New year, new plans for post- pandemic expansion and growth. And for process businesses, accessing the best that level and other measurement technology has to offer is a no-brainer.
When the likes of TÜV SÜD invests a cool £1.65 million on a project, it’s an indicator of where the niche market opportunities may lie.
Head of product service at the company, Mary Grigsby, acknowledges that many businesses are fighting to adapt to recent seismic changes, noting: “Manufacturers are always under pressure to minimise market delays and issues such as Brexit and Covid-19 have further intensified this.”
With the onus on companies getting product to market within a shorter time frame than ever in order to combat the vagaries of competition and supply chain uncertainty, TÜV SÜD is creating a 1,800m2 fully automated testing facility at its Fareham in Hampshire headquarters.
The object is to expand the number of site’s energy-absorbent [ing?] semi-anechoic testing chambers from the present five to eight in total in order to significantly expand capacity for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and radio frequency (RF) testing.
The new chambers will be integrated with TÜV SÜD’s bespoke radiated emissions test software, for an automated solution that minimises disturbance of the device and ensures a high level of repeatability and accuracy within a rolling 24-hour service.
As industry increasingly adopts IoT and Industry 4.0 methods, a growing number of products are being developed to take advantage of wireless connectivity and this increased complexity necessitates more testing
Mary Grigsby, head of product service, TÜV SÜD
This will enable tests to be completed more quickly, providing manufacturers with more confidence they can fulfil their own product launch deadlines.
Explains Grigsby: “As industry increasingly adopts IoT and Industry 4.0 methods, a growing number of products are being developed to take advantage of wireless connectivity and this increased complexity necessitates more testing.
“TÜV SÜD’s investment in a highly advanced automated EMC test facility means that we can customise our service to provide the most efficient route to market, to ensure that testing is completed on time and lead times are minimised.”
It isn’t only distribution and supply that’s driving interest in measurement effectiveness. Business and consumer demand for ever more diverse product is exerting a similar pressure.
Sensing and instrumentation specialist Baumer’s collaboration with yoghurt producer Müller have seen Baumer’s new generation of PAD20 level sensors play a part in improving efficiency by offering more accurate and consistent detection of air and gas bubbles in ingredients.
Müller technical innovation manager Dr Matthias Wiora outlines the commercial challenges: “The days when we used to produce five or six core flavours for yoghurt are long gone, today we have to process up to four rotating seasonal types of fruit, plus up to 12 new flavours every year. Flexibility is also important as usually these flavours are only offered for a short period of time.”
Yet, offering customers variety must be balanced against optimising process efficiency to cut downtime and save money, he states.
For Muller’s subsidiaries this was exemplified by frequent changes in yoghurt flavours that produced control & instrumentation feature around six to eight kilograms of excess and unusable fruit concentrate which could not be used and created costs for disposal and additional cleaning.
Senior production expert Karsten Noack explains: “We didn’t have the means of measuring the exact filling level of the containers and initially we thought we could calibrate the systems to suit the different fruit concentrates. However, with the constantly increasing changes in flavours this was not practical.”
In one incident an existing sensor continued to run on an empty container, causing nitrogen to enter the pump, losing 15 minutes of downtime that would have otherwise produced 10,000 yoghurt pots. But Baumer’s latest iteration of its PAD20 level sensors with a new air trigger feature was installed on the fruit container inlet pipe to detect when the container was empty at the right moment. These can measure air in all types of liquids, detecting air and gas bubbles in any liquid or viscous media such as fruit preparations, cooling agents and particularly in harsh ambient conditions.
One consideration is what service the device is required to provide. Is it for emergency shutdown? Control of the process or inventory/storage measurements and logistics?
Ray Tregale, managing director, VEGA
VEGA managing director Ray Tregale asserts that while demand for his firm’s products remains strong, neither Brexit nor the pandemic have had a discernible additional effect. However, the question of application and use is paramount, he says.
“One consideration is what service the device is required to provide. Is it for emergency shutdown? Control of the process or inventory/storage measurements and logistics?”
The conditions in the process are fundamental to the solution that is selected, he continues, and one must be mindful of the sector in which a manufacturer is operating.
“For example, oil and gas will have far different requirements than the food and beverage industry. It is critical that the instrument supplier or specifier understands the process that the device is to be used in, what the conditions are in which the sensor needs to operate and what the customer wants the sensor to do, as well as industry certifications and safety standards that need to be met.”
Predictably TÜV SÜD again features in much of the innovative, sector-driven innovation. It boasts more than 150,000 product certificates globally while its product service division analyses over 20,000 products annually.
Via its National Engineering Laboratory (NEL), the firm is partnering with a second company, Cumbrian-based flow and temperature measurement experts McMenon Engineering Services, to refine Venturi flowmeters and widen their application.
Employed to measure low viscosity fluids, such as gas, hot water, solvents and fuels, flowmeter technology is being adapted in order to improve measurement accuracy for high viscosity fluids including bitumen, glycerin and syrup, allowing the tools to be used across more sectors, including not only drilling and heavy fuel oil but also food and drink.
The Government’s Analysis for Innovators scheme provided funding to develop a solution which records more accurate data for liquids with higher viscosity levels; these fluids can include abrasive particles which can damage conventional flowmeters.
The McMenon High Viscosity Venturi handles higher viscosity fluid applications and improves readings performance. Removing the need for calibration potentially cuts device purchase cost by 50%. The company’s product development director, Dr Craig Marshall, comments: “This technology is a real game changer globally in measuring gas and fluids. Venturi flowmeters are used across the world, and we have created a solution that is very robust for the application and won’t suffer a lot of wear and tear.”
McMenon’s chief operations officer, Shiby Bernard [pictured] describes the product as a “ground-breaking technology which is safer and more efficient than other alternatives on the market” and a significant achievement for the company acquired from process giant ABB three years ago.
Bernard, recently cited as a leading manufacturing innovator, says McMenon is eyeing further growth domestically while maintaining its global presence, exporting to more than 60 countries.
The future for level measurement may look healthy but, with so much fuelled by 4.0 solutions, there remain barriers to adoption for the customer, warns Tregale.
These include lack of confidence in the digital landscape, either because engineers are not digital natives or because the processes and products are hazardous or dangerous.
And stresses, Tregale, “they are rightly being very conservative in their adoption of new communication and control technologies”, with justifiable concerns over the effective security of device and data: “There is also scepticism about control of the data and fear that the data or process will be able to hacked/stolen. Some customers still want to physically be able to read or interrogate the sensor locally, to see a measurement for themselves.
“So sometimes we need to meet halfway; our latest devices have optional Bluetooth so customers can easily connect to devices with their smart phone.”
Yet the factors impairing accurate measurement remain the same, he says: incorrect device selection, poor installation, inaccurate data when commissioning, lack of understanding of process conditions and use of devices not built for the rigours of industrial use.