Understanding demand the secret to success

Staying abreast of changes in industry is key for manufacturers who want to navigate its future. John Leadbetter explains how Vega’s ceramic pressure sensors are offering something new.

Companies the world over own a range of different needs and approval prerequisites when attempting to fit new technology into their business.

The thing they all desire when adopting innovation is less complicated however; and that is the simplicity of transfer.

In industry, the turnover of ideas and inventions continue to fill exhibition halls year on year with suppliers pitching new concepts they hope will revolutionise the way you go about your business.

For the majority of the time, it takes persistence to make a marketable idea catch on. The best ones offer a solution no one previously knew they needed and can adapt to the needs of the many, and not the few.

John Leadbetter, managing director at the process measurement manufacturer Vega, believes this is a key principle when creating the company’s latest sensor technology.

“We have got two major sides to our company,” he said. “We have the level products and the pressure products. For a number of years we have concentrated on our level sensors, which we have had a lot of success with.

“However, when we look at the overall picture, we have realised our pressure sensors offer us a bigger market opportunity.”

Vega has been manufacturing and supplying pressure measurement technology from its factory in Schiltach, Germany since 1973.

Australian industries including mining, oil and gas, exploration and power have all benefitted from their technology – as has the country’s food and beverage sector, which is showing growing interest.

After revisiting the needs of their customers who are now in the market for higher-resistant sensors, Vega has come up with something new.

“What makes our latest transmitters stand out is what we call a ceramic diaphragm,” Leadbetter said. “The diaphragm is made with pure ceramic, which has some advantages in regards to abrasion.

“If you look at the food or chemical industries – where they clean their vessels with a hot washer – with a ceramic pressure measure, those high temperatures won’t affect the transmitter.”

Depending on the pressure range, Vega’s sensors can withstand pressures up to 200 times the range.

This, according to Leadbetter, offers security to the customer as well as financial sense at a time when more companies are thinking in the long-term.

By listening to the needs of the customer, Vega has managed to adapt its sensors to benefit a changing and demanding marketplace.

“We have won some contracts here in Australia with mining companies who want high-pressure transmitters resilient enough to handle what they call ‘burst pressures’,” Leadbetter explained.

“It’s not the cost of purchase they should consider but the cost of ownership. Considering long-term ownership, if you are using a product that has inherent defects, you may have to replace that product every two years.

“What it comes down to is that most plants are now fully automated, so they rely heavily on the units in the field. They don’t have the staff and technicians that we had 20 years ago.

“The downsizing of staff on sites and the uplifting of technology means your units now must become more reliable. Companies now are looking at the cost of production.”

As well as the quality of the product, other factors also come into play when you have a desirable product.

Every industry – and every company within each sector – requires different approval standards for the same new technology.

Therefore, to make a product successful, investment in research and development (R&D) is key.

“Companies like Vega spend an enormous amount of time and effort getting their equipment approved for different industries,” Leadbetter said.

“So we need to be compatible to their industry and meet the customer’s needs – not the other way around.

“One of the biggest things we rely on is feedback. Our R&D department is funded by our customer feedback.

“Every company we deal with produces something for the marketplace; whether it’s oil and gas; whether it’s food; or chemicals; or pharmaceuticals.

“If we can help them control their own costs, that in turn helps them become a profitable company.”

Training is carried out by specialised personnel, which offers traceability for each of Vega’s services – however, with modern communications now readily available to all site managers, maintenance for these kinds of operation is a lot less arduous than it would have been 10 years ago.

“Nowadays, everyone runs around with a smart phone, Leadbetter explained. “All of our sensors – whether used through level or pressure – can be accessed via Bluetooth on your smartphone or tablet.”

It some cases, that means the need for specific calibrators or expensive test equipment is no longer necessary.

“For us to keep up with technology, it is also the technology that exists in the current marketplace,” Leadbetter added, “and that, ultimately, is what drives us to these kinds of development across all types of industry.”

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