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Donna Black

Tony Cobley

Servicing and repair: an antidote to our throw-away society

An instrument mangled beyond recognition by a ship’s propeller. A tool encrusted with mussels after months on the seabed. Forty-year-old equipment requiring repair. They sound like they are beyond repair, don’t they? But in each of these real-life examples Valeport’s servicing and repair team got the equipment up and running again, and operating like new.

“We live in a throw-away society where goods are often disposed of rather than repaired. Valeport is different. We have always built our equipment to last and we’ll do our best to repair it and keep it operational for as long as possible,” says Valeport’s Head of Customer Service Pete Adams.

Valeport’s products come with a three-year warranty from new. Customers are also encouraged to return their instruments for regular servicing to keep them in top condition. Valeport has so much faith in its equipment that each time an instrument is serviced it receives an additional 12-month service warranty.

Valeport’s 17-strong servicing and repair team are experts in their field and enjoy what they do. Many of them have worked at Valeport for many years. In fact, the average length of service in the team is 12 years. The team is based in Valeport’s state-of-the art premises, with the latest repair, servicing and calibration technology at their disposal.

Repair – keeping equipment working well for decades

“Our technicians can be faced with equipment from our entire back catalogue going back to the 1960s, so they need to understand the intricacies of many different instruments,” explains Pete.

Recently a customer returned an instrument from the 1980s for repair. “Many businesses would have seen this as a chance to sell new products to the customer and consign the instrument to the bin. However, we found the components, completed the repair and returned the instrument to our customer, working as well as it did when it was made in the 80s. It feels good to know that many of our instruments are still working well decades after they were made,” adds Pete.

When an instrument is returned for repair, the first step is for one of Valeport’s technicians to assess it and then provide a quote to the customer within three days.

“We aim to have repairs completed within two weeks. However, if our customer needs their instrument back sooner, we can accelerate the process. Recently we returned an instrument to a customer in three days to meet a vessel before its scheduled departure,” adds Pete.

“Our most common repairs are damaged cables and connectors or where instruments have been misconnected, causing damage to the circuit boards. Valeport’s instruments have titanium casings and are designed to withstand harsh environments, so it needs to be something quite extreme – like going through a ship’s propeller – to damage them badly,” says Pete.

Although rare, such extreme cases are the kind of challenge the repair and servicing technicians at Valeport enjoy. Pete explains: “If an instrument is really badly damaged, we have an on-site CNC-equipped machine shop which can create parts for us to rebuild the instrument.”

Servicing and calibration – maintaining equipment in top condition

Valeport recommends that its instruments are serviced and calibrated every two years.

The servicing process includes updates to firmware and software, inspecting bores and seals for damage and debris, checking memory and primary batteries and completing a full system check. If requested the instrument will undergo full calibration, then finally it will be pressure tested to confirm instrument integrity.

Some instruments returned for servicing require extensive cleaning, especially if they have been deployed for a long time on the sea bed. “Some instruments are returned to us completely covered with mussels, especially if they have been deployed in areas where the water is warmer, like the Middle East. When that happens, our team soak the instruments then carefully remove the molluscs before doing the service,” says Pete.

Four of the repair and servicing team are specialists in calibration. Valeport is in the process of gaining ISO 17025 for its calibration process. The state-of-the-art calibration facilities allow calibration of conductivity/salinity, temperature, sound velocity, pressure, flow and fluxgate compass sensors – all to NAMAS traceable standards.

Society is waking up to the fact that disposable goods are not good for our planet. Valeport will continue to play its part by designing equipment that is robust and built to last, as well as doing all it can to repair equipment to keep it working as good as new for as long as possible.