For industrial manufacturers, the safety, quality and efficiency of the products they bring to market cannot be left to chance with imprecise instruments or calculations. Whether manufacturing food, chemicals, polymer products or pharmaceuticals, utilizing precise, high quality analytical instruments that are designed to meet the specific requirements of the application and produce accurate, repeatable results is critical.
Unfortunately, instruments are often incorrectly selected for the job, improperly calibrated or fail prematurely, which can result in production downtime and even pose a safety risk. Even the slightest miscalculation can lead to errors and costly mistakes. A product that fails in the field could lead to an unprofitable product line or business, and even injury and death. The stakes are that high.
“Inaccurate moisture measurement or composition analysis could lead to miscalculations in the creation of a new polymer, for example, resulting in a weak product that is unsafe for real-world use,” said John Bogart, managing director of Kett US, a manufacturer of a full range of moisture and organic composition analyzers. “It could result in failure to meet safety standards, impurities in raw materials, misjudged shelf-life, or the wrong product potency. It can also waste process time due to inefficient practices or mechanisms that don’t serve the needs of the processor or manufacturer.”
Given the importance of accurate measurement and analysis, Bogart said it is becoming an industry best practice to partner with an expert that can provide guidance in instrument selection and calibration, as well as ongoing training and consultation.
“Analyzer manufacturers with expertise can tailor the instrument to the specific needs of the application. The first step is research to determine the most common types of instrument usage errors in the industry, so we can take corrective steps to improve overall safety and performance,” Bogart said.
To understand the issue of industrial instrument problems in greater depth, Bogart and his team at Kett reviewed many independent studies across industries and sectors. The results indicated that facility managers encounter several types of instrument challenges.
In some cases, facility managers could not find the appropriate moisture measurement or composition analysis instruments for their specific type of production. Instead, they relied on analyzers that did not provide the required accuracy, consistency, or repeatable results.
Alternatively, some instruments failed due to abrasive wear and tear or exposure to harsh conditions. Extended exposure to salts, moisture or chemical solvents, for example, can accelerate corrosion, breakdown and the need for replacement.
Facilities also reported they often did not have enough support from suppliers to evaluate, install and calibrate the instruments or train their personnel on proper operation. Errors occurred when employees improperly handled and used the instruments, particularly when they had unanswered questions.
“In these kinds of situations, many manufacturers come to us already frustrated. We understand, because selecting the wrong instrument is upsetting, time-consuming, and incredibly costly,” Bogart said.
Based on their research findings, Kett developed a comprehensive framework, called their “Total Care Solution Package,” to dramatically reduce the risks and errors related to inaccurate measurement and composition analysis. In over 40 years of engineering and operation, Kett has developed a comprehensive process to identify the proper instruments, provide calibration assistance, and ongoing support for the life of the instrument.
“We understand that industrial manufacturers and processors rely on the accuracy of our instruments,” Bogart said. “That is why we invest time up front to learn about the application and the industry before creating a tailored solution.”
Support comes in the form of assistance with calibration curve development to ensure accurate readings, along with on-site operator training. A calibration curve is one approach to the problem of instrument calibration. The calibration curve is a plot of how the instrumental response (i.e. the analytical signal) changes with the concentration of the analyte (i.e. the substance to be measured).
Kett also offers performance guarantees, warranties and guaranteed 24-hour turnaround to perform repairs or provide loaner instruments so customers can return to full operation as quickly as possible.
Because industrial settings can be harsh, the OEM designs instruments that can endure the rigors of the field as well as the wear and tear of production.
“We are still servicing equipment purchased 40 plus years ago. Our work is not transactional. Instead, we aim to build a long-term working relationship with you, including instrument selection, calibration, and ongoing support, for years or even decades to come,” Bogart said.
As the need to increase production while maintaining safety and quality continues, manufacturers and processors that partner with an OEM that can provide the instruments and expertise required will have a competitive advantage in the market.
Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California. He writes about health, business, technology and educational issues, and he has an M.A. in English from C.S.U. Dominguez Hills.