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Expert Insight: How smart fume extraction can help ‘future-proof’ production

In these uncertain times, many businesses remain challenged by fluctuating order books, increased hygiene requirements, new workplace practices and demand for greater customer responsiveness.

Amid all these variables, companies need the equipment, processes and manufacturing agility that will enable them to meet their productivity goals while maintaining a safe working environment for their people.

As Arran Morgan, Commercial Product Manager at BOFA, explains in this Expert Insight, the last thing any business needs when capacity is under pressure is unplanned downtime that adds cost, causes delay and disrupts customer relationships.

“Has there ever been a time when production capacity has been more important than it is today? Around the world, manufacturers have been challenged to implement new ways of operating to take account of restrictions designed to keep workplaces as safe as possible.

“There are inspirational examples of innovation in this new normal, including many companies investing in BOFA fume and dust extraction technology to help them create critical products, such as pharmaceuticals, PPE and food. Other manufacturers are seeking new markets, displaying an agility that has become a hallmark of diversification.

“However, what is true for almost all these businesses is that current climate has accentuated the value of manufacturing capacity, because when the headroom for disruption is reduced, optimising production time becomes paramount.

“BOFA systems play a key role in helping businesses maintain 24/7 production schedules and they have really proven their worth in recent times by delivering reliable performance and automated monitoring when workplace restrictions have sometimes meant fewer eyes on the shopfloor. The feedback we have received is that the availability of reliable control functionality and continuous filter condition monitoring afforded by our operating systems – particularly the iQ platform – has been vital in safeguarding production line continuity.

“The iQ platform integrates seamlessly with extraction systems operating in multiple sectors, whether that’s laser coding and cutting, electronics soldering or additive manufacturing – all of which are vital in delivering frontline products for society.

“All these processes rely on the effective extraction and capture of potentially harmful airborne contaminants, and so it is vital that filter condition is monitored to ensure a timely exchange to maintain performance. iQ functionality automatically alerts operatives when a filter exchange is needed – this enables changeovers to be managed efficiently and in line with production schedules, thereby avoiding costly downtime.

“Without this ability, manufacturers run the risk not only of emissions entering the workplace but of particulate debris building up and damaging critical components, such as laser lenses. This would impact on product quality and likely lead to reworking or product rejection…and all that entails in terms of productivity and customer relationships.

“Above all, though, it is the commitment to partnership that defines the BOFA way of working by ensuring that fume and dust extraction system design meets the specific needs of each customer.

“So, for example, where an application creates the potential for a thermal event, our engineers will quantify the risk, taking account of the process and the materials being worked, and then put in place mitigating technology. This might include BOFA’s Spark Arrestor 2 and FireBOX products to capture any hot embers before they reach the thermal cut-out protected fume extraction unit.

“It’s not just the combination of system monitoring, smart airflow management, extended filter life and bespoke design that makes BOFA technology ideally suited to today’s manufacturing environment. BOFA units are also portable, meaning that they can easily be manoeuvred to support an agile manufacturing environment – a benefit that is becoming increasingly important as companies seek to flex opportunities in new markets and satisfy fluctuating customer demand.”