Name: Mark Tonner
Title: Condition Monitoring Technician
Country: Scotland / Eriks UK & Ireland
Hidden problems can sometimes present themselves in the most horrible ways. It’s especially sad if they affect the vulnerable – particularly ill people in need of medication. “We are proud of this story because not only have we potentially averted substantial loss of production, which is critical to the health and wellbeing of ill people, but we have arguably saved lives.
We have been able to display our knowledge of techniques and applications, as well as the ability to see the bigger picture with respect to risk”, says Mark Tonner, Condition Monitoring Technician at ERIKS UK and Ireland.
Accidents don’t just happen. They are a result of a chain of critical events – contributing factors leading to an undesired outcome. These factors can run under the surface, unnoticed for a long time – until one day – disaster strikes. There seemed to be a disaster just like that looming in a major pharmaceutical plant in Scotland. Nobody was aware of a hidden problem with the power lines that would eventually lead to losing about third of its production, supply disruption and ultimately stock-out of medication.
During a routine thermographic survey at a pharmaceutical plant – an ERIKS customer – Mark, the vigilant ERIKS technician asked if he could turn the camera towards the powerlines feeding the site. Initially, his request was dismissed. The powerlines belonged to their energy supplier and therefore not the responsibility of the plant. However, he questioned what would happen if they lost those powerlines. The answer, and hard realisation for the customer, was that they would lose a third of their production, with the inevitable consequences of medical supply disruption and stock out situation.
Mark insisted on carrying out the survey of the powerlines, because he considered the risk part of the plant’s responsibility to their customers – and ERIKS responsibility to help them identify and prevent it. With this realisation, the customer agreed, and Mark surveyed the powerlines. Frighteningly, an issue was discovered meaning the plant indeed was at risk. ERIKS made sure to provide the survey report promptly, allowing the customer to contact their energy supplier for an urgent resolution.
A thermographic survey utilises an infrared thermal camera to inspect objects and buildings. It allows assessing heat signatures with imaging of the thermal patterns. It can be applied in various industries and can be extremely helpful in uncovering a range of potential problems, such as electrical or mechanical defects, insulation breakdowns, heat loss, building defects, water ingress and even the detection of health problems in humans, such as signs of certain cancers or sepsis.
A thermography technician, who knows where to look and what they are seeing, can help customers to save money, avoid downtime and achieve the greatest efficiency from condition monitored assets. We use it as standard method during our condition monitoring reviews, but also benchmarking for future surveys, and training and mentoring the customer’s staff in the effective use of thermographic equipment.
Thankfully, the end of this story is that the energy supplier acted fast enough to fix the issue on the lines before a power loss occurred. No chain of events began, no reduction in patient care occurred and unnecessary costs were avoided.