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January 30, 2013

Volume 17 Issue 52

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Robots Boost Singapore Lab

Intertek has added a robotic sample-handling system to its lubricant testing and oil condition monitoring lab in Singapore.

“The robotic sample handling system used in Intertek’s Singapore OCM lab is the first of its kind deployed in Asia,” Stacey Tylka, Intertek’s Southeast Asia managing director, told Lube Report. “This reflects Intertek’s commitment to investing in the latest technologies to better support customers.”

Intertek started the oil condition monitoring (OCM) department about13 years ago, as one of the key components of the company’s Singapore technical center, located on Jurong Island. Benjamin Teh, Intertek’s regional oil condition monitoring manager, said the OCM laboratory, while at the Singapore technical center, was operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, offering clients analytical and diagnostic services in the 2,800 square foot premises, which made up approximately one-sixth of the technical center.

“The new location at Clementi Loop is approximately 5,000 square feet – approximately 1.5 times larger in terms of scale comparing to the earlier facility located at Jurong Island,” Teh told Lube Report. “The addition of automated robotics equipment enables the laboratory to process more samples at a quick turnaround time altogether.”

With the automation, Intertek OCM laboratory currently handles more than 12,000 samples monthly and operates six days a week on a 24-hour cycle. Sunday is closed for maintenance. Going forward, the lab may go fully operational on a 24/7 schedule, he said.

The robotics also simplifies reporting. “The automated robotic equipment is intelligently linked with our Laboratory Information Management System, where all analytical results are loaded into the main frame database for management review before releasing the final results to clients,” he said.

“We are still in the midst of discussion on long range strategic plans to further modernize the technology and improve our labs regionally and globally,” Teh said.

Teh pointed out that the installation cost, which was not disclosed, is a fraction of the total investment. “Expected returns go beyond monetary aspects, such as helping customers achieve sustainability in a variety of markets,” he said.
 
According to Teh, automated robotic equipment is relatively simple to operate and extensive training is not needed. “However, our laboratory technicians and chemists are academically highly qualified and undergo professional instructional training on safety and operational procedures before they are tasked to work directly with the robots,” he pointed out.

Teh said the laboratory’s regular clients come from the marine, aerospace, offshore, industrial and automotive industries. “Oil blending plants, lubricant additives companies and consumer market service operators are also our customers,” he noted.