A red spanner icon appears on the screen, warning the plant operator that a liquid oxygen valve urgently needs replacing. The cryogenic nitrogen pump will also need a part replaced soon. Organising and sourcing spare parts such as these used to be a time-consuming task. Not any more with LINDE PLANTSERV portal! With this new e-marketplace from Linde Engineering, plant operators can quickly find out which vendor has the right component, when it can be delivered and how much it will cost. There’s even an option to order directly from the manufacturer. This e-marketplace is a key building block in Linde Engineering’s future Customer Services offering – now bundled under the name LINDE PLANTSERV. The new name also signals a repositioning of Linde Engineering’s service engagement.
Managing plants more efficiently
In the past, looking for spare parts and checking availability was a time-consuming activity. Not any more – with Linde’s new web portal. “We act as a broker in the spare parts business. But we also offer our customers an additional, verification service. We can check, for instance, whether components such as oxygen valves meet the latest quality and safety standards,” explains Dr Ferdinand Kühner, head of Linde Engineering's end-to-end LINDE PLANTSERV offering. The new online portal offers customers a host of benefits. Simplified, competitive workflows leave engineers free to focus on operational tasks. Plant operators can also plan and manage turnarounds and repair projects with the e-marketplace. The requisite P&IDs for each plant are stored in the portal, enabling customers to zoom in and plan upcoming work.
Digitalisation is revolutionising service
“In addition, the portal can be used to accurately document every component that has ever been replaced, modified or updated throughout the entire lifecycle of a plant,” elaborates Kühner. Combined with the engineering plans, this creates a digital copy of the real-life plant, what's known as a digital twin. Linde can use these insights to offer plant operators the most appropriate services. “Our job starts once a plant goes on stream. We want to ensure customers are happy and can look forward to successful operations well into the future. This will make them more likely to return to Linde Engineering as they know that they will always receive professional support from us,” adds Kühner. He and his team don't just want to be the first port of call when there's a problem; they also want to proactively support customers. Every plant needs support services at some point in its service life. This will happen sooner or later depending on the location, application and maintenance history. Plants in coastal locations surrounded by corrosive salt water, for example, or facilities that operate continuously at maximum capacity are more susceptible to wear and tear.
Experience from over 1,000 plants
Knowing what repair, maintenance and turnaround work is due – and when – is very valuable information. A plant can only be efficient and profitable if it is operated under optimum conditions. Kühner and his team have access to a huge repository of intelligence as their customer base includes Linde's Gases Division with all its plants. “We have unrestricted access to 400 large and 700 small plants. This is a vast treasure trove of operational intelligence. Most units are remote-controlled from large control centres like the one based at Linde's site in Leuna. Linde analyses all of the data that converges at this centre and works with our digitalisation team to develop algorithms that help improve factors such as plant efficiency.”
Customers benefit from digital services
In future, LINDE PLANTSERV also wants to offer this process expertise to external service customers. Digital services is one of the product packages in the newly positioned services portfolio. Going forward, plant experts see this as a highly promising area. They envisage turning the huge data stream from plants into concrete predictions. In future, Kühner's team aims to use condition-based monitoring to identify incidents before they happen and ensure that spare parts are ordered in good time. Additional digital tools such as LindeGO smart classes will help the team to get close to the customer and understand their needs. This wearable computer enables the support team to project information and guidelines directly into the user’s field of vision. “If an operator has a problem, we can use this technology to provide rapid, individual and hassle-free support even from a remote location,” explains the Linde expert.
Partner for the entire plant lifecycle
The service business is made up of many small engagements, delivered from a vast portfolio capable of spanning a plant's entire lifecycle, which could last for anything up to fifty years. The range of services extends from training, maintenance and repairs through spare parts management, operational support and plant modifications to digital services. The modernisation and redesign of plants – known as revamping – is a particularly important business field for LINDE PLANTSERV. After a certain period of time, customers often overhaul their plant complex and carry out modifications, for example, to increase production capacity. In future, Kühner and his team want to proactively contact operators to find out if any modifications are required. “Thanks to our experience with Linde Gas, we usually know which facilities are due for a revamp – whether it be air separation, syngas, petrochemical or LNG plants,” says Kühner.
Global expansion of services
Europe is currently the main target market for the service experts, accounting for around 70 to 80 percent of total revenue. These customers are served by approximately 60 employees based in Munich. A further 40 Linde specialists work at other locations around the globe to provide plant operators with the best possible service. “We have put together an effective, highly motivated team. There is room for us to expand in regions like the US, while in India and China, the concept of a service culture as we know it is still very much in its infancy,” explains the Linde expert. “We will continue to raise awareness around our services and also build teams on the ground. We want to provide customers in these regions with the same high-quality support that we deliver from our headquarters – proactively, quickly and professionally.”