Pumps & Systems
In the March issue of Pumps & Systems, contributing editor Ross McKay offered his opinion on “The Impeller – Casing Partnership.” Bob Bluse, president of Pump Service Consulting, Inc. and George Harris, president of Hydro, Inc., contributed opposing opinions which were published in the May issue of Pumps & Systems.
After reading “The Impeller – Casing Partnership” column by Ross Mackay (Let’s Get Practical, March 2006), I took away a sense that if you do not buy your pump parts – especially impellers and casings – from the OEM, pump owners are headed for trouble. This opinion / perception would have been universally accepted 20 or more years ago. However, it is far from the reality that exists in the pump parts business today.
Let’s consider the more current situation. Ross mentions that “the success of this practice will depend to a great extend on the expertise and capability of the supplier in question.” This is a true statement, but it should also apply to OEMs and not just third-party parts suppliers (replicators). Current trends in the OEM business model indicate they no longer make their own parts: they just provide the administrative processing dynamics of supplying parts. They have sold or shutdown their foundries, manufacture offshore, source to the lowest price provider, and sparingly participate in the QA/QC component of manufactured parts.
Some third-party parts suppliers (replicators) have improved their capability by investing in current technology such as CMM, CFD, Faro-Arms, materials analyzers, rapid prototyping, test capability, etc. They have added resources (engineers, technicians, craftspeople) to their organizations to use this technology and increase their capabilities in hydraulic design, metallurgy, and quality, while still providing a competitive price and delivery. This resource has come from the OEMs due to the large scale consolidations in the pump industry and closure of foundries in North America, bringing with them years of experience and knowledge.
Some third-party parts suppliers have their own foundry and pattern shop onsite, enabling more consistent process execution (quality/deliver) through the entire process of manufacturing cast pump parts. Isn’t it ironic that a few of the major pump OEMs have purchased third-party parts suppliers (replicators) in the past years? That’s something to think about!
Ross also mentions that “when they (impellers/casings) need to be replaced, make sure you get full value from the original hydraulic design – that is only available from the pump OEM.” How likely is that, by the time you have to replace the impeller or casing, the original hydraulic design is consistent with current system performance and requirements?
Cast components are usually the last parts of a pump to wear out, taking years of operation for them to warrant replacement. During this time, the system degrades, process conditions change, and changing demands in process system performance require consideration of doing something different, rather than going back to the original hydraulic design.
Additionally, repairs, upgrades, and retrofits made to the pump by owners and pump service companies result in changes which seldom find their way back to the OEM original pump Bill of Material, resulting in a record that is not accurate and likely not to provide the best hydraulic solution. The result of this collective activity makes a “moving target” of the value of the original hydraulic design and who really is the OEM.
Suffice it to say that achieving optimal pump hydraulic performance is more challenging today than in the past. However, the resources to do so are also more plentiful and more available than they have been in the past.
The OEM/third-party parts supplier (replicator) debate will continue, but the changes in the pumps parts business landscape have reduced the capability and performance gap between OEMs and third-party parts suppliers. This competitive environment presents great opportunities for pump owners and users that did not exist previously and offers them a choice in terms of “getting practical” when selecting their pump parts supplier to optimize pump performance. Continue reading
Pumps & Systems
Critical Issues in the Global Pump Industry
Certainly the cost and availability of certain raw materials and energy has been an issue during the past year, and with continued strong demand in China, this may continued to be a concern in the future.
Looking to the longer term, improving the energy efficiency of pumps and pumping systems is critical, as is greater emphasis on understanding and more effectively controlling life cycle costs.
The high demand for raw materials has pushed costs up and impacted pricing. But perhaps more critical are the extended delivery times, especially for engineered product manufactured in North America.
The reduction in foundry capacity in North America over the past two decades limits our options to obtain quick turnaround on castings for engineered products. While technology has greatly enhanced the design and tooling process, it is likely that the turnaround time for castings on engineered product will continue to be a concern.
While the long-term outlook for energy costs may be more favorable, short-term costs are projected to remain high.
According to statistics published by the Hydraulic Institute and others, pumps and pumping systems consume an astonishing 20 percent of the world’s energy! There is a great opportunity for the pump industry to become a leader in energy conservation efforts and the Hydraulic Institute is to be applauded for its initiatives in promoting energy awareness and energy savings to the pump industry, and to pump users as a whole.
A nuclear power plant case study…
Nuclear plants need to function effectively and have reliable systems. The equipment and manpower that keep the equipment functioning is crucial not only to the continued ability to provide power services, but to the safety of all of us. All nuclear power plants are required to maintain and regularly test their pumps to ensure operability in the case of a nuclear event or emergency. If they didn’t, the potential outcomes could range anywhere from the inability to produce electric energy to the occurrence of a catastrophic nuclear incident, potentially affecting many thousands of people. Simply put, nuclear power plants cannot afford to have malfunctioning equipment.
An auxiliary feedwater (AFW) system is one of the important features of a pressurized water reactor (PWR) nuclear power plant. This system serves two functions:
- During normal startup and shutdown operations, the AFW system provides a reliable source of water for cooling the plant steam generators.
- Following a reactor trip, the AFW system will provide an emergency source of cooling water to the steam generators in order to remove the heat generated by the decay of fission products in the nuclear fuel.
Both of these functions are crucial, and the pump must be at peak performance in either case.
A nuclear utility was experiencing repetitive maintenance and operational issues on its AFW pumps, reducing both system and unit availability. The issues included high thrust-bearing temperatures, black oil or oil discoloration and vibration amplitudes exceeding acceptable limits for operability. These pumps were Ingersoll-Rand Model HMTA, 10 Stage, Horizontal split case designs. The utility had worked over a period of several years to resolve the reliability issues with no success. Continue reading