The increase in demand for low-voltage, failsafe electric actuators prompted actuator supplier DEMCA Actuation Solutions’ collaboration with Germany-based actuator manufacturer PS Automation, to bring the latter’s smart actuator range to South Africa.
DEMCA Actuation Solutions sales and technical manager Warren Mc Aslan explains that the demand for low-voltage actuators is a result of electricity instability and a trend towards reducing electricity consumption, as well as integrating renewable-energy sources such as solar power.
Previously, mining operations requested 525 V or 110 V actuators, but with their integration of solar power, they require actuators with low-voltage supply, high torque outputs and failsafe capabilities; and that are freely programmable.
DEMCA Actuation Solutions’ research on actuators that meet these requirements led to its approaching PS Automation.
While DEMCA Actuation Solutions does supply failsafe actuators, they were previously limited in torque output, and were not freely programmable. PS Automation’s range of smart actuators has a maximum torque output of 2 800 Nm.
The smart actuator’s freely programmable capabilities enable customers to choose whether the actuator will close or open in the event of a failure, and the speed at which it will open or close. Therefore, customers can customise the actuator to suit their specific requirements.
The actuators can also be reprogrammed if the requirements or task changes, consequently ensuring that customers get the maximum use from the actuator.
“The actuator is not just fit for one application. If the line becomes obsolete, [customers] can put the actuator on another valve within the same torque requirements. They can programme it to on or off, and modulating failsafe or not,” Mc Aslan explains.
DEMCA Actuation Solutions provides a variety of imported actuators to suit various applications and industries. As a solutions company, it understands that no two applications are identical and one manufacturer cannot meet every application requirement, he adds.
The company selects certain models from a variety of manufacturers to meet specific application requirements, thereby ensuring the availability of actuators that are best suited to specific customer requirements.
Mc Aslan says DEMCA Actuation Solutions also provides more “basic” actuators that are easy to use, adding that, while Industry 4.0 and various technology developments are gaining attention, it is important to consider the education and skills level of the employees who will work with the equipment on a daily basis.
Actuators that are complicated or exceedingly technical can be difficult to use if employees do not understand how they work. This can lead to not only equipment damage but also increased costs, as the maintenance and repair of advanced actuators are expensive.
DEMCA Actuation Solutions also provides after-sales services and training, but Covid-19-related restrictions made it difficult for the company to assist customers with any on-site technical difficulties.
To mitigate this challenge, the company asked customers to send videos of a problem.
DEMCA Actuation Solutions then creates a simulation of the problem, enacts the corrective measures while recording them on video, and then sends the video to the customer who can use it to resolve the issue.
Mc Aslan explains that the company intends to integrate this into its after-sales service method, as it enables customers to learn how to fix common issues on their own, which is cost effective. It also saves time, resulting in less downtime for an operation because of equipment failure.
“We are trying to develop the end-user’s confidence on fault finding, troubleshooting and correcting the issue at hand, rather than taking the product offline – resulting in downtime –only to find out that the solution was short and simple.”
DEMCA Actuation Solutions offers end-user training at its branches in Midrand, Gauteng, and Cape Town, in the Western Cape.
The company uses their training equipment to demonstrate the similarities and differences between various actuators, to assist customers in deciding which ones to buy. It can also educate and share valuable knowledge with customers based on the collective experience it has accumulated over its 40-year history.
During the in-person training sessions, end-users physically learn how the equipment works using break-down and build-up scenarios. End-users also watch video footage, based on real-life experience with the equipment, to understand the various challenges they might encounter.
“We evaluate the actuator and the issue, and then we show the end-users how to resolve it through our streamlined resolution steps. By following our steps, they can quickly diagnose the issues with the actuator and resolve it on their own in the future,” says Mc Aslan.
The in-person training is specific to the customer and is based on the issue associated with their application and range of actuators, allowing customers and potential customers to maximise the use of their equipment.