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24.02.2022

Delivering Simplicity and Flexibility

“We really have the feeling that they are there for the customer.”

 

MarFlex is a part of the long and distinguished maritime history in the Netherlands. They are a proudly Dutch but internationally focused company that has worked in the maritime industry for over 40 years, providing electric drive pumping solutions. Their pump solutions are efficient, sustainable, and operate at extremely low noises, allowing for a quick and effective cargo pump. MarFlex often utilizes a Variable Speed Drive System (VSDS) to control its pumping solutions. With the VSDS in place, the speed of the cargo pump can be controlled with frequency converters, creating a more energy-efficient system, as only the appropriate amount of power is used throughout.

 

Whether it is out at sea on one of the many ships that bear MarFlex pumping technology, or inland on tank storage, there is a need for a precise yet straightforward method to control the VSDS pumping solution. Increasing or decreasing the speed as necessary is essential for the proper running of the pump, ensuring safety for both operators and the cargo. MarFlex products are also ATEX certified. By attaining these certifications for their products, MarFlex has assured that their products are safe to use in a potentially explosive atmosphere. The VSDS helps to protect the system by communicating with the pumps, sensors, and if desired, 3rd party systems. This allows the VSDS to quickly shut down the system if a problem arises.  

 

In 2009, MarFlex faced flexibility problems and rising prices and was looking for a new hardware and software direction for their VSDS pumps. They turned to Snijders, who started by assessing the situation for each vessel they were to work on. Snijders first took the existing solutions as an example to start the cooperation. Over the years, Snijders has made a custom set of drawings for MarFlex, creating a step-by-step engineering project with the customers from MarFlex. Snijders started drawings that met requirements for footprints and single lines that would initially cover what actually fit in the room, what connections were necessary, and what functionality and overall basics. For example, some vessels would have higher ceilings than others resulting in custom-made hardware to be fabricated. From here, more detailed multi-line drawings would show what needs to be wired where. The two companies came together to create a compatible drawing package to help standardize these diagrammatic drawings.

 

By standardizing these packages, flexibility would be aided as even when there is a similarity in the overall system; each ship will still have unique requirements. Flexibility; project management support and speed are essential in this situation, something that MarFlex trusted Snijders to provide. While larger corporations may need a longer time to react to challenges, Snijders was able to be nimbler, quickly reflecting any necessary changes. We believe this to be a distinct advantage in how we work; we understand the client’s challenges and work tirelessly to ensure they get the solution needed, not just an out-of-the-box response with no customization. To help reduce time, the company initially utilized the hardware designs previously used on board existing vessels, building upon them to implement software and hardware solutions.

 

Once the work began with MarFlex, Snijders was able to optimize the look and feel of the control panels for the VSDS control panels. This look and feel would translate to an easier understanding and easier to use panel, something that was previously missing in earlier solutions. For example, for the VSDS system, Snijders used their strength as an automation company by putting in place panels that the operators operating the pumps would simply only need to press a few buttons to raise or lower pump speed or get more detailed information when necessary. The custom-made software in the background would perform the rest of the job for them. This software also includes several safety features to guarantee the safe running of the pumps. With the bespoke software in place, there were protocols to guard against overcurrents, shaft protection, and dry runs.

 

For the ATEX-related solutions, the simplicity of the design is useful for the integration into many 3th party systems.

 

The main focus of Snijders: the end-user. The job must be easy for the end-user, the operator, to use, so that response time is reduced, and new operators can use the panel, with no manual or particular training necessary. All the complicated aspects are taken care of under the hood, so to speak, taking away the stress and difficult implementations from the client. When Snijders implements a solution, clients can be assured that it is done from the very beginning to solution execution.

 

However, after the solution is introduced, the relationship does not immediately end. The two companies continued to work together, sharing knowledge and ideas. MarFlex would often turn to Snijders to help out with client requests concerning electrical matters. With an electrical engineering background, Snijders was able to provide insight to the more mechanical-minded MarFlex. In pre-COVID 19 times, MarFlex would easily be able to ask a Snijders engineer to board a ship to service the ship whenever the necessity arrived. This is symbolic of the post-purchase support provided, ensuring that well after solutions have been introduced, support is provided when needed, innovations are considered, and constant communication is kept.

 

The past two years have complicated not only the standard working styles for international companies but have also had drastic effects on the supply chain and stock availability. Whereas before, a simple component change would have sufficed, it now may simply make more sense to overhaul parts of the system to avoid issues in sourcing parts later on. The COVID-19 pandemic has also meant that companies have had to reassess their people coming together, causing huge problems for the freedom of movement of engineers trying to service a vessel. Whereas before, an engineer would be able to immediately flown to the vessel, now technology must take over. However, luckily, more and more VSDS solutions that had been implemented already had some remote access features. This remote access software provides diagnostics and information of the VSDS. This feature would help the onboard crew help with the service analysis.

 

This remote access can range from an onshore fix to something as simple as an engineer calling into the vessel and giving instructions on what to do. With the pandemic still sadly ongoing, this is an area of potential future optimization, as no one can correctly predict when things will go fully back to normal. However, Snijders flexibility will come into play here, allowing constant innovation even in the toughest of times, to ensure that MarFlex and all of their clients can continue their operation, unaffected by the global situation. While more optimized technology may be developed in the future, the two teams come together to find a solution for what can now be done with remote support. If the clients still needed onsite repair, Snijders will jump through hoops to send engineers on board to service their clients. Snijders commitment to fast and reliable service and support was an aspect that MarFlex considered as a significant difference.

 

From the initial proposal creation to their COVID-19 reaction, MarFlex and Snijders have cultivated a long-term relationship that shows no sign of slowing down. Both are open to helping one another whenever a challenge arises. MarFlex initially only wanted to have a more economical and flexible supplier and focus on upgrading the look and feel of their pumping system controls to become more modernized later. With Snijders, MarFlex not only gained both of those things, but they also gained an excellent working partner for further development. By working together, the companies are constantly striving for further innovation to optimize remote access connections, reduce energy consumption and create dependable systems that are easy to use. MarFlex’s VSDS controlled pumps run efficiently, ensuring the best pumping conditions for each type of cargo on each vessel. The safety software for these pumps and ATEX certified products is also ensured, taking the stress away from operators who are guaranteed personal safety while also making sure that the pumps can be used for long periods of time.

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