Mark Wilkinson is the CTO of Royal SMIT Transformers in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. He is responsible for Innovation and R&D, and future technology direction for large power. Based in Nijmegen since 2008, his previous roles within SMIT have included Engineering Manager, Technical Director and COO.
Hello Mr. Wilkinson. Could you please briefly describe yourself and your role in Royal SMIT Transformers?
Hello, I am currently the CTO of Royal SMIT Transformers in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, with responsibilities of R&D and Innovation for Large Power Transformers. My role within SMIT is to ensure we are ‘Fit for Future’ in terms of materials, processes, and products. Our core business is the design and manufacture of large power transformers and compensating reactors, mainly in the range of 100 MVA to 1000 MVA and 150 kV to 765 kV.
What are some of the key challenges that transformer original equipment manufacturers are facing today?
The key challenges at the moment revolve around finding suitable manpower resources and sufficient material availability. The supply chain is still recovering from the effects of the Covid pandemic, and now the tragic war in Ukraine is causing further disruption. Material availability is currently unpredictable, and material pricing is extremely volatile. For a product that may have an order to delivery time of up to 24 months, this combination poses particular difficulties for us.
How are you trying to overcome such challenges?
On the manpower front, we keep in close contact with the technical universities and colleges, for example by sponsoring final year projects. For the material demand, it is important that we keep as close as possible to our customer, so we can anticipate their demands. The final destination of our products is traditionally split equally between the USA And Europe, and each market has its own characteristics. For our suppliers, we are developing a wider base of suppliers for key components, and providing longer term forecasts, to ensure timely delivery of parts.
What is Royal SMIT Transformers currently doing to cut greenhouse gas potential for transformers? And what are the long-term plans and goals?
Firstly, we are checking where are the largest contributors to the greenhouse gases are in our products (we say ‘meten is weten’ in Dutch, which means ‘measuring is knowing’). We are looking to use more re-cycled materials, for example 40% of our Copper is now re-cycled. For grain orientated electrical steel, we have started a cooperation with Thyssenkrup Electrical Steels to use Bluemint® steel, which has 50% less CO2 intensity during production. Longer term, our aims are to reduce all non-recyclable waste by 25% before 2025, and to reduce our CO2 equivalent/MVA by 50% before 2025.
Mr. Wilkinson’s interview in the latest issue of Testingly, the KEMA Labs Magazine. Here, you can also read in-depth articles on greening power transformers and alternatives to SF6 gas, find the opinions of eco-friendly power networks by Akshaya Prabakar (TenneT) and Mark Waldron (National Grid), as well as the latest news from the TIC sector.