IP&E Live Digital Conference Report

09 December 2021

Digital conferences are a great way of gaining industry insight without wasting time and money on travel as our live event demonstrated, writes James Snodgrass

Industrial Plant & Equipment hosted a live, digital conference on 20 October with nine industry experts giving presentations – and Q and A sessions – on topics ranging from preventative maintenance to meeting the challenges of AI in manufacturing. The lively programme, chaired by IP&E managing editor Charlotte Stonestreet, attracted several hundred attendees, sparking nearly 500 conversations and connections in the chat areas.

The event has been archived online and may be played back until October 2022 but here follows a summary of the nine engaging and informative presentations.

What the Victorians did for us

Stuart Hawksworth gave the first presentation. As head of the Centre for Energy and Major Hazards at the Health and Safety Executive, Hawksworth has over 25 years’ experience in safety. He is also president of the International Association for Hydrogen and Hydrogen Safety.

His presentation looked at the net zero journey from a systems level. “We spent the whole of the last century having accidents and killing people,” said Hawksworth, “and we learned from that, and came up with some really good standards and regulations by the end of the last century, to the point where things are now quite safe.”

We need to take the journey to net zero emissions by learning from improvements in health and safety. “We need rapid change to get to 2050 and achieve what we need to achieve,” said Hawksworth, “we can't afford to go through a torturous learning curve again. We need to be much smarter about it.”
Looking at the UK Government’s 10-Point Plan, he was pleased to note hydrogen ranked number two in the list. “But we need to get it right first time,” he said.

Self-learning algorithms

Bosch Rexroth was headline sponsor of the event and Daniel Dunn, project specialist in the company’s hydraulic division, explained the company’s ODiN predictive analytics system.

Traditionally, maintenance is done to a schedule, but schedules don’t necessarily account for the real-world conditions in which the machines are performing. By using artificial intelligence, Dunn argued, we can predict what we need to maintain, and when we need to maintain it.

Dunn said: “We're looking to improve service processes so they are smart, and actually based on real conditions, as opposed to time-based scheduling based on simple threshold monitoring. And we want this to then be able to give customers the ability to manage stock inventories effectively.”

It is a self-learning algorithm that adapts to experience. Dunn explained: “If this data is used in conjunction with the customers’ resource planning systems, we can see the stock of component orders as they're falling, and the AI can order them. This is all designed to keep machine availability to an absolute maximum, ensuring any issues are identified ahead of time and addressed in an effective manner.”

A reliable standard mark for PPE
Alan Murray, CEO of British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) – no stranger to these pages, as a regular contributor to IP&E – gave a typically informative and potentially life-saving presentation about the Registered Safety Supplier (RSS) scheme, an initiative to help companies acquire PPE in the confidence that it is manufactured how it should be and works as it is specified to work.

Murray said: “The RSS scheme sets out to enhance the quality of PPE and safety associated products, in the UK marketplace. The challenge is to eliminate unsafe, non-compliant and, frankly, illegal safety products and services. It acts as an assurance scheme for genuine PPE, safety services and safety equipment.”

While acknowledging that the pandemic has focussed our attention on PPE, Murray gave sobering analysis. During the crisis, BSIF investigated more than 350 suppliers whose products and services were found lacking, reporting them to Trading Standards and the HSE. Even some of the best performing products, from the most compliant manufacturers in the breathing filtration segment, were found to have a failure rate of just over 9%. 

Ditching the spreadsheets

Will Batchellor, sales manager at platinum sponsor Ultimo, said that – while principally a cloud-based enterprise asset management (EAM) supplier – it uses its data to create reports to inform customers about trends in EAM. His presentation summarised the latest 45-page report, which can be downloaded from Ultimo’s website.
Batchellor said: “At Ultimo, we understand what the market is doing and what the useful technologies are. That's why we spend so much time and energy producing surveys and white papers like the Trend Reports.”

Ultimo’s research found almost 62% of maintenance teams are using purpose-built EAMs, and around 70% are using a mix of EAMs and spreadsheets. Approximately 18% of teams, however, were only using spreadsheets – or a combination of spreadsheets and manually processed systems (calendars, shared diary) – while a shocking 2.2% were not recording any maintenance tasks.

Batchellor concluded with wise words applicable to any implementation: “Ed O’Brien at the Ark Advisory Group said that when adopting new technologies, perfect is the enemy of good. We hear of many systems that never get implemented, because the organisation took too long trying to get everything right.”

Missing the point
The Government’s 10-Point Plan featured again in the presentation by Steve Schofield, director and CEO of the British Pump Manufacturers Association (BPMA). In Schofield’s view, the Government’s plan doesn’t go far enough and he makes the case for an 11-Point Plan. When the EU Energy Efficiency Directive was introduced, and the UK enacted it, the Government introduced a loophole because it was frightened of losing major companies who were reluctant to make the investment needed to comply with ISO 15001:2010. Under the loophole, users of inefficient pump systems avoided carrying out energy audits, using the logic of “if you can’t see it, it’s not there”.

Schofield said: “The latest revision of ISO 15001 aimed to close this loophole but, unfortunately, weak market surveillance and low penalties mean that action in this important area has remained stalled. We need a carrot and stick approach, fines should be significantly increased to make the bad players realise we can no longer afford to ignore this problem.”

Pressure regulations overlooked

Roy Brooks, technical development officer at British Compressed Air Society (BCAS), gave a brief overview of the standards enshrined in the Pressure System Safety Regulations (2000). The industry has been slow in adopting the regulations which, as Statutory Instruments, are enshrined in law.

Brooks said: “I think it's fair to say that for the last 20 years, it's been a slow uptake for industry to even acknowledge the regulations’ existence. There are still quite a few industries and businesses out there that are unaware of their obligations. As I say, they are approved code of practice, and they have their own special UK legal status.”

He went on to explain the new regulatory standards, post-Brexit: “With UKCA marking and CE marking all of our lives are changing. I think we're all aware post-Brexit there's going to be significant changes to identification marking. Currently, we're still advising people with CE marking that all pressure equipment should have CE marking and continue to do so while we transition from ‘purely CE’ to ‘UKCA and CE marking’, depending on import, exports, or solely-UK usage.”

Plugging the productivity gap

Nikesh Mistry is sector head for industrial automation at Gambica, the association for instrumentation, control, automation and laboratory technology in the UK. His presentation centred on the ‘productivity gap’ – while automation in the workplace increased, productivity growth slowed, particularly from the 2000s on … a phenomenon called ‘the productivity paradox of automation’. However, looking to the US market, from 2020 we’ve seen a huge increase in productivity and this started before the pandemic – Mistry predicts this pattern will be repeated when data comes in from other countries. He predicts we are on the verge of witnessing massive productivity growth over the next five to 10 years, matching the spurt in productivity that emerged two decades after electricity was introduced.

Companies need to prepare to plug the productivity gap by understanding the difference between digitisation (conversion into digital data) and digitalisation (converting business practices to make use of this digital data). This doesn’t mean a wholesale transfer of skills from humans to machines, however. “Many people fear that robots will come along, and we will have no more jobs,” said Mistry, “anybody who fears that – I cannot stress to you how much that will not happen.”

Operators are your maintenance staff
Cleaning is an essential part of maintenance, said David Norton key account manager at platinum sponsor Essity: ”We want to talk to you about turning your operators into important members of your maintenance team. Cleaning is a very important part of preventative maintenance. But very often it can be seen as disruptive, time consuming.”

But this approach can meet operator resistance – ie. ‘it’s not included in my job description’ – so it gets overlooked, or gets done but half-heartedly.

Norton identified two important obstacles to operator-initiating cleaning: cleaning equipment that isn't fit for purpose, and wiping and cleaning products that aren't close to hand. “When you've got those two issues, combined,” said Norton, “machinery gets neglected and productivity suffers.”

Norton explained the range of cleaning products and mounting solutions that Tork offers, from light cleaning products up to the Tork industrial cleaning range and the cleaning box, a portable dispenser that can fit in a toolbox to be carried up and down a production line.

Sustainability was another focus of his talk: Tork says its cloths reduce solvent consumption by up to 41% because solvents pass right through conventional cotton rags.

Data is the new gold

The closing presentation came from Ian Gardner, Industry 4.0 solutions architect at IBM, who gave his insight into digital transformation. “Data is your biggest asset,” said Gardner, “data is the new gold.”

Moore’s Law stated that computing power – specifically the number of transistors on an integrated circuit (IC) – would double every two years, a phenomenon that led to the birth of home computers and means we now have ICs in even the most mundane and everyday devices. Then, Gardner said, there was Metcalfe’s Law, concerning the gravity of networks and connectivity, and this gave us the likes of Facebook and Netflix. Now we’re in a third digital era: a ‘knowledge era’ that is all about leveraging data and AI.

He then proceeded to ask if data could help industry reduce waste and improve the quality of our products, to which the answer was “yes, we can”. But this will require using clean data and using it effectively.

“Start small and scale out,” said Garnder, “automate your low value tasks through new technology. Use AI to analyse and understand your data, not the other way around, don’t spend ages classifying your data and then trying to understand it.”

If you missed it, the entire IP&E Live Digital Conference can be played back online.
Visit and click ‘Watch on demand’.