Across the business world there is a call to become better at listening. Listen more to your customer, listen more intensely to your employees. Taking things even further, listen to the wide range of your stakeholders, not only the investment managers trading your stocks. There is one item to add: listen to the sound from Abbey Road Studios.
Legendary equipment gone. Experiences stay.
For anyone responsible for an industrial plant or piece of industrial equipment, this is a sincere recommendation. Many famous albums from Studio Two were crafted using the REDD mixing console. This legendary equipment is no longer in use at Abbey Road Studios, but the good news is that a “digital twin” is available as a plug-in, developed by Waves Audio. Listening to interviews with today’s sound engineers, you will find they still talk passionately about the unique sound made possible with, for example, the REDD.17.
Sound travels: preparing for the future
How is this relevant to an industrial plant or equipment? Change and modernisation are at the heart of this. Listening to the past is key to setting out for the future. The owner of an industrial plant with conveyors, pump, fans or other machining equipment will be aware of the sound of those machines. Twenty or thirty years ago the sounds coming from control panels, push buttons or commissioning tools were very different from those a brand new machine makes. Probably new equipment tunes will be in the genre of lounge music rather the 80s undefined synthesiser waves. Walk around your facility and listen to what you can hear. It might be the notification sounds from a control panel that take you back to a Tetris game of the 1990s. Just as the ring tone of a Nokia mobile phone in a quiet concert hall may indicate the audience demographics. But analysing the quality of sound in an industrial plant does require some assistance. An individual‘s ears are a good start, but a more systematic approach is recommended. With an asset optimisation check a complete review can be done to determine the availability and age of components. This will also highlight the need for upgrade or retrofit and most probably will confirm what maintenance and operating personnel have been listening to while at work.
New Sound: new way
There is another worthwhile lesson to learn from Abbey Road Studios. They have not only changed the equipment, but also the process of making music. It all started with bands like the Beatles, when musicians got involved in the actual music production. The control room was previously a separate room for sound engineers. More involvement of artists in the recording and production process can be sensed in industrial operations as well. The focus is not on the actual production process only, but has to include associated activities and processes. For plant managers, this means involving people with a wide range of skills and expertise. Employees previously not directly involved in manufacturing operations and those driving digitalisation will play a key role. Analysing data and simulating processes, assisted by a digital twin may be new but in a few years’ time this will be common practice. Just as it is today in any music studio where musicians consider the sound engineer’s room part of their work space.
A three-note chord
As digitalisation becomes a more dominant part of industrial production, the composition of people and their roles will shift. For any company leaving the sounds of the 80s, 90s or early 2000s behind and moving on with the help of a retrofit or modernisation project, there are some lessons to be learnt from Abbey Road Studios:
- Brace yourself for the new – Do not be sentimental about your existing equipment, otherwise you will miss the great new music and sounds of the future. The original REDD is no longer in use at Abbey Road Studios. If you want your company to play a part in your industry, lead by incorporating new technology into your established processes and machines.
- People at the centre – New equipment will give you the opportunity to involve your artists. Take advantage of this and keep in mind that in the 60s the sound engineers were definitely not comfortable with non engineers entering their space. As the sound of recorded music has changed, so have the jobs and responsibilities within the industry. You may want to introduce employees with new skills to areas of your business which, in the past, were run solely by expert engineers.
- Old tunes are the base – There is a lot to learn from the way music was produced in the past and why it was done that way. Technical boundaries and limitations sparked creativity. Great sounds were produced by taking the existing technology to its limits. Once you have completed the upgrade/modernisation of your machine, make sure that the old notification and confirmation sound bring back lively memories. It is the awareness of past technical limitations that encourages further innovations. The old tunes are the foundation of your business, but the audience’s taste for music changes constantly. For you to best serve your customers, an upgrade of your sound library is recommended.
Antiques and industry know-how
The V72 Tub Preamps by Siemens is the concluding illustration from the music industry, on why retrofit or modernisation is so important. Although it was only a small component, the V72 was an integral part of the REDD, as well as many radio stations and recording studios. If you run a music studio using well recognised but outdated equipment like the V72, there will come a point in time where you desperately start searching the internet for spare parts or replacements. A Siemens V72 can be found online for approx. 2,000 GBP. If you are lucky enough to find a suitable spare part, you are paying the price of an antique and not for the technology. I assume your purchasing manager, not being a specialist in antiques, will not be happy. If you do manage to get a second-hand replacement, you will struggle to find available experts to install and maintain the equipment. Just as technology moves on, so does the generation of engineers that brought forth the innovation.
Want to keep the music playing in your factory or workshop?
Review your installation regularly for maturity and aged components. If you listen closely, you may hear a 20 year old drive or motor calling “Help, I need somebody not just anybody” (The Beatles). Get in touch with your expert Customer Service team and plan an upgrade or retrofit and keep out of the antiques business. Museums around the globe are run not-for-profit, which says a lot about the equipment on display.
All images are copyright of Abbey Road Studios and Wave Ltd.
What is the latest hit in the world of Retrofit? The Retrofit Kit for Drives is a great solution for simple or basic applications. With an easy to use configurator and other tools a retrofit from Micromaster to SINAMICS can be completed in do-it-yourself style and cost efficiently.