Thursday 11 April 2013

Manufacturing for instrument protection expanded

Intertec's factory in Sarnia - with new extension (left) housing a purpose-designed layout and automation to make instrument shelters for process plants.
Intertec has opened an advanced new production facility, greatly expanding its ability to fabricate shelters, cabinets and enclosures for protecting process instrumentation. Representing an investment of $3 million, the expansion project provides the company with its second build-to-demand CNC machining line. This advanced automation eliminates many previous manual tasks, substantially shortening manufacturing times - and will help the company meet the exceptional worldwide demand for glass fibre reinforced polyester (GRP) enclosures.

"This investment allows us to shave around 25% from the production cycles of many of our specialist GRP-based outdoor instrument enclosures and shelters, giving us much greater flexibility to meet the fast-changing demand from our processing customers," says Patrick van Winckel, Director of Business Development for Intertec.

Intertec has two main production centres located in Sarnia (CDN) and Neustadt (D), plus two smaller assembly and system building centres located in Houston (TX USA), and Saint Petersburg (RU). The new production line is housed in a purpose-built 1,400 m2 building extension at Sarnia. The new building increases the size of the Sarnia factory by more than a third, and expands Intertec's total worldwide footprint by around 10%.

The expansion at the Sarnia factory follows a period of sustained growth for Intertec, with demand for its GRP field shelters - which are often used to house process analyzers - multiplying in recent years, and demand for smaller outdoor GRP enclosures and cabinets growing in double-digit percentages during recent years.

The growth in Intertec's business is being driven by a number of technical factors related largely to the performance of the GRP structural materials the company uses to build outdoor enclosures, which have become a strongly preferred option for many long-lifecycle outdoor protection applications in the process industries. This has resulted in major orders for the company, such as its current project to protect the process analyzers at the new Sadara petrochemical complex in Saudi Arabia - an application that has led to what is believed to be the largest order for field shelters ever placed.

Intertec's new building and automation enhances its manufacturing efficiency in two particular areas.

The first is outdoor shelters. These are typically single-storey buildings providing protected operating environments for analyzers and other process instrumentation and control equipment - in custom shapes with spaces up to 100 square metres. To simplify shelter production, the building in Sarnia has been fitted with a new gantry and 20 ton crane - allowing Intertec to assemble and move shelters through the various manufacturing stages much more easily.

The second advance comes in the form of a major new CNC machine from MAKA Systems which automates the cutting, routing and drilling of all the panels that are used to build the enclosure, cabinet or shelter - with an extremely large working area of 12.1 x 3.5 metres. This aspect of the new automation alone eliminates many operations that were previously performed manually, shaving valuable time from the manufacturing process. It also makes it much faster for Intertec to build completely custom sized outdoor enclosures. By optimizing the size and design of an enclosure to precisely match the instrumentation content and layout, engineers can minimize its surface area and thereby secure optimum thermal performance. Until now, due to the lack of design choices, they have often been forced to use an unnecessarily large standard enclosure or even a cabinet, leading to wasted space and excessive energy use for heating or cooling. The new production process is so simple that Intertec can now easily make custom enclosures in quantities of just one if required.

This North American CNC machining and production line layout mirrors an investment that Intertec recently made at its other major manufacturing centre in Germany. Intertec believes that the combined manufacturing capacity and flexibility of these two resources reinforces the company's leading position in the outdoor GRP enclosures market.

The outdoor instrument protection business is evolving rapidly, and Intertec's investment in additional manufacturing capacity and automation positions it well to face many current challenges. The first and most significant challenge is an enormous shift in demand from purchasing enclosure components to turnkey enclosures - assembled and fitted with instruments ready for connection to the process. This is being driven by the way that many processing companies have downsized their in-house engineering and technical staff - and prefer to employ external specialists as required. Another factor is the relatively higher cost of skilled field labour required to install instruments compared to the rates that are possible when enclosures are pre-assembled on a production line. Although Intertec offers the full range of components required by engineers to build their own outdoor enclosures - from standard enclosures to all of the accessories needed such as heaters or sunshades - its turnkey design and assembly service has grown dramatically in recent years. Today in North America for instance, some 80% of the company's sales are now for populated enclosures.

Another change is the increase in demand for GRP enclosures. In the past, many end users have tended to specify traditional metal enclosures for outdoor applications, with stainless steel being used when the environment is harsh. The corrosion risks encountered in many of the remote and harsh areas where oil and gas is now being produced has increased demand for GRP as it is almost immune to the corrosive effects of salt and aggressive chemicals. GRP is also better suited to meeting another increasingly common specification in the oil and gas industry: blast-proofing. High pressure waves can easily damage and break metal or thermoplastic. GRP's intrinsic flexibility allows the enclosure, cabinet or shelter to flex and absorb blast-wave forces. A further important attribute of GRP material for providing superior outdoor protection is the way it can be manufactured easily in sandwich constructions enclosing inner layers of insulation - providing energy-efficient enclosures that have no thermal short-cuts. One other emergent advantage is the way that GRP enclosures can provide communications-friendly environments for housing the new generations of wireless-enabled field instruments - extending their applications potential in outdoor locations.

No comments:

Post a Comment