The fact that formidable challenges exist for the Chinese who are building and maintaining their Country’s, immense and rapidly growing infrastructure does not hide the tremendous opportunities that are also present. From what we’ve seen in our recent work there, Fluke China is doing a great job of building on these opportunities. While I cannot pretend to understand all of the often significant and subtle cultural differences between my Chinese friends and myself, I believe much about how we have learned to use thermography can be readily applied to the situation in China.
My two colleagues, Rob Spring and Ron Connor, had a chance to work directly at many customer sites with the Fluke team while they were in the Shanghai area this summer. Their stories, for the most part, are similar to the ones that I’ve heard around the world, whether it be from a paper mill in North Carolina or a power plant in Chile or a petro-chemical plant in Mexico. All of the complex systems we’ve grown to rely upon everywhere in the world come with similar maintenance challenges. Even more importantly, the solutions for meeting those challenges depend on people, regardless of our cultural differences and similarities.
Here are some of the specifics that Rob and Ron were fortunate to encounter:
• They visited a paper mill—the largest by far they had ever seen—to find the typical overworked maintenance staff using their imager only on a limited basis for checking some of their high-voltage equipment. Rob walked through the site and quickly helped them realize many other opportunities existed, especially with inspecting steam traps and bearings on rotating equipment.
• At a petro-chemical plant—the cleanest they had ever been in, anywhere—they identified a classic issue: The thermographer was not manually adjusting level and span properly and, as a result, was missing many problems. This was a common theme (as it is here in the United States) among other customers they met.
• Thermographers in the warehouse for a well-known furniture company—the largest building they had ever seen except for NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building!—were using their imagers, but again, only on a limited basis. They learned how easy and productive it could be to look at the immense overhead conveyance system.
• From one chemical plant Rob related the story, one that we’ve also frequently encountered in American plants, of an engineer asking him to quickly survey a motor control center. When Rob found one problem in it, a smile on the engineer’s face suggested Rob had passed the challenge of the “test” that the engineer had carefully arranged.
• Their work in various large buildings suggests China shares the same types of problems that trouble buildings worldwide: air leakage, moisture and energy use. We suspect the Fluke team will find this a ripe area of application as their modern buildings begin to age.
• One of the most fascinating applications was at a university R&D facility where the engineers were trying to characterize the temperatures of gases in experimental fuel cells. The lively discussion of absorption bands and spectral analysis tested the skills of the translators but proved productive and interesting to all parties.
It is clear from our visits that Fluke is playing a major role in helping to keep this part of the world’s economic engine running smoothly. The Fluke team continues to work together to expand their knowledge so they can support their customers in the full implementation of technology to solve problems that know no cultural boundaries. We look forward to continuing to assist them in whatever ways we are able and are proud of their work to date.
In the next couple of weeks we’ll get back to some important basics: adjusting images both automatically and manually. No matter where you are in the world, these are essential concepts and skills to understand and master!
John Snell—The Snell Group, a Fluke Thermal Imaging Blog content partner