The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a number of unprecedented changes, resulting in disruption to the way workplaces operate as well as delays in materials and equipment from overseas. For these reasons, it has become more important than ever for pump end users and engineers to keep pumps running smoothly and efficiently during this time to keep our lights on, water and sewerage services operating, and process industries running. With this in mind, Pump Industry magazine organised the Flow Technology Virtual Conference, bringing together local and international experts to share their knowledge on keeping services flowing through the crisis.

On 12 June, over 150 pump end users, reliability engineers, rotating equipment engineers and other industry professionals tuned in to explore the importance of maintenance, reliability and condition monitoring, and what they need to know, and can do, to maintain service and supply and reduce equipment downtime.

Despite the challenges of social distancing, and gathering and travel restrictions in place to varying extents across Australia, attendees – no matter their location – were able to watch the virtual conference live via Zoom, with many others accessing the recording to watch at their leisure at a later time.

A lot of valuable information was exchanged and there was plenty of social interaction through the in-built Q&A function.

The major benefit of this format being that people who may also normally be unable to travel for live events, were able to tune in and learn from some of the industry’s best.

Hearing from the experts

The virtual conference kicked off with Pump Industry Australia (PIA) President, John Inkster, providing the welcome remarks.

As the peak industry body for pumps and associated equipment companies in Australia, John was able to provide insight into how the industry as a whole has been coping and adapting to the COVID-19 crisis.

The local keynote speaker was Ron Astall, Sales & Contracts Manager at United Pumps Australia. Ron is well known in the Australian industry as a regular trainer and speaker at national and international technical seminars, and as a former President of the PIA and co-author of the PIA Pump Technical Handbook.

With a long career in the industry with experience in engineering, contract management, applications, sales, marketing and quality assurance, process and petrochemical industries, and the development and implementation of related QA and Contract Management Systems, Ron provided attendees with an interesting and engaging presentation about identifying persistently problematic pumps and what to monitor to prevent trouble before it happens.

Attendees then heard from Ray Beebe. With 28 years’ experience in power generation and over 25 years’ experience lecturing undergraduate students in vibration, rotodynamic machines, mechanical design, etc., and leading the Maintenance and Reliability Engineering postgraduate program at Monash University and the Federation University Gippsland campus, Ray’s informative presentation gave attendees practical knowledge condition monitoring to improve equipment reliability.

Despite the travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19, the benefit of the conference taking place online was that attendees could still hear and learn from an international expert.

Heinz Bloch, Consulting Engineer at Process Machinery Consulting, provided a presentation from the US.

He has worked as a mechanical engineer since 1962, and authored or co-written over 750 publications, among them 21 comprehensive books on a variety of topics, including practical machinery management, failure analysis, failure avoidance and optimised lubrication for industry.

He gave practical advice on implementing reliability practices that attendees were able to take back to their workplace.

The final speaker for the day was Malcolm Robertson, Managing Director at Robertson Technologies. He is a trained physicist and electronics engineer, and has formed companies in South Africa, the UK and Australia.

He has developed and manufactured innovative instrumentation to measure pump performance. With remote monitoring of pump performance now more important than ever, Malcolm’s experience in this area provided great insight into this topic and how engineers can utilitse technology to maintain assets without needing to travel to the site.

Looking to the future

The Flow Technology Virtual Conference was well received by all who attended, and the team at Pump Industry magazine would like to thank all the speakers for sharing their knowledge and experience with everyone, as well as all the sponsors whose support allowed us to run it free of charge.

We would also like to thank all the attendees who tuned in live or watched the recorded conference later.

Digital conferences have quickly become popular as a way to remain connected and learn while we have been unable to meet in person.

Here at Pump Industry, we will look at hosting another virtual conference in the near future, so keep an eye on our website,, and our newsletter to find out more information when it is released.

If you missed the live conference, a recording of the conference is available at

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