Remote Working



The National Graphene Institute has increased its capacity for remote working, reducing the physical staff time required by 95% and reducing the workload by 8 hours a month by the automation of checks.

The National Graphene Institute (NGI) built-in 2015 for £61m is a national centre of excellence for research and development into graphene and its applications. Based in Manchester, it aims to push the boundaries of the use of graphene and its derivatives in various materials to improve their desirable qualities. The aim is that by improving materials in this way, positive impacts will be possible in the medical, energy storage, biomedical, microchip and additives sectors.

 In order to accommodate this research, the NGI has to provide a multitude of specialist gases and environmental conditions to its researchers. Due to the complexity of this undertaking, a significant proportion of the building is dedicated to facilitating this to the 1 500 m³ of cleanroom lab space.

The gases are provided internally through a largely centralised system. Unlike natural gas, these gasses have to be shipped in, in pressurised bottles, before travelling through the network of pipes and fixtures to equipment and reactions as needed.

The majority of the gas handling systems were automated when they were initially installed. Some gas systems, however, required manual checks by staff to ensure that the building and labs had a consistent supply. One such example was the building’s argon supply, which required multiple pressure checks throughout the day. Once low, a staff member would switch over the bottle bank and the checks would restart.

To retrospectively automate this gas supply would be difficult through most means as the gas supply was in constant use and other adaptions would likely take more man-hours to install than could be saved in the short term. This is without taking into account possible setbacks, such as a line contamination, which would create an even larger time and disruption cost.

The NGI has now deployed FreeUP technology, upgrading this system whilst bypassing the previously assumed costs and risks. Staff no longer need to check the pressures in person and receive notifications when a bottle change is needed. With access to historical pressure data, they are also better able to predict bottle change timings and spot potential problems.

Christopher Hyde, the senior equipment technician, said that the “Deployment of FreeUP’s technology has enabled us to remotely monitor the gas pressures in real-time and to make more accurate estimations of when a bottle change will be needed. This is of particular interest as the demand [for argon] can be highly variable and so knowing both the pressure and historical values allows us to remotely monitor the gas supply efficiently, reducing the number of ‘in-person’ man-hours required”The argon supply now only requires bottle changes when it runs low rather than for staff to check it twice a day, reducing the physical staff time required by 95% and saving 8 hours a month.

FreeUP is continuing to deploy this technology across other sectors aiming to give as many people access to the benefits of remote working as possible.

Few if any could have predicted the position we would find ourselves in,  having to work remotely and reduce personnel density. If you have a dial, FreeUP can automate it for as long or as short a time as you need. Free up your working location with FreeUP.

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