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Surface finishing specialist cuts energy use by 20% through digital transformation

BEP Surface Technologies, a leading electroplating and surface finishing specialist, has cut its energy use by 20 per cent after investing in control and automation technologies.

The new technology integrates with BEP’s grinding machinery to introduce predictive maintenance strategies and monitor hazardous materials to enhance safety. It has transformed the Radcliffe-based manufacturer’s chrome plating process by enabling real-time visibility of critical operational parameters, enabling enhanced monitoring and data analysis.

Beyond the energy savings BEP has also cut material use by 10 per cent and labour use by 15 per cent and is now rolling the tech out to its copper and nickel-plating operations.

Andrew McClusky, Managing Director of BEP Surface Technologies, said: “The successful implementation of our control and automation system has revolutionised our chrome plating process, fast-tracked our digital transformation and accelerated our net zero journey.

“Like many heritage industries, electroplating and surface engineering has previously relied on operator skills and experience. Capturing that vital data from our processes enables ground-breaking control and automation, allowing our engineers to monitor and analyse comprehensive data sets and providing invaluable insights into process optimisation and energy efficiency.”

The chrome plating project was launched in 2022 as part of BEP’s digital strategy. It was supported by Made Smarter, a government-backed programme helping SMEs adopt technology and skills, which funded a six-month digital internship to work with BEP.

Hassan Bin Mazhar, then an MSc student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Salford, was tasked with addressing the challenge of excessive chrome deposition during the plating process.

The project’s first phase applied sensors to the plating tanks to enable real-time acquisition of operational data such as temperature, volts, amps, solution levels, solution composition, timings, and extraction efficiencies at each boiler. This was collated by a PLC and displayed in real-time via Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) to engineers who can precisely monitor and control parameters. A SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) software system was then deployed to centralise those readings and analyse them to offer new insights and enable engineers to optimise the process.

The project was so successful that Bin mazhar was taken on permanently, spending the last 18 months developing and scaling the solution.

He said: “This project has been a dream start to my career. I gained hands-on experience in control and automation and was able to make a real-life impact on a challenge that had been niggling BEP for a long time.

“For BEP, it demonstrated what could be achieved through a small investment in technology and bringing in some new digital skills. It has also proved that kick-starting the digital transformation journey need not be elaborate or expensive.”

BEP provides an extensive range of chrome, nickel and copper plating services and surface finishing, dealing with turbines and large rotors for the energy sector through to small shafts and all types of rotating equipment.

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