Across oil and gas, mining and engineering industries, the move towards automation has been motivated by similar impulses.
For some companies the most important aspect is financial cost savings, for others its efficiency and predictable outcomes. But the area that they all have in common is recognising that the safety and security of a workforce is not something that can be left to chance.
In the industries that WMG works with – oil and gas, mining, engineering, construction – the conversation is the same. And as a leading provider of human resources, I am more aware than most of the need to ensure safety and security of my workers. So an increasingly important part of my job is not simply knowing where human processes can be assisted or replaced by automated or mechanised processes, but understanding the right solutions to fill the gap.
On this note, I was recently in the United Kingdom and had the opportunity to leave London and travel to Rayleigh in Essex to meet with Tube Tech International. I'd first encountered the work that Tube Tech International is leading at an event which I attended earlier in the year. Tube Tech's business is based around just the sort of safety and efficiency questions that WMG is looking to answer in the growing and evolving market of human resources. For more than 30 years, the company has recognised the cost and safety implications brought about by the unforeseen or prolonged shutdowns that result from inefficient cleaning processes in complex machinery.
Standard cleaning processes for the internal and external tube surfaces of heat exchangers and fired heaters are often too imprecise for machines, or too dangerous and complicated for humans, leaving an unhappy compromise that leaves processes vulnerable to residual fouling. Tube Tech's ‘Clean Dry' and ‘Clean In Situ' products offer around 90% cleaning efficiency with no secondary waste, meaning both the risks and the environmental impact of these processes are lessened considerably.
Other solutions are employing robotics to solve safety and efficiency concerns. Take the ANYmal robotic platform that has received some attention for being the first ‘autonomous offshore robot' capable of inspecting offshore oil and gas sites. This solution fully replaces the human element of a necessary process, reducing the risks to human divers or engineers that would previously been posed.
But of course these innovations do not spell the end of human expertise either. Many hybrids are also in development and appearing on the market, fusing the best of robotic processes with the best of human as a new solution to industrial safety. Take a look at what Canaria is developing with its ‘wearable' technology for the personal safety of high-risk environments, giving biomedical and CO2 monitoring of vitals that can be essential in roles as diverse as down mine shafts and in space.
The future of safety and efficiency in industrial processes of course lies with a combination of the above. And we look forward to keeping an eye on the innovations that can complement human resources, and the humans that can complement technology!
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