Safety first

The creation of Lewis Rowland, Viewsafe is the safety assured maintenance aperture for the condition monitoring of live electrical switchgear and assets that has taken the shipping and oil and gas industries by storm. “Viewsafe was developed whilst I completed my Msc in Business Management at Lancaster University. The product design work was completed at this stage, and the past five years have seen the design develop into the product it is today,” says Lewis Rowland, owner of Viewsafe.

“The initial designs and concepts of Viewsafe were created with the basis of creating a product that was safer, more flexible and offered better performance than what was out there in the market. We were well aware of the practices of Thermal Imaging and Partial Discharge, but there was nothing in the market that could combine the two techniques. Customers had to make a choice of one or the other, but if there were a single system to complete both inspections, that choice would not have to be made. Off the back of the initial designs, Viewsafe developed further as we introduced the capability of visual inspection and emergency CO2 access to equipment. The early investment in items such as global patents, trademarks and internal arc testing meant it was always going to take a period of time to get to full implementation in the market. With safety being paramount to the product, it was imperative that we covered all aspects of safety before introducing the product to potential customers,” he continues.

Today used by the likes of Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, P&O Cruise Lines, Cunard and Teekay Gas Shipping, the product offers the unique ability of enabling operators to complete condition monitoring of their live electrical switchgear through both thermal imaging and partial discharge in a safe manner. “With many of the clients, we are moving towards complete fleet or asset coverage with the Viewsafe system. For example, when the three Cunard vessels, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth were all in Liverpool to mark the 175th anniversary of the company it was a proud moment for us as Viewsafe is installed on all three of these vessels.

“We are also working very closely with switchgear manufacturers such as Powell Industries, ABB and GE Energy Management for Viewsafe’s inclusion in new-build switchgear projects, which brings an entirely new dimension to the product and business,” highlights Lewis.

Discussing some major contracts for the company, Lewis continues: “Whilst we are extremely proud of all our projects and installations that we have worked on, there are a few which require a special mention. Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line took Viewsafe on when the company was very much in its infancy. With very few installations completed, both companies were pioneers of installing Viewsafe based on the merits of its performance and ability.”

Viewsafe also met with BP Shipping in late 2011, and the introduction of Viewsafe happened to fall in line with the introduction of condition monitoring to the BP Shipping Gem class vessels.

“One key item for the installation with BP Shipping was that Viewsafe was required to be fully Type Approved by Classification Societies, and accepted for installation on-board marine vessels. This meant that Viewsafe had to apply to Lloyd’s Register for installation verification, where systematic inspection of Internal Arc Classification, Ingress Protection testing and finally Manufacturing processes was completed. In September 2012, Viewsafe was accepted as a fully Type Approved system for installation and shortly after, Viewsafe began installing on the first of the 4 Gem Class BP vessels.”

In addition to providing optimum safety, Viewsafe boosts performance efficiency of the electrical switchgear and minimises the risk of unplanned equipment downtime and the costs that come with this. The product also has security access locks on its base unit, which restricts unauthorised access and allows Viewsafe to be integrated easily into a permit to work system. Furthermore, from a performance perspective, Viewsafe gives customers a high level of accuracy of asset performance data thanks to the combination of thermal imaging and partial discharge inspection.

“With the ability to complete thermal imaging, the prevention of failure and unplanned downtime can be achieved with the identification of ‘hotspots’ caused by high resistance and loose connections. On the partial discharge side, ultrasonic acoustic emission measurements completed through Viewsafe are up to ten times more accurate than current measurement techniques allow. By using these techniques in tandem with one another, personnel have the complete set of tools available to complete holistic condition monitoring of assets to extend and protect asset life spans,” explains Lewis.

The innovative product has generated demand on a global scale, with many blue chip clients keen to have Viewsafe installed on their entire fleet. Discussing opportunities for further growth, Lewis notes: “Geographically I would have to say that the Far East has probably the biggest potential at present, purely due to the vast numbers of marine vessels, which are being built and manufactured there. The likes of DSME are currently involved in many projects that we are working on, and I think a closer working relationship with the shipyards in the Far East, as well as on a global level, holds a huge opportunity for Viewsafe.”

In addition to the Far East, Lewis sees opportunities for rapid growth in areas such as the Middle East and South America once these conservative markets realise the benefits of Viewsafe: “The task faced in these markets is altering the current position of reactive maintenance, to proactive by introducing not only Viewsafe, but the entire notion of condition monitoring electrical equipment to extend its lifespan and its performance levels. This takes not only the introduction of a new product, but also the introduction of new ideas and new practice. This implementation isn’t overnight, but a gradual learning curve for companies in these regions.”

With ten full time employees in the business, as well as a number of highly skilled sub contractors and distributors and agents placed across the globe, those behind the innovative product are prepared for upcoming demand as they develop Viewsafe into the first choice for customers seeking condition monitoring tools for electrical switchgears, as Lewis concludes: “We want the clients to be requesting Viewsafe, the switchgear manufacturers to be promoting Viewsafe, and the service engineers to be using Viewsafe. The next three to five years will no doubt see a further increase in condition monitoring practices globally and Viewsafe intends to be at the forefront of this push, especially in the marine and oil and gas markets.”


Services: Safety assured maintenance aperture for electrical switchgear

Issue 125 October 2015