Sulzer Technical Review Issue 1 / 2016

“We take a holistic view of a system and offer bundled service solutions.”

March 16, 2016 | Tünde Kirstein

Peter Alexander, President of the Rotating Equipment Services division, talks about future challenges and trends in the service world.

Peter Alexander, President Division Rotating Equipment Services

Sulzer offers “service solutions customized to your needs.” What does “customized” mean?

“Customized” means that we listen to our customers and tailor solutions to fit their needs. This can mean performing a material upgrade to solve a corrosion problem, carrying out a calculated change in performance, or meeting their bespoke technical specifications. It also means that we are highly responsive to their time requirements. The servicing of rotating equipment is an environment where an almost infinite number of variables can create an almost infinite number of problems. So, a solution-oriented mentality is a key component of meeting their needs.

Will customer needs change in the future? Are there new challenges that operators of rotating equipment will face?

Our customers are facing increasing cost pressure—no matter what industry they are in. One way we are addressing this need to reduce costs and increase simplicity is to offer bundled solutions whereby we provide service to both a driving and a driven piece of equipment (e.g., a motor driving a pump or a steam turbine driving a generator). In doing so, we have one contractual document and one point of accountability to deliver the service within the required specifications. At the same time, we can take a holistic view of a system rather than just examining an isolated piece of equipment.

Are there differences in customer needs throughout the world?

Our customers and their needs vary widely. Some customers are very reactive, others require extremely detailed planning. We need to adapt to whatever their requirements are. That is one of the reasons we have a large global footprint. We need to be close to our customers to understand their part of the world and to be able to deliver outstanding service.

The cost of maintenance plays a key role in investment decisions. Can you describe with an example how these costs can be reduced?

A gas turbine customer came to us about providing service to several different sites with common machines. We created a plan that greatly reduced their new parts expenditures by sharing a common set of spares across those sites. We even evaluated their potential risk during a catastrophic failure while the common parts would be repaired. We developed a solution that reduced the value of their parts inventory by millions of euros without raising their risk.

How does new technology help Sulzer meet challenges?

We live in a computer- and data-driven world. The tools that we use today are far more sophisticated than ever before. For example, this is true with integrated computer-aided design and machining for the manufacture of parts. Numerical models and thermographic tools allow us to analyze and design repairs and retrofits. The most-interesting developing area is the study of operational data to understand how a machine is performing situationally or over time. That information can then be used to devise a solution—quickly, if required. We have several sites with continuous remote condition monitoring in place. New tools are developing that allow the use of a mobile phone as a monitoring and control device. Visibility on operational and processed data in real time also provides guidance on priorities. So, it allows our customers to spend their maintenance budgets more effectively while improving their operations based on energy cost reduction, throughput increase, and reliability enhancement. That’s easily worth millions.

Operational data is the basis for the optimization of complex systems like pipelines. Sulzer applies advanced technologies and field-testing procedures to gather accurate data.

How does Sulzer apply new tools and new methods? Is there a recent project that illustrates the benefits of advanced technology?

In the pipeline industry, for instance, productivity is key. However, a productive pipeline operation is a challenging task to fulfill because of constantly changing fluid properties such as temperatures, viscosities, densities, etc. Accurate data represents the basis for the successful optimization of the pipeline productivity and reliability. Therefore, Sulzer continuously develops techniques to leverage existing operational data as well as complementary field-testing procedures. These provide an informed basis for targeted actions, such as whether to modernize equipment through retrofit.

Service not only relies on technology but on committed people. What skills are especially important for the service staff?

I may be a little prejudiced here because I have been a Sulzer service guy for the last 28 years, and I think service people are very special. Service people must have a certain mindset with a few key elements. They love a challenge; they like a changing environment; they are often quite independent; but perhaps most importantly, they want to help our customers with their problems.

How does Sulzer ensure the global availability of service experts, spare parts, and service equipment?

We leverage our global presence to ensure the right people are in the right place with the right tools at the right time. That’s a lot of things to get right. Our experience, our size, and the depth of our technical capability help us to do all those things. We do not sit still as we work steadily and diligently to improve in all these areas.

What are the future plans of the Rotating Equipment Services division?

Our plans are really quite simple. We want to develop our service lines so that we provide more services to more customers. We are never satisfied, and there is always something we want to improve. Our customers need us to live this philosophy if we are to continue to provide the services they need to improve their own performance.

Sulzer Technical Review


Sulzer Management AG

Neuwiesenstrasse 15

8401 Winterthur