Serving the aerospace, automotive electronics, energy, engineering, manufacturing and medical device industries, Victrex is a world leader in high performance polymer solutions.
Active in some 40 countries, the company’s global headquarters, research and development facility and manufacturing plant are based in Thornton Cleveleys, Lancashire.
Victrex is a growing business which employs some 600 staff at its site in Thornton Cleveleys where it is the world’s biggest manufacturer of polyaryletherketone (PAEK) products.
The PAEK production process is safety sensitive with powder plants presenting a potential combustion risk. Whilst Victrex itself is classified as a lower tier establishment under Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations (COMAH), a neighbouring PVC manufacturer, separated only by a wire and post fence, is a higher tier site.
This means the entire site must operate under more stringent regulations in relation to the management and control of risk.
Two-way radio has and always will be critical to Victrex’s site-wide communications, both for operational and safety procedures. The company’s existing Motorola analogue radio system had reached end-of life and the handsets it supported no longer available.
In addition the introduction of new research, development and manufacturing facilities meant the old system could no longer provide adequate geographic coverage.
“We can’t run the plant without radios so we needed to look at how best to upgrade from a now obsolete system,” explains Site Facilities Manager, Howard Midgley. “We also needed the radios to cover a wider area,” he added, noting too that the introduction of high-performance, feature-rich digital two-way radio systems was also a factor. “We wanted to move along with technology and to get more functionality from our radio system.”
… I’ve known the engineers and guys at Pennine for many years now and they’re excellent.
HOWARD MIDGLEY, SITE FACILITIES MANAGER, VICTREX
Pennine, Victrex’s chosen two-way radio supplier for over 20 years, recommended sticking with Motorola. Pennine’s expert engineers specified the MOTOTRBO™ Capacity Plus digital radio communications system, integrated with the vendor’s IP-based control room solution, TRBOnet.
MOTOTRBO™ Capacity Plus is highly scalable, single-site solution which can support over 1,000 users and, as well as the crisp, clear transmission synonymous with digital transmissions, offers a range of useful productivity and safety enhancing features.
To enhance network range a Motorola repeater was specified. This was complemented by a further two repeaters as Victrex’s operational needs continued to grow.
Finally, the old analogue handsets were replaced with a fleet of 79 digital radios, comprising a mix of Motorola DP4401 EX and Motorola DP4801 EX units. Both models satisfy stringent ATEX regulations which relate to the use of equipment in potentially explosive environments.
Prime among the benefits offered to Victrex by MOTOTRBO™ Capacity Plus is a system-wide calling capability.
“Our manufacturing operations include powder plants whilst vinyl chloride gas is also used by our immediate neighbours,” reports Howard Midgley. “This means that whilst Victrex is rated on COMAH’s lower tier, the wider site builds up to be higher tier. It’s therefore safety critical that we can contact all the operators on the various plants should there be an incident.”
The ”all call” facility means that, if necessary, staff can then be immediately alerted to the need to “muster and go north” as per the established safety protocol.
The MOTOTRBO™ Capacity Plus is integrated with the company’s TRBOnet IP-based control room solution. This offers an array of features such as call recording, alarm, loneworking and phone interconnect to enable smooth management of communications across the five groups using the two-way radio network.
These embrace Operations, spanning both powder production and polymer production, Maintenance, Security, a managed Shutdown group covering all the plants, plus the Site Facilities Team.
Such is the commitment to safety that ATEX radios have been specified across the site. Risk aversion is embedded in the culture. “The last thing we’d want is for someone to walk from an office to one of the plants with a radio that is not ATEX-compliant.”
A key benefit though comes not from the technology, but the service and support that underpins it. When looking at who to award the upgrade contact too, for Howard Midgley, trust was key.
Pennine Radio has been his trusted supplier at Victrex for more than two decades but his relationship with the two-way radio specialist stretches back even further. He recalls using Pennine in a previous role at ICI, the chemicals conglomerate whose Polymers division became Victrex following a management buy-out in 1993.
“I’ve known the engineers and guys at Pennine for many years now and they’re excellent. The technical assistance I get from the office is also very good. They know the systems and they know our site, so if I have an issue it gets resolved very quickly.
“I’m a firm believer that if you’re enjoying good service from a supplier, then why change?” he asserts, only qualifying his rhetorical question by noting the obvious need for competitiveness on which he says Pennine scores well.
“If I need Pennine, they’re there for me”