When it comes to safety and performance critical assets, a focus on quality is of paramount concern for the sake of efficiency and reliability, and also for the safety of the professionals who use it. In this blog, Vanessa Reed, head of operations and finance at Smart Component Technologies Ltd (SCT) explains the importance of a quality-driven approach for the remote condition monitoring industry.
SCT’s remote condition monitoring solutions are used across the rail, oil and gas, mining and offshore wind industries. They ensure that assets run smoothly by informing maintenance engineers that all is well or alerting them if they detect anything unusual in the way the asset is performing. Remote monitoring plays an important role in the quality of service being delivered.
Because these industries carry a lot of risk for maintenance engineers, using remote solutions to monitor the condition of key assets is important to reduce exposing maintenance engineers to unsafe situations. They prevent unnecessary in-person monitoring in hard to access or dangerous locations and the less time an engineer needs to spend trackside or climbing a wind turbine, the safer they are. So, quality also plays an important role in the delivery of remote monitoring.
That’s certainly what we see at SCT, where quality is the bedrock of trust for maintenance engineers. The need for the highest quality standards extends to the equipment, materials and technology that is used on railways and wind turbines, and down mines.
Quality protects people and operations
If we single out railway maintenance for our examples, high-quality equipment and materials are essential to ensure the safety of railway maintenance engineers. The failure of assets like switches and crossings (S&Cs) can lead to accidents and injuries. Even suspecting that the S&C is faulty can cause costly delays. Regular maintenance and quality assurance checks are crucial to running smooth and effective services, and for pinpointing the cause of a problem. So, it’s important that the routes use monitoring equipment they can trust.
At SCT, we place a very high emphasis on the materials we use in our SWiX and Smart Washer solutions, and the processes we use to manufacture them. There’s some very clever technology involved to ensure, for example, that nothing within the component can move independently. The materials technology and processes that we use keeps every element completely stable. That means the track maintenance engineers know that any reading comes from motion of the trains running past than anything within the unit itself. So there are no false readings that can impact safety or close down a line for checks.
Supporting the UK’s rail network
We do a lot of work for Network Rail in the UK. The great majority of routes currently use our solutions and the number is growing all the time. A lot of our business comes from word of mouth. Engineers tend to look out for each other, especially when it comes to safety on the railways. Their focus on safety means that when they find something that works for them, they will share word of it with their community.
You don’t get that level of positive feedback if your product is lacking in quality or doesn’t do precisely what that community needs. Nick Koiza, our CEO, wrote about that in a recent blog post. So, I would say that the industry respects our approach to quality in what we do, how we listen to them and reflect what they need every bit as much as the quality of our products.
Proving quality standards
Standards like the UK’s ISO 9001 are a good measure of the quality of processes across an organisation. It’s vital for contracts with some companies and it adds to the authority of your business.
For example, in the unfortunate event of an incident, having quality process procedures in place ensures accountability. While we do not directly engage in investigations, our remote condition monitoring solutions play a critical role in enhancing safety. By continuously collecting and analysing data from our units over time as well as maintaining accurate hazard logs we contribute to a proactive approach to safety. This data allows our clients to not only understand what went wrong but also predict when maintenance is required, thereby helping prevent future incidents and improving overall safety.
It’s important to keep your ISO 9001 documentation up to date, we achieved reaccreditation in 2021 and will undergo annual surveillance audits until our next renewal in 2025. We have been consciously maintaining and improving our process quality in line with customer expectations. Frequent surveillance and reaccreditation mean that we have confidence in the quality we offer our clients.
Of course, different quality practices and accreditations apply in different countries. SCT is actively working towards those quality accreditations in several countries where we operate. And there are other accreditations that, as head of operations, I am keen to deliver such as ISO 14001 to show our commitment to the environment.
Quality is an attitude
However, ultimately quality isn’t about ISO this or that. Quality is never a ‘tick box’ process. It’s more of an attitude. It is in-built into every product and process we deliver at SCT, and every interaction we have with customers and suppliers alike. It’s very much the bedrock of trust and is why we are so trusted by our customers.