Dan Kernan is manager of Monitoring and Control. He has a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Rochester and has spent the last decade integrating technologies—such as power electronics, embedded sensors and wireless systems—with rotating equipment to improve equipment reliability and reduce energy. Kernan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
With better data, the specialist created a “hot list” of pumps to target for root cause analyses. Cross-functional teams were formed from maintenance, operations and pump and seal OEMs to address problems.
A plan was constructed to proactively work through the list at a rate of 10 per year.
The solutions applied were relatively simple:
- Trimming the impellers on oversized pumps
- Changing flush plans to ensure that sure seals were flushed properly and had cool operating environments
- Installing variable speed drives where appropriate
- In some cases, upgrading or replacing pumps to ensure they that had the right design for the job
While the solutions were simple, the results were powerful. In five years, pump MTBF increased by 108 percent. Annual operating costs per pump were reduced by 48 percent, saving the company more than $1.3 million per year.
Striking the Right Balance
In the world of industrial equipment, no two operations are the same. Since unplanned repairs can be 10 times as costly as scheduled maintenance, finding the right fit for each application—which may include taking a multifaceted approach—is important.
Consider a South American copper mine in which four pumping stations transported 16 million gallons of seawater 144 kilometers to its desert location every day.
Pump MTBF was low and mine operators were practicing firefighting maintenance—fixing failed equipment and putting it back into production as quickly as possible. The copper mine implemented both proactive and predictive maintenance strategies.
From a proactive standpoint, adjustments to check valves and control valves were made to slow response times, and pump starting and stopping procedures were implemented that helped mitigate water hammer effects.
The addition of a wireless condition monitoring system allowed maintenance to be predictive with the ability to monitor 16 pumps and motors at four remote locations over a span of 144 kilometers. The results included higher MTBF for the seawater pumping system and a 22 percent increase in annual production.
No matter the strategy or mix of strategies selected for industrial equipment maintenance, being aware of and responsive to data is key. Only when failures are fully understood and bad actors are targeted can meaningful change be effectively implemented. This requires being open and committed to change and following the path to improving reliability and optimizing maintenance budgets. P&S