job.

•  BCAS is conducting an end user survey to find out how it can further improve its support. This is available at: www.bcas.org.uk/survey

•  Advice – via support lines and/or face to face meetings

BCAS works with some familiar household names and helps them through what can be a potential minefield of legislation. One example is the evident confusion in some industry sectors about annual inspections.

Combining the knowledge and experience of its members, gives end users a massive resource that they can tap into and in future we see BCAS developing an even broader engagement.  

And if you are an end user supplied by a BCAS member you can join the society free of charge. This will give you access to a broad range of services and support to ensure that you remain fully up to date with the latest developments, legislation and best practices relating to compressed air.

So in a post Brexit world, BCAS is more relevant than ever in helping members and end users pull together as the UK undergoes the formal separation process from the EU.

There are wide-reaching implications regarding our future with Europe and what this might mean for regulations in the future. There has never been a more important time to be active in BCAS, which can act as a collective voice in these times of change.

Make sure that you are involved in helping to shape your future and join BCAS now: www.bcas.org.uk