Plant & Works Engineering
Digital monitoring key to mitigating manufacturing pressures
Published:  05 June, 2023

The continued contraction of the UK manufacturing sector further underlines the importance of digital inspection and condition monitoring technology to avoid unplanned maintenance costs in Q3 2023 and beyond, says Alfa Laval’s new Service Operations Manager.

Alex Parkin, who has taken the role after ten years at Alfa Laval, championed the technology following the publication of S&P Global / CIPS UK Manufacturing’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which noted a decline from April to May[1]. With any score below 50 representing a shrinking of the sector, April scored 46.9 against April’s 47.8, marking the tenth successive month the PMI has fallen below 50.

Taking this into account, Parkin is emphasising the need to safeguard and increase plant productivity through continued monitoring of critical equipment. He said: “Industry spends millions on unplanned maintenance every year due to the risk of sudden failure in key factory areas such as pumps, high-speed separators, decanters and heat exchangers. As the latest PMI demonstrates, this is not money that manufacturers and process managers can afford to lose.

“The collection of data through equipment monitoring solutions should therefore be seen as vital for operators looking to make fast, accurate decisions and schedule maintenance to reduce total cost of ownership and breakdown risks. With the industry facing ongoing challenges, the ability to do more with less will become crucial across industries moving forward. Consequently, being able to extend installation lifetimes and cutting maintenance costs by eliminating unplanned downtime, staff overtime and spare parts rush orders will be crucial to increasing competitiveness in a contracting sector.”

With twenty years’ engineering experience – Parkin will be bringing his expertise in digital transformation to his new role as Service Operations Manager. He says his priority in the Service Operations department will be ensuring that Alfa Laval is ready to serve customer needs both in the field and in service centres, and keeping operators informed on best practice procedures in order to help prevent unplanned downtime.

Parkin concluded: “Variables such as vibration, temperature and run-time on critical equipment can represent the fine margins on which a business thrives or fails,” concludes Alex. “That’s why it’s my vision for the servicing department to assist customers across the manufacturing sector to take their first steps into Industry 4.0. The ability to monitor machine health data from any location and predict, prioritise and plan condition-based maintenance activities is an exciting new frontier for industry, and I would encourage all organisations wishing to optimise performance, contribute to sustainability targets and protect production continuity to explore it further and work together to get over those first hurdles of resistance.”