Establishing an effective pump reliability program can slash costs, make operations safer and provide uptime benefits.
by Jason Wall, John Crane Inc.
July 26, 2012

•    Evaluate the sealing system and how it is installed, and review proper maintenance procedures to ensure that they are appropriate for the equipment. Things to consider include the buffer or barrier fluid system, if using a dual seal arrangement, and whether wet contacting or dry noncontacting seals are appropriate. Make sure to review the piping arrangement to ensure that it is properly installed, since improper piping inhibits the seal system’s life.
•    Minimize the number of seal types, arrangements and systems in the equipment. This slashes inventory costs by reducing the number of parts needed on hand, and it reduces the number of procedures that mechanics and operators must learn, reducing the potential for errors.
•    Understand the environmental regulations in the area and the capabilities of the installed base of mechanical seals. EPA leak detection and repair (LDAR) requirements mandate that if a mechanical seal is leaking at a higher-than-approved rate, the pump must be shut down and the problem repaired within the prescribed time frame.

Review Appropriate Bearing and Lubrication Practices

Keeping bearings properly lubricated extends their life and boosts overall equipment reliability. End users should review their equipment manufacturer’s specifications and follow the recommended guidelines for maintaining bearings properly. For example, many manufacturers recommend using bearing isolators to protect bearing housings from water and dirt, which can hinder their performance.

Make Education a Priority

Whether lunch-and-learn sessions or online training, ongoing education should be a critical component of a pump reliability program. For operations employees, focus on proper startup procedures—such as ensuring that all appropriate valves are open—to avoid early failure while commissioning equipment. For maintenance personnel, teach proper seal installation techniques and the basics of maintaining mechanical seals. Other relevant educational topics include shut-down procedures, bearings and lubrication.

Review the Program Regularly

A pump reliability group should meet regularly to discuss its progress and whether the program is meeting its pre-established, critical performance indicators. Consider holding monthly status meetings with key team members to review data on a micro level and quarterly or semiannual meetings with the entire team to make strategic decisions about the program. Some end users may need more frequent meetings when the program is first launched. Then they may decide to scale back meetings once results are realized.

While creating a pump reliability program requires time and effort, the payoff can be significant. End users who focus on improving reliability through established best practices reap the benefits of reduced labor hours, reduced maintenance costs and increased safety and productivity.