PLP NZ celebrating 45 years with R. STAHL
Global leader in hazardous area protection technology
Three things are needed to make an explosion happen, fuel, oxygen and a source of ignition.
Forty-Five years ago, three things came together, R. STAHL, PLP (Electropar Ltd), and the willingness to adopt innovative new hazardous area protection techniques, in a flammable environment (solvents, gases, dusts and powders) market that had not seen change for many decades and wasn’t particularly interested in change.
Who would have realised that 45 years ago the installation and acceptance of Fibreglass reinforced polyester as a method of explosion protection would become widespread.
“We have had the privilege and advantage of being at the leading edge of such technology (and leading the change) because of our close and long-lasting partnership with R. STAHL for these 45 years.”
Our relationship is the longest running partnership that R. STAHL has with a single company, outside Europe, and is something both parties are immensely proud of and looking forward to continuing. Forty-five years ago, the product that was being used on the New Zealand market was of “flameproof” type construction, it was very heavy, thick-walled aluminium construction, designed to contain an internal explosion. Products in this design included light fittings, control stations and all other types of applications.
Then along came R. STAHL in partnership with PLP (Electropar Ltd) with the introduction of a fibreglass reinforced polyester enclosure, with terminals inside, as an explosion protection technique, this made people nervous as it didn’t seem immediately safe compared to what was traditionally available. Soothing frayed nerves and leading the charge on established traditional techniques was the job of the sales team for hazardous areas, this charge was an ongoing uphill struggle with leaps of faith on behalf of engineers and customers alike to learn and understand how this Ex e (Increased Safety) technique was to become their “go to “ solution.
Maintaining a close working relationship with R. STAHL over the distances involved, between New Zealand and Germany, meant getting goods manufactured and assembled there and then a long Sea Freight journey over 12,000 miles (19,000 km) to NZ.
45 years ago there was less air freight at a competitive level. This led to discussions with R. STAHL as the business grew, and 35 years ago we were awarded the opportunity to have the first R. STAHL assembly workshop outside Europe.
“What an achievement, an assembly workshop in East Tamaki, Auckland.”
Customers were pleased as we started delivering more rapidly and with more flexibility than our competitors. With our ability to assemble locally, the market began to change. The old flameproof technology became minimal as the Fibreglass technology grew.
We assembled a wide variety of control panels as well as terminal enclosures. As the market grew there was a need for more knowledge and R STAHL was happy to assist.
We went to Germany many times for training and their specialists came to NZ to educate the NZ customers. By travelling to R. STAHL in Germany, there were opportunities to learn about other protection techniques and products. Fibreglass reinforced
polyester light fittings came on the radar and provided a cheaper alternative to existing heavy solutions, albeit with a single pin fluorescent lamp 38mm in diameter with a 2000 hour lamp life. Heavy duty switch sockets of boxy design came along and were added to the portfolio, now we could plug in and switch a hazardous area, times were slowly changing.
Flurries of changes and understanding across the market of hazardous areas meant the sales team had to step up and become focussed on specific areas instead of being generalists.
This found staff from PLP (Electropar Ltd) becoming involved in Standards Committees for New Zealand and Australia as technologies needed to, and began to change.
Being involved in Standards led to a better understanding of the international hazardous area market and how the changes there would affect NZ. We could also update R. STAHL on the NZ and Australian marketplaces and this information would assist
them with their future product planning.
Development of Ex d control elements to go inside Ex e enclosures was a breakthrough as this dramatically reduced weight, for installation purposes.
Of course, we had to increase our workshop ability to cope with these new demands and techniques. We met the challenge and rose with it to assemble bespoke control stations of switches, indicators and pushbuttons, some of which are still in full operation today, some 30 years later.
R. STAHL continued to push the boat out with introduction of Ex d contactors, overloads, motor control circuit breakers, MCB’s and RCD’s for example which led us into the path of assembling upon request distribution boards and like for Zone 1 (Div 1 in USA) installations, this raised our workshop skill set to level 2, the next highest is at R. STAHL itself, the Production Facility where products are manufactured. Another significant achievement.
We introduced a wider range of Ex rated techniques over the years allowing us to build assemblies of pressurised large cabinets for the Oil, Gas and Dust environments. Increased Safety, (Ex e), Distribution panels, Remote I/O systems, Bespoke Control Stations, large and small terminal enclosures. We have gone full circle now assembling Flameproof enclosures such as DOL or Star Delta Motor control centres. We also have the technology to join boxes together, combining Ex d and Ex e techniques.
The most recent innovation for R. STAHL is a thin wall stainless steel enclosure rated as Flameproof (Ex d), with industrial gear inside and Ex d controls penetrating the lid, this is called 'EXPressure', it uses burst or pressure dissipating
discs to achieve the desired flame path dissipation in line with Ex d standards and makes any such explosion visible as and after it happens, what a good thing for maintenance to know.
Throughout this journey, a close working relationship has been maintained with R STAHL specialists and quality auditors. In a market where the lives of the workers depend on our quality it is good to know we have the backing
of a world leading company like R. STAHL. The regular interaction both physically for training and auditing and via various forms of communication has led to a true partnership, and many direct friendships have developed as a result.
Flameproof enclosures must be subjected to certain testing, including of their ability to withstand pressure
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