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Driving progress in a changing landscape

04 July 2019

In a world of constantly changing legislation and standards, the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) plays a crucial role in driving progress in the compressed air industry.

2020 will mark the society’s 90th anniversary and during those nine decades, BCAS has been a trusted and independent source of advice to its members on changing legislation and regulations.  It has also remained very clear about its role as a technical trade association, representing the interests of manufacturers, distributors and end users of compressors, vacuum pumps, pneumatic tools and allied products.

While this strategic direction remains unaltered, the society must continue to adapt to meet the needs of a changing industrial landscape, working with other trade association to gain the collective voice of industry.

Vanda Jones, Executive Director at BCAS provides a brief overview of some of the initiatives that the society is currently undertaking on behalf of its members.

Brexit and the EU

At the time of writing, the prospect of a no-deal scenario continues to dominate UK headlines.  The compressed air industry must continue to take action to ensure it is fully prepared and able to provide best practice advice and support for its customers.

To realise new growth potential through the Brexit process, industry needs certainty and continuity, particularly in relation to regulations and standards. This will help organisations to continue trading, innovating and growing.

BCAS is key member of the EURIS Taskforce, an advisory body that examines the potential impacts of the changing relationship between the UK and EU for the UK Government, manufacturers and the media. 

As well as our continued lobbying to avoid a ‘no deal’ scenario, we are also campaigning for a viable customs arrangement that minimises costs and delays and to ensure that the UK industry remains involved in the future development of European regulations and standards.

Addressing the skills’ gap

The BCAS Board continues to examine the very real impact that the UK’s engineering skill shortage poses, not just within our own business sectors, but the industry at large.

The UK has a missing generation of skilled engineers and, an ageing and decreasing pool of skilled personnel is driving up business costs. A major proportion of the current resource will retire before 2035. BCAS members report difficulties in filling all job vacancies and as many as 46 per cent of employers are reported to be struggling to fill management positions according to the Institute of Leadership Management.

The re-introduction of engineering training products is now a major requirement for education establishments across the UK, especially as more engineering apprenticeship standards are approved for delivery. Our schools, colleges and universities must now look urgently at how they intend to provide the training facilities and personnel that will help deliver the skilled engineers the UK requires.

As a result, BCAS is working with the IFA (Institute for Apprenticeships) to develop its ‘Standard Based Apprenticeship (Trailblazer)’ with the intent that this will be available as an approved standard by the end of 2019.

Industry 4.0

It is clear that Industry 4.0 is now starting to gain momentum, meaning compressed air users need to consider the opportunities it can present for improving performance, identifying inefficiencies and optimising equipment processes.

At the heart of this revolution is data and in the case of compressed air systems, the data that can be obtained and analysed to provide important insights in to ongoing system performance.

While predictive maintenance techniques are already well-established, some operators are using the principles of Industry 4.0 and are looking towards cognitive intelligence as the next step on their journey to improved efficiency.

Not only does this require the ability to manage significant volumes of data, but for operators and their suppliers, to implement robust and scalable management technologies.  This is especially the case for businesses that have invested in compressed air technologies and ancillary systems from a range of manufacturers as there is the need to ensure that this data can interact, using an open platform.

At BCAS, we are working with our members to help capitalise on the opportunities that improved data analytics can offer the industry.

The latest information

In addition to our wide range of training courses, such as our ‘Introduction to the Pressure Safety System Regulations (PSSR) and Competent Examiner courses, we produce a broad range of documents to help educate and guide users and operators of compressed air systems, including:

  • Our new ‘Filtration and Drying of Compressed Air’ best practice guide. This 60-page guide is available for free download from the BCAS website at www.bcas.org.uk/airtreatment and helps operators and specifiers to make an informed choice on which type of air treatment is best suited to the air quality required
  • The energy efficiency white paper, providing practical tips on how to manage your costs
  • The pressure and leak test guide, to ensure your new system is commissioned and maintained properly

Our website also provides a host of relevant guidance and regular industry updates and we attend numerous external events, providing expert speakers offering guidance on the latest issues of concern.

The role of the trade association

In this period of transition, the role of the trade association is vital in delivering practical and impartial advice to UK industry.

Working hard in support of the sector it represents, a trade association will seek to improve standards, raise safety, provide training and encourage research as well as acting as a counterpoint to evolving government policies.

Sourcing a supplier that is a member of a trade association is even more important. For example, in the absence of a regulatory code for businesses to adhere to, BCAS operates a code of conduct that all of its members sign up to on an annual basis.  This can form part of an end user’s supplier audit and act as a minimum standard that the organisation is expected to meet.

When you consider that compressed air is such a vital component in modern industry, it clearly pays to use a BCAS member to deliver the reliable service and support required.