Richard Walker is global product manager, Standard & High Performance Couplings for John Crane. He holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from Texas A&M University, master’s of Engineering Management from Northwestern University and MBA from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. For more information, visit johncrane.com.
A top U.S. pulp and paper plant in the forest products industry recently faced an extended, unplanned shutdown due to improperly designed pump couplings installed in a paper machine.
The plant installed a new paper machine that was failing to start due to its use of improperly designed couplings, rendering the mission-critical machine inoperable.
Once the problem was identified, the manufacturer required more than one week to turn around design and installation of new couplings to get the paper machine running. This would incur substantial revenue loss and unplanned downtime. Potential production losses of market pulp, tissue, wood products, newsprint and specialty papers were significant, estimated at $500,000 in revenue loss per day and more than $2.5 million in revenue loss per week.
The company wanted to quickly minimize downtime related to the pump couplings. They called on a couplings manufacturer, which pulled together a team to remedy the coupling situation in 24 hours, reducing production losses and getting the machine up and running.
The solution was a permanent remedy, not a stop-gap measure requiring follow-up work in the future.
Three paper machine pumps were inoperable due to improperly designed couplings. As one of the most critical steps in the paper manufacturing process, this application involved a direct couple from the motor to the fan pump, which pumps pulp directly into the paper machine.
Upon learning of the faulty couplings, a couplings manufacturer approached the site with a plan that would significantly reduce replacement downtime.
The plan included coordination with the couplings manufacturer’s sales team, operations and the couplings manufacturer’s regional distributor using local resources for a rapid turnaround.
Several representatives from the manufacturer and the plant engineers met at the pulp and paper site to deliver 24-hour emergency coupling replacement to get them up and running. Understanding the sense of urgency to shorten unplanned downtime, the team of couplings manufacturers quickly formulated a plan to design, manufacture and ship three new couplings.
Six blank hubs were shipped to the plant. Local machinists worked through the night boring and keying the blank hubs required in inventory, while the new couplings were manufactured and shipped early the next day.
The three new couplings were delivered and installed in 24 hours to restore production.
These couplings were ideal for harsh conditions in pulp and paper mills and their benefits included strong inherent balance, high torque-to-weight ratio, long life and virtually no maintenance requirements.
Within 24 hours, the new couplings were installed in the site’s pumps and production resumed. The new couplings remain in operation today, eliminating the costs associated with a complete replacement strategy.
As a result of the couplings manufacturer’s quick response, the pulp and paper plant avoided costly downtime, reduced production and revenue losses.