The brain game


Over eight years ago a conversation was struck up between two engineers. They came from leading Scottish engineering and infrastructure companies, Findlay Irvine and Scotland TranServ.

As it often will with engineers, the talk turned to structures and maintaining them. Perhaps the old expression ‘like painting the Forth bridge’ was thrown around. But, during that conversation, an idea was born. This idea grew, developed and became engineered into an Environmental Monitoring system now in place at Erskine Bridge, Scotland – something that could make a real difference to the life of the asset.

David Leask

Scotland Transerv is about to embark on a four-year painting programme and Findlay Irvine’s system will tell them when the environment is suitable for painting.

The system monitors air temperature, relative humidity, dewpoint and steel temperature at around 50 points on the bridge, which are reported through a web portal.

The bridge manager will have access to all the data. Two key indicators are used to determine whether conditions are suitable for painting. If the relative humidity is more than 85% it is not advised to paint. Also if the steel temperature minus the dewpoint calculation (known as DeltaT) is less than 3 degrees, painting should not take place.

The outlook is optimistic and business is buoyant for Findlay Irvine, with its work in sensors and environmental monitoring doing well, and becoming a speciality for the Midlothian firm.

‘We have recently entered into a partnership with German company Lufft – supplier of various sensors,’ Mr Leaske reveals. He tells Highways that previously sensors could be sourced from a range of places and this new partnership will rationalise the supply chain.

Outside of this deal the firm also has many local suppliers across central Scotland for things like circuit boards and metal working.

Findlay Irvine provides Icealert, Floodalert and Windalert systems. A high wind monitoring system is another product it has on the Erskine Bridge, which provides warnings to help the contractor assess when to close the bridge. ‘We take the data every 10 minutes and we provide that to the weather forecaster,’ Mr Leask tells Transport Network.

Its Floodalert system is also attracting new business, Mr Leask says, describing the water level monitoring system as ‘simple but effective’.

Elsewhere, on the M8, Transport Scotland is carrying out research using different equipment and sensors. Various companies are involved. Findlay Irvine has supplied its Icealert mach 8, which is currently in production and uses a sensor embedded in lane one, cabled to an outstation behind the motorway barrier.

Erskine Bridge

The tests are going well for Findlay Irvine, which has been involved since September last year. Transport Scotland appears to be happy with the way things are working out too, and there is talk of a second year of trials and perhaps ‘an open invitation to try new sensors out’.

The exact purpose of the research has not been revealed, but any live testing and extra research is always appreciated in winter service.

Another area of growth for Findlay Irvine is in the airport and helideck sectors, through which it exports engineering products and services around the world to places including the US, Australia, Canada and across South America.

Mr Leask suggests that the European airport market is very mature and the international regulations it observes are now starting to be adopted around the world. This gives its established providers a leading edge in the international market.

In general, Mr Leask says life is looking very good for Scottish engineering.

In fact the only issue he can think of is the danger of becoming a victim of its own success.

‘I think the engineering market in Scotland is very buoyant. There is a lot of leading edge technology in our universities.

‘One issue is it becomes slightly more difficult to employ people as there is more competition from abroad for resources

‘We prepare engineers to work worldwide and often they work outside the UK as there is a huge demand for our engineers.’

Mr Leask sees engineering underpinning our future and it is heartening to hear that Scotland looks set to continue to lead the world in this area it is rightly so famous and respected in.

Cold Comfort Scotland - the devolved nation's only annual winter maintenance conference and exhibition takes place at the Macdonald Inchyra Hotel, Falkirk Thursday 25th April 2019.

You can register here.

Cold Comfort - the 28th annual winter maintenance conference and exhibition in England takes place at the Harrogate Convention Centre, Harrogate, on 15th - 16th May 2019.

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