Selling cubic meters of compressed air

  • 2020-12-03 00:00:00
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  • Main leader : Etablissements Cros
  • Type of initiative : Individual initiative (company, etc.)
  • Dauphiné
  • 24 rue de la Paix - 38130 Echirolles
  • Start date : janvier 2013

As a result of requests from certain customers and after an initial diagnostic phase, Etablissements Cros decided to upgrade their business model for compressed air from selling products to selling services.

The company retains ownership of the equipment and now allows customer to pay for cubic meters of compressed air consumed instead of purchasing the equipment. Before this, the activity involved selling several machines (compressors, measuring devices, etc.), aggregating them, setting them up on a customer’s premises and dealing with maintenance.

Ets. Cros has also developed a heat recovery solution that allows heat generated by running the compressed air plants to be reused.

This concept combining functional service economy with reuse of heat is both innovative and differentiating. In France, calorie recovery is used in fewer than 10% of compressed air plants. 

Qualitative benefits

Extending the life of the equipment maintained by Etablissements Cros who retain ownership of it.

Strengthening cooperation within and outside the company.

Increased competence and greater ability to invest in human resources.

The offer is better suited to the needs of customers, who:

  • Do not have to bear the risk of investing in equipment
  • Do not have to bear the cost of setting it up
  • Decrease and harmonize their bills (the bill corresponds to monthly consumption, while heat recovery provides a better return on investment)
  • Can focus on their area of expertise
  • Improve their energy performance and meet ISO standards

Stages of the initiative

Building a range of remote monitoring and on-call services for some customers

Becoming aware that the functional service economy model can be applied to the activity

2013-2014: Support from CIRIDD and Institut Inspire

Today, the functional service economy is truly embedded in the company’s vision. 


Plants take longer to set up because contracts are more complex (they are for 3 to 10 years, and negotiations are longer) and the offer is more specialized.

By retaining ownership of the equipment, the risks are higher for Etablissements Cros. They had to change the way they worked with their different partners to incorporate this parameter.

The process to move from ownership to use of equipment takes time, and is done in several stages. The heat recovery solution is not applicable to all installations: it depends on their size, how close they are to the heating plant, etc.


Support from people outside the company has made it possible to widen the scope of possibilities and develop the initiative

The use of relatively long contracts makes it possible to be free of economic fluctuations and cyclical effects

Image credits: Etablissements Cros

Areas of activity

  • Energy
  • Industry


  • Energy efficiency
  • Unavoidable and recovered energy
  • Heating networks

Technical resources

Setting up the integrated solution (selling compressed air and heat recovery) required technical innovations concerning the design and monitoring of equipment.

The service includes a guarantee of availability of compressed air, through preventive maintenance, remote monitoring of the equipment, allowing 24/24 curative maintenance with on-call services, and guaranteed repair and replacement of parts and machines.

Human resources

This initiative makes use of new skills within and outside the company.

New forms of cooperation had to be created to develop and run the heat recovery solution.

Due to the change of model, relations with stakeholders have become more partnership-based and some include joint -construction.


Investment in a plant may be as much as one million euros.
 Energy performance contract
 Business models
 Supply chains
 Third party operators


  • Nicolas Frango

    Animateur club CLEF & chargé de missions CIRIDD

  • Author of the page

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