When I meet new people, they often ask about what I do for a living. It’s just polite after all. And because I work in quite a niche industry, it’s often difficult to explain what an average day looks like for me. The truth is that since we service so many industries and sectors, a day in the life of a specialist in humidity control is never dull. And to prove it, I took some notes on what I did during an average day a few weeks ago, just to share with you today. After 31 years I still find it fascinating, and who knows, by the end of this you might too.
On this particular day I had been invited to survey three very different businesses, with different applications for humidity control and very different reasons.
The day started with a trip to an artisan producer called Salt Pig Curing. Ben Dulley (the owner) processes meat products to increase their value, and then created salami and other cured meats at relatively low volumes to sell on to local farm shops and restaurants. Tasty!
Charcuterie production typically requires both dehumidification and humidification at different stages. Dehumidification is needed at first when new, ‘wet’ produce is introduced into the storage area. As it dehydrates and moves through the curing process, humidification needs to be implemented to prevent the outer surfaces of the meat from drying out too quickly. Luckily, both of these processes can be controlled from a single controller, allowing the facility to achieve the ideal relative humidity for them – 85%.
Next up was a company called Lightning Source – a high-volume book producer and digital printer. They print over 5 million books a year on an on-demand basis, and run out of a factory the size of a football pitch, with state-of-the-art machinery and printers. It’s a fascinating place to visit! And it turns out that if you order a book from Amazon and it says it’s in stock – the chances are it probably isn’t. Instead as soon as you hit that buy button, a message is sent to printers like this, who will produce the book within a few hours and send it out to you the next day.
In this environment humidity control is essential to create the right conditions needed to achieve the volume needed without any excess waste. This means a stable 50% rh to prevent the paper from drying out or curling, and to prevent static from forming in the machines, keeping them moving quickly and keeping the end product stable and high-quality.
The final meeting of the day was with Monmouth Scientific, a contractor specialising in cleanrooms. In this instance we were called in to offer advice on creating an environment in a University lab that requires close control at 50%rh +/- 2%rh. In this room medical experiments would be run on a daily basis, so the humidity needed to be carefully monitored and controlled so that the experiments weren’t compromised. Repeatability and stability are key in this installation, so it needs to be planned and tested carefully. Humidity was to be introduced into the room through an air movement system, where the temperature and filtration is tightly controlled.
To summarise, I visited a local food producer, a state-of-the-art mass production printer and finally a high-tech cleanroom contractor. In itself this is a wide range of applications, but during that same fortnight I visited a hot yoga studio, the Tate gallery, a manufacturer providing glue curing for Jaguar Land Rover sunroofs and a data centre – so all in all it was an average day.
All these applications require humidity control, with humidifiers and dehumidifiers being the solution but requiring specialist application knowledge, experience and understanding to provide the conditions required.
And there you have it! That’s an average day for me. What do you think?