The Pumps & Systems editorial staff spoke with SEPCO CEO Chris Wilder about seals and the state of the industry for the January 2019 issue.
What is the top trend to look for in 2019 for seals?
The top trend for seals is improving our technologies to provide practical solutions to plant personnel so that equipment stays up and running. Advancements in seals now provide benefits such as lubrication reliability and true noncontact sealing with air seals. With 63 percent of bearing failure being caused by lubrication-related wear according to an SKF report, improving lubrication reliability is a game changer.
These advanced technologies solve many problems. However, you need more than an advanced product. Industry experts must work with maintenance and reliability personnel to correctly apply, install and operate these products. Continued training to establish accurate and efficient practices and processes is critical. Working with a provider who helps institute and guide this training can be helpful.
How has the seal market changed in the last 5 to 10 years?
In the last 5 to 10 years, most seal manufacturers have worked to improve seal function and reliability—from mechanical seals to bearing isolators. Improved engineering helps prevent contaminant ingress, prolonging the seal’s lifetime and increasing lubricant reliability. New, noncontact, compound labyrinth seals for bearing isolation expels contaminants as it seals. These new developments are exciting, and more capabilities are projected during 2018.
What are the top jobs you need to fill right now?
In general, attracting young talent continues to be a struggle for the manufacturing industry as a whole.
Is your company (or the ones you serve) putting programs in place to attract young employees?
At Sealing Equipment Products, Co., Inc. (SEPCO), we are working with local high schools with apprenticeship programs. New graduates work at our facility and also attend a local community college. We pay for their college, and they also train with our team. It is a win/win for us and the students, and we help encourage youth to join the manufacturing industry.
To hold on to retirement-age employees? Many of our employees have worked with us for 25, 30, even 40 years. I’m proud of the longevity of our personnel, and we work with them to make sure they are happy and doing something they love.
Why are studies, like your plant equipment survey, so important to users?
We do three different surveys/analyses that we believe help our end users. We evaluate seal face wear patterns to inform the customer of potential operational or process issues that may have caused an early end of seal life. Another survey is the plant equipment survey, in which our team goes onsite and evaluates a plant or a section of a plant to determine what seals and other equipment they should install and how much inventory to keep on the shelf. Our final analysis is a water usage survey to determine how much water the plant uses and how much they may be wasting because of leaks or other activities.
These surveys along with our fluid sealing products help industrial plants, mills and other facilities conserve water and energy, reduce maintenance man-hour costs, optimize inventory, streamline productivity, and decrease the total life-cycle cost of their sealing program. We are centered on service.