An interview with Technical Services manager, Jeroen Ritman.
In Waalwijk, on the industrial area next to the Meuse River, we find a company that can rightfully call itself the market leader for smart solutions in heat and cold transportation. Thermaflex is a family-run company that celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2016. Over the past four decades, from a beginning as manufacturer for piping for district heating, Thermaflex developed into the technology leader for piping systems for heat and cold transportation. Technical Services manager, Jeroen Ritman, proudly points toward a set of large pipes that is neatly stored in the yard; ready for shipment. Ritman: “We now manufacture fully insulated piping up to a diameter of 2.25m!” A fine example of Thermaflex’s capability to deliver smart solutions are the fully tailored systems for replacing of obsolete piping (eg. water supply or sewer) networks in residential areas. “In our production facility the complete piping system for an entire street is pre-fabricated. On site, the whole system is simply rolled out. All the branches to the separate homes are attached and need only be unfolded and connected up to the homes. There is no need for coupling and welding in the field, which means a huge time saving. As a result, streets are closed for traffic much shorter and so everybody wins.”
For Thermaflex, as for many companies, the way to stay ahead of the competition is to innovate and come up with new, smart products. Most production equipment is developed in-house and it is regularly updated to incorporate the latest technologies. In this constant race of updating and expanding machines, but also in combining machines to be able to produce new products, Eltra is an invaluable partner for Thermaflex; “We can rely on Eltra’s experience with machine and process controls” Ritman says.
The goal of all this innovation is of course to keep growing and producing. As a manufacturer, in its daily practice, Thermaflex is bound by regulations and legislation. For the safety of electrical equipment, the norm NEN3140 must be complied with. Ritman: “It is simply impossible for us to keep up with all these regulations. NEN3140 is quite a large document. Eltra deals with this matter almost daily. It takes them considerably less time to make sure that our electrical installations are in compliance with the rules set forth in NEN3140, then it would take us. Why re-invent the wheel?”
To remain in compliance with NEN3140, regular maintenance of equipment, documents and knowledge is necessary. Eltra and Thermaflex have entered into a three year agreement to ensure NEN3140 compliance at Thermaflex. Eltra plans ahead all the dates for general inspection, thermographic inspection, earthing checks and so on, for a whole year. In this way, everyone involved knows what happens when for the rest of the year. “We really need to plan these things to minimize impact.” says Ritman.
NEN3140 was mainly established with work floor safety in mind, but there are other advantageous effects. Ritman again: “The systematic numbering and gathering into group lists of components, allows us to get to the source of an electrical failure much quicker.” The thermographic inspections are another useful tool in preventing downtime. A transformer that is running hot can be replaced, before it actually fails and causes a break in production. “What makes working with Eltra so effective, is that it is always the same engineers that work on our equipment. The engineer that takes care of document maintenance and reporting for NEN3140, is also there when we have a malfunction. He knows his way around our production facility and he knows our equipment. An engineer who knows the machines simply takes less time to fix a problem.” Ritman adds.
It is again the “regulars” that take care of training of Thermaflex employees to keep them instructed as required by NEN3140. The commitment and involvement that the Eltra engineers show is greatly appreciated in Waalwijk.
An important part of NEN3140 compliance is documenting and reporting. “By simply referring to NEN3140, insurance companies can cover a range of risks. This is one of the reasons for us to have Eltra handling the reporting for NEN3140. We want to avoid discussions with the insurer, in case something happens, despite our best efforts.” Ritman says, and he concludes: “We all have our own fields of expertise and fill the gaps in each other’s knowledge. On multiple fronts, Eltra is a competent and reliable partner for us. We trust to have them work alongside us for years to come.”