During the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown, Fives Cryo Inc. did one of its repair jobs remotely with the help of a Go-Pro. At the time, it was thought of as an emergency and temporary measure, a solution to the social distancing restrictions in place to stop the spread of the virus.
“We had a heat exchanger that needed to be repaired,” Fives Cryo Inc. CEO Brent West told gasworld.
“The customer requested our support to directly oversee the operation, but we knew it wasn’t possible to send any of our experts to the site. Prior to the pandemic restrictions, our team in the Energy | Cryogenics activity was already developing and testing remote service solutions, providing the ability to support our customers, anytime, anywhere under a variety of circumstances. The situation confirmed that we had created an effective and adaptive solution, and we are continuing to advance further, adapting use for each repair, as every situation is unique, requiring a team to be well prepared. We used the virtual set up for livestreaming for on-site assistance, engaging our global experts, one in Houston and one in France, providing the necessary support, resulting in a successful outcome.”
The repair went so well that Fives Cryo Inc., a Houston, Texas-based subsidiary of global industrial engineering group Fives, is continuing to provide remote repair and services and inspection witnessing, supporting the North American market with design, manufacturing, installation and maintenance for brazed heat exchangers, cold boxes, core-in-drums and Cryomec® cryogenic pumps.
West reports that Fives Cryo Inc.’s customers – including industrial gas companies – are still not accepting visitors, requiring his team to continue remote services, supporting facilities in a variety of areas, including Indiana and Arizona, as well as overseas in Kuwait, from its workshops in France (Fives Cryo) and Switzerland (Fives Cryomec).
“In my estimate we have performed approximately a dozen or so inspections for either heat exchangers or cryogenic pumps, when requiring going through the inspection test plan during manufacturing, and there are certain inspection points that a third party or a customer must witness remotely,” West said. “Our customers are able to view via their laptop or mobile phone so they can be virtually present, witnessing inspection points. Another example of this is a more recent cryogenic pump repair, where again we could not be present on site. Our technicians in the field are also able to live stream a repair back to engineering if additional support is needed.”
As lockdowns and social distancing ease, West expects remote servicing and repairs to continue, becoming a preferred option for some customers.
“We had already developed the technology and it was available prior to the pandemic, but the situation accelerated implementation,” West said. “People like to have an in person presence, but I can envision this type of support continuing well beyond the pandemic, as it saves our customers time and money. Now onsite inspections can be conducted remotely, and the market is becoming comfortable with this, provided there is an ability to view operations live for validating points. In the future, some customers will prefer to be present physically, however remote assistance is definitely an option. In the event of an emergency or major issue, it’s the ideal alternative for addressing situations in the field, where our equipment can be sent without the customer relying on its own in-house troubleshooting.”
West added, “Our world and how we conduct business has dramatically changed during the pandemic, and it’s possible we might see less in person meetings and conferences, finding it easier and more affordable to conduct activities versus the time required for travel and associated costs. We have been able to effectively work with our customers and vendors via communication platforms and ensuring that the relationship between them and us is maintained if not strengthened.”
Fives delivers a variety of technology applications, including air separation, distribution, natural gas processing, LNG, olefins and petrochemicals, hydrogen and helium. However, hydrogen is an area where Fives has been increasing its focus including some new development projects.
“It’s been a challenging year, especially for the hydrocarbon market in North America,” West said.
“Many projects in the US, particularly for LNG and gas processing, have been postponed, and we are seeing a great deal of delays. LNG and gas processing may be facing another difficult year in 2021 but we expect some projects to move forward. We are also seeing one area where there is a potential for an uptick in growth which everyone is talking about, hydrogen.”
West added, “Industrial gas and other hydrogen providers are adding more resources to these markets. One of the application is for large commercial warehouses, where companies like Amazon and Walmart have and continue to convert their material handling equipment to hydrogen. I think we will see a continued push towards hydrogen with additional applications.”