Weiss Technik explains its Investment in maintenance infrastructure and how it supports changing requirements on the installed base of climatic chambers
As part of a recent and ongoing large investment in the UK, the world’s largest climatic chamber manufacturer, Weiss Technik has added a service management system spread throughout the country to ensure that service engineers are never far from the company’s installations to offer commissioning, calibration and servicing packages.
According to Weiss Technik’s UK Service Manager, Richard Fleming, the company reviewed its complete service infrastructure as part of the investment and made some fundamental improvements to ensure its customers receive maximum support at the best value, for the lifetime of their equipment.
To understand more about the way the company supports its large installed base of diverse climatic chamber equipment, I recently spoke to Fleming as well as his colleague, Erhart Geto.
Weiss Technik’s approach is based on the premise that although capital equipment costs for purchasing chambers can be planned well in advance, the ongoing cost of servicing is also important to consider and so the company offers dual equipment plus service packages that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of their customers. These often include such important services as the calibration of temperature, pressure and humidity to UKAS standards, for example.
Fleming gives some idea of how impressive the service infrastructure is with engineers being available throughout the country at distances of no more than an hour to an hour and a half from installations. “All the engineers are equipped with the necessary chamber specific tools and as much as 90% of the spare parts that they’re likely to need. It means we can react very quickly and effectively. The engineers are also backed up by our admin personnel in the office and a comprehensive spare parts warehouse,” he tells me.
Industry expectations are high and environmental test chambers need to be installed, calibrated and maintained to the highest standards if they’re going to deliver consistent and precise results.
To achieve that, Weiss Technik’s service package is structured around three different levels of service that are offered and which customers can select from.
Standard Maintenance level covers the normal functions of the chamber and includes all the basic functional operations, settings and safety checks.
Premium is the company’s most popular service level and includes calibration and a three-month warranty for the work carried out during maintenance
Tailored service packages are also available that can be discussed with Weiss Technik’s engineering team to cover special equipment or to specify a precise level of service support to meet individual needs.
Fleming explains that the tailored package can include such factors as the installation of on-site calibration equipment and data acquisition systems for walk-in chambers. “There’s a spare parts list for each individual chamber and for critical installations, these can be held on site as part of a tailored package,” he says.
According to Weiss Technik, there are also a large number of Design Environmental chambers still in operation in the country, some of which were supplied a number of years ago. Some operators of Design Environmental chambers may not be aware that the equipment was originally supplied by Weiss Technik and that the company is best placed and able to provide a professional service to ensure the equipment continues to run at peak performance.
Environmental chambers are increasingly being used across a wide range of industries for development, testing, product accreditation and other purposes. This diversity drives a flexible approach towards servicing and so Weiss Technik has specialist knowledge of its applications and can support different industries to ensure their specific requirements are met.
According to Geto, the pharmaceutical industry, with its high demand for chambers, is a good example of how different industries have their own specific needs. “Pharma is highly regulated and we need to take the relevant industry regulations into account when putting service and calibration plans together. Even if the chamber is simple, there is a need for performance traceability etc.” he says.
Fleming expands on this by explaining that other industries have different priorities. “The automotive industry tends to have more technically demanding requirements and production environments are heavily focused on maintaining high utilitisation to prevent down-time,” he explains.
This diversity results in different levels of service, types of offering and service level agreements and Weiss Technik prides itself on its flexibility in this respect.
“There are some self-service elements that we can support, such as on-site parts availability for user maintenance tasks such as filter changes. We’ve also made our online training portal available to customers, which includes modules on how to use the chambers, what is available to them and also how to perform basic diagnostics and maintenance,” Fleming tells me.
The online training portal arose from the company’s training academy in Germany, an on-site facility, which the company used for training its personnel. The recent pandemic prevented courses being run at the academy and so there was a necessary shift towards distance learning. One of the unexpected benefits of this shift in approach is the ability to expand the training offered by the company to its customers as well as its engineering team.
As environmental testing complexity continues to increase, especially in technology applications, chambers are becoming more integrated with other systems. I asked Fleming what effect such integration has on the company’s service structure.
“It’s common to integrate systems now. Large automotive test houses have dynamometers installed in chambers and there are also specific test systems for emissions or batteries in the automotive industry. It doesn’t stop there though, the aviation industry also has chambers with vibration tables and solar simulators, they can be quite complex,” he says.
Fleming explains that in such cases, their engineers are involved at all levels of diagnostics, which can start with a technical help call, which is part of a tiered technicall assistance infrastructure linked through the support centre in Germany. “As applications become more complex, the need for robust support also increases and Weiss Technik has taken this into account with its recent investment in support infrastructure,” he tells me.
Long Term Investment
A very important concept that underpins Weiss Technik’s approach to servicing is that any chamber investment is long term with installations often staying in place for a decade or more.
The automotive and other technology based industries are constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and placing increasing demands on its test equipment, including chambers. Weiss Technik recognises this and future proofs its chambers where possible. For example, upgrades to its proprietary “Simpati” software are always backwards compatible and they will always discuss upgrade requirements to hardware with the objective of achieving the customer’s goals, regardless of the age of the chamber, without replacing the chamber in a “forklift upgrade”.
In this way, Weiss Technik takes the approach of supplying and maintaining chambers that will operate well into the future.