industry vets
Palgrave has presented throughout the U.S., Middle East and Europe on centrifugal pump technology and has authored a book.

Ron Palgraves
Ron Palgraves

78-year-old Ron Palgrave has several interests, including classic cars, observational astronomy, acoustic guitar and banjo. In addition, he has managed to also remain just as passionate about the pumps industry as he was when he first entered it as a technical apprentice in 1961.

“The industry has been good to me on several levels. It has mostly been enjoyable and a privilege—so much so that I worked five years beyond normal retirement age. I have wanted to repay where I could.”

Additionally, Palgrave has been a long-time member of several industry associations, including the British Pump Manufacturers Association (BPMA) Technical Committee, EUROPUMP Technical Committee and the API610 Task Force.

A true veteran of the industry, Palgrave has given and received quite a bit of advice over his career.

“Early on I learned that often there might not seem time to do a job properly in the first instance, but there is always time to put it right if it turns out wrong. The risks of cutting corners should always be seriously assessed,” he said. “As a default, the pump is always guilty until proven innocent.”

Palgrave said the industry has changed in a variety of ways since he first started.

“When I first began, most calculations were conducted with the aid of a slide-rule (look it up!),” he said. “Occasionally, things called log tables were invoked (again, look it up!). Nowadays, communication is almost instantaneous, and designs can be expressed in three-dimensional virtual models before manufacture even begins. Research workers around the world unwittingly refine the various blocks of the design algorithm. Consequently, the behavior of the whole finished machine can now be foreseen with some degree of certainty. Only courageous designs will now have significant risks attached to them.”

As for challenges engineers new to the industry may face, Palgrave's answer centers around making connections.

“Centrifugal pumps are quite simple machines in that their basic needs are similarly simple. Even if they are denied some of these needs, they will still operate to an extent, but may wear out more quickly. This class of machine has been around since 1700, so the generic classes of problems and appropriate solutions are well documented. Wherever possible, develop a network with engineers in a similar industry.”

Now retired, Palgrave is proud to have been able to contribute to this field.

“Undoubtedly, it has been a privilege to be allowed to juggle the laws of physics and to produce some of the most powerful pumping machines on the planet and pumps operating at some of the highest temperatures.”

In addition to this work, Palgrave has presented throughout the U.S., Middle East and Europe on centrifugal pump technology and has authored a book titled “Troubleshooting Centrifugal Pumps and their Systems (Second Edition)” (670 pages).

What kind of training helped you the most over your career?

Engineering systems analysis. Everything from the economy, the weather, the hydraulic design of pumps, etc., can be modeled as a series of linked algorithms. Even if each algorithm might only be crudely understood, the behavior of complex systems can be foreseen to some degree. The interaction of pumps and their fluid handling system is an excellent example. Only a few users seem to understand how much the latter can influence the former.

What, in your opinion, are the biggest challenges that the industry is facing?

It has been said that only electric motors are more prolific than pumps (of all types). Furthermore, most centrifugal pumps are just a collection of castings, moldings or pressings. They are quite simple machines (although complex infrastructure can sometimes grow around them). Despite an inadequate and sometimes incorrect knowledge of the internal pump flow picture, machine efficiencies quite close to their theoretical limits were being achieved decades ago. Given all this, the wider world can sometimes appear a trifle blasé about the contribution pumps make to society. In addition, this has resulted in some degree of user apathy as to how they do what they do and what they need.