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Introducing Jon Davison, Product Manager Temperature and Pressure

Jon Davison ABB.jpg

April 28th, 2022

Jon Davison 

Product Manager Temperature and Pressure, UK & Ireland



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In this series of blogs, we shine a spotlight on those measurement champions across the ABB Measurement and ABB Analytics business. Join us as we discuss the skills needed to solve the most complex challenges industry can throw at them, and what drives our champions to deliver best in class solutions.

 

In this blog, we meet Jon Davison. Jon has been with ABB for 9 years and has recently started a new role as Product Manager Temperature and Pressure products, UK and Ireland.

Jon, tell us a little more about your career history, how did you come to land this role with the ABB UK & Ireland Product Management team?

I am originally from the Northeast of England and started my career in instrumentation at ICI at the tender age of sixteen. After completing a four-year apprenticeship, I was offered the opportunity of being an Instrument Technician, but decided to build on the HNC I had achieved during my apprenticeship at ICI to study at the University of Teeside before being tempted away to the North Sea rigs. During my spell in the North Sea I worked as an instrument commissioning technician on the Piper Bravo and then the Ninian Central platform.

Whilst working on the rigs is well paid, it also comes with risks and ultimately I decided a life out in the North Sea was not for me, so took up an opportunity to join Krohne, a German instrument company with development and manufacturing in the UK. I started in the internal sales team, learning all the aspects of a technical sales role whilst supporting the field sales team, before moving across to product management for their level portfolio including the key non-contact and guided radar. This lead to a role as area sales manager for a Bronkhorst when the UK branch was founded, whilst focus here was still on instrumentation through their flow and pressure range it was into very different markets including universities and research establishments and it was great to get that insight into the “cutting edge” of developments.

Eventually I was tempted away to join ABB, who are a flagship in the industry, with a role in the dedicated water team as key account manager for key UK frameworks accounts and this is where I have been for over nine years. This experience together with my strong technical background has led to me landing the role of Product Manager for the ABB range of temperature and pressure products, and I am thoroughly looking forward to the challenges this will bring.

What skills make you good at your job and valued by your customers?

My instrumentation background covers a swathe of basic principles that I have learned through both study and “hands on” practical experience through commissioning, troubleshooting and fault finding during my apprenticeship and in my early career on the oil rigs.

In industry I was responsible for commissioning and troubleshooting and the instruments used are often critical to safety. Being out at sea you need to work in harsh conditions and with limited stock. There is a need to problem solve and work with what you have in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

This deep knowledge foundation is important and is often something I take for granted when in discussions with colleagues, something I continually need to remind myself! It provides the foundation that allows you to understand the ‘real world’ practicalities and has helped me provide many solutions for customer projects and specific applications.

What are the biggest challenges you have come across in your roles at ABB?

To give some context to a common problem, let’s just say that a smooth flow of water can be measured with far greater accuracy than a swirling turbulent flow and for that very reason flowmeters tend to specify a straight pipe run before and after the flowmeter to achieve the most accurate results. Manufacturer data sheets often state an accuracy, but also the reference conditions during calibration to achieve the stated accuracy.

A common question I was presented with in the water industry was, “The data sheet says we need five straight pipe lengths, but we only have room for two, can we just use that?”. Unfortunately, the answer was, “You cannot break the laws of Physics”. The solution is always to be straightforward and explain the implications on measurement accuracy when the guidelines laid out in the data sheet or manual are not followed. It may be that there is an alternative flow measuring technology we can explore, or by simply relocating the position of the flowmeter the problem is solved, but you need to look at the application as a whole to ensure you are not just exchanging one potential issue for another.

Probably the next common challenge we come across is with those that haven’t read the manual, which can then lead to a long conversation about why that instrument shouldn’t have been installed like that and what needs to be done to rectify it. As much as we try to pre-empt these challenges through training and engaging in discussions on the application we aren’t always involved early enough in the process or just don’t have visibility of the end user intention. That said I must also confess I am just as guilty of that as anyone when bringing some new shiny widget home, the manual is the tool of last resort, and I guess we are all guilty of that sometimes.

Lastly, Covid-19 has added a new layer of complexity to the day job. Problem solving is more difficult with limited access to site, but we have risen to the challenge, especially with our remote service technologies that allow us to gain access to both equipment and data to enable us to carry out tasks such as fault diagnosis and device optimisation.

 

What are the common challenges experienced in the process automation industry/industries as a whole?

The challenges in the process automation industry are well documented and are primarily about the reduction in numbers of highly skilled staff with years of experience. I’m sure many can relate to this as its common across the industry.

Today people tend to be multiskilled, whereas once there were specialist instrumentation engineers or electrical engineers. There are now engineers that cover Mechanical, Electrical, Instrumentation, Control and Automation (MEICA), but this can come at the expense of specific expertise. You may find a MEICA engineer who is a great electrician but not good at mechanical and vice versa. The use of automation and digital technology will help alleviate some of the challenges the reduction in skilled workforce presents but is not the answer by itself.

An early lesson I learnt as a young apprentice is that it’s always the instrument that gets the blame. In most cases, when a problem is reported the first reaction is always “those readings aren’t right”. We have numerous instruments in cars that tell us the fuel level, the speed or the oil level and as drivers we trust those readings and act upon them, but somehow that doesn’t translate into the industrial setting. If the level reading on a storage tank is unexpectedly low, the first thought is rarely there may be a leak. Instead, it is usually “Can you check that the instrument is working properly?”. The instrument should of course be checked to validate the readings, the digital electronics available in devices today are often self-checking and will tell you there is a problem before you even realise it. Instruments can and do fail, but often the problem lies elsewhere. The key here is to understand the technology being utilised and the wider application it is being applied on and trust the data provided unless you have a good reason to believe otherwise.

This is where a good partnership with your suppliers can help provide the experience, tools and the specialist knowledge required. They are the experts in their own products … and working with them is key to fill gaps in knowledge or experience, in doing so you may never need to pick up that manual except to check the contact number on the back.

What do you love about your role?

Every day is a learning day. To do this kind of role you need to enjoy the challenge of it – to see the mountain ahead and be willing to look for routes to the top.

We are also a great team in the UK – knowledgeable, good fun, with a mix of new and very experienced characters. I do enjoy problem solving which is probably why I have stuck in the world of instrumentation for longer than I dare admit (35 years and counting), but it’s about more than just the problem solving, I also enjoy helping people.

What are you looking forward to in your new role as Product Manager Temperature and Pressure products?

NINVA, or ABB’s TSP341-N non-invasive temperature sensor. It doesn’t require a thermowell and as such is much quicker and cheaper to install than a conventional temperature instrument. It’s always exciting when you get ground-breaking products like this that are truly disruptive to the established way of doing things. It is a great solution and many current and new customers have already benefitted from this innovative technology with some very interesting application problems being solved. There are some exciting product developments in the planning, but that is for an article another day…

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