Originally a manufacturer of electronic products, Servomex started its journey to today’s business when Richard Steel met Charles Munday, who was developing an advanced version of the paramagnetic oxygen sensor using a platinum feedback loop.
Working together, the team manufactured a revolutionary paramagnetic cell, designed for the accurate and stable measurement of percentage levels of oxygen.
This landmark innovation became the basis for a business which has grown over nearly 70 years to become today’s global leader in gas sensing.
Following the 1999 acquisition of the business by Spectris plc, a leading supplier of instrumentation and controls to global markets, Servomex has been transformed in the 21st century from respected innovator to world leader in gas analysis.
Here in an exclusive interview with gasworld, Servomex’s President Trevor Sands looks ahead to 2020 and highlights upcoming projects, as well as key trends and challenges the industry may face this year.
Gasworld (GW): Can you tell us about three recent successes Servomex has celebrated?
Trevor Sands (TS): Towards the end of last year, our business leaders from Hummingbird Sensing Technologies, Purity & Speciality and Industrial Processes and Emissions group (IP&E) fully aligned their teams and resources.
This has enabled them to work more closely together towards one common goal – meeting the needs of our customers. The clear focus of each group has been well received by our customers and we look forward to seeing positive results arise from this change throughout the rest of 2020.
One of the key growth initiatives of our five year strategic plan is winning large international projects; specifically projects that involve multiple companies across different regions of the world.
Up until recently we have expected our individual sales teams to track and manage those opportunities by themselves but we’ve now set up a global team who will work alongside the sales teams to close big opportunities. We’re off to a great start with the team already tracking over 20 projects.
Last November we saw strong improvements throughout the UK technical centre, with every area of manufacturing raising its output. A particular highlight included SpectraExact 2500 output increasing its average by 73%, which was a record for 2019.
GW: What projects do you have planned for 2020?
TS: We’re looking forward to the projects we have planned for 2020, with the focus being on three key areas.
First and foremost, as always, we’re going to be focused on our customers. We’ve noticed over the past 10 years that an increasing number of our customers are looking for more comprehensive project management on some of our largest projects.
In response to this, we’ll be expanding our systems integration service, with our global service and customer support teams providing assistance that will be easily accessible from anywhere in the world.
We’re also going to be investing more resources into our applications teams, to ensure they continue to deliver our expertise at the point of need.
And, of course, we are constantly looking at ways to make things simpler for our customers. We want them to find it easier to order, install and use our products. We’re excited about our new website which will be launching in the summer and will maximize the value they get from our products and services.
Finally, we’ll continue to strive for operational excellence at all times. Throughout 2020 we’ll be streamlining our operational processes, making it easier for us to meet customer expectations.
GW: What will be the key trends or topics driving developments in gas sensing technology this year?
TS: There’s an ever-increasing demand for higher purity gas analysis and increasing yields, and I’m confident we’ll see this continue. We’ll be focusing on our support for plant agility and efficiency, ensuring customers get maximum business value from their gas analysis assets.
The two key trends for this year and beyond are likely to be connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT). We plan to really concentrate on those areas, focusing on control automation systems, technology that delivers processes, and the optimization of both people and assets.
Expanding the capabilities of existing technologies is also going to take center stage. For us, that means applying known technologies – such as laser and Infrared – across an expanded range of applications.
GW: What challenges do you see facing the industrial gas and semiconductor sector this year?
TS: The ongoing challenge for both sectors remains plant agility and efficiency. The continued global expansion of supply will add pressure to these industries as new infrastructure comes online, especially with the national focuses and investments in countries like South Korea, China, and Japan.
I’ve already mentioned the importance of connectivity and IoT. There’s likely to be an increasing move towards control automation systems, and a demand for more technology that delivers processes, assets and people optimization.
GW: What industry events are you looking forward to in 2020?
TS: We have quite a few exhibitions and a tour this year that we’re really excited about. First up will be Meorga in March, followed by WoTS in October and Adipec in November.
In February we were also meant to be at Semicon Korea, which was sadly cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. This has now been rescheduled to February 2021, which we are very much looking forward to.
Lastly, the Servomex demo van will be touring Europe this summer, taking our experts and product displays directly to our customers. So, there’s lots to look forward to!
GW: What do you see as being hot topics this year?
TS: Once again, efficiency – with increasing economic demands, operators are always going to want to do more with less and will insist upon getting the maximum return on their investment in gas analysis systems.
Technology that leads to increased yields will be in demand, but at the same time, with a shrinking skill base, it’s going to be more important than ever to make it simpler for plant operators to take measurements.
Demand will continue to grow at the same rate as supply investments, so this will ensure that connectivity and IoT will be in the spotlight for us and our customers throughout 2020, and in the years to come.