A Systems Approach to Operating and Maintaining Pumps
Common control platform for pumping systems ensures savings in time, money and risks.
Manufacturers across an array of industries from food processing to aerospace seek four common goals when it comes to having the most effective production process possible: improve quality, save time, lower costs and reduce risks.
A systems approach to operating and maintaining pumps is a highly effective means of achieving all of these goals. Whether a manufacturer is installing new equipment within its existing system or upgrading an older system, a comprehensive, systems approach is a means of ensuring the production process remains efficient, cost effective and easier to troubleshoot when problems do occur.
A common control platform is a cornerstone in a systems approach for pumping systems. Manufacturers who pursue this strategy often partner with a system integrator that can help create a platform which not only establishes a common standard for an entire facility, but the entire manufacturing process itself. This strategy goes beyond hardware and incorporates software that manages the human-machine interface, providing an efficient way for the operator to adjust settings, monitor the system and troubleshoot problems as they arise.
System integrators have the advantage of viewing a manufacturing facility as a whole, gaining a comprehensive perspective of the control side and what its look and feel will be. By defining design specifications early in the process, the system integrator is able to incorporate that comprehensive perspective into all aspects of the production process.
System Integrator Can Help Identify Most Beneficial Controls Package
When implementing a common control platform for pumping systems, system integrators will either use a hardware/software package they have designed or a package designed by a system vendor.
Among the advantages of installing a package created by a system vendor, manufacturers can improve operator efficiency because the code developed by the system vendor is uniform and ensures that the entire system is functioning in a consistent manner. A package designed by a system vendor also can reduce costs because the integrator is able to install the system more quickly — due to its uniformity — and pass those time savings on to the manufacturer. In addition, the system vendor provides manufacturers with ongoing access to technical support for the system, regardless of which integrator was involved in the project. The manufacturer’s operator and maintenance staff can receive training from the system vendor, enabling them to communicate directly with the vendor regarding any questions they may have or help they may need to solve problems.
And, should the manufacturer lose operator or maintenance personnel due to turnover and need to train new staff, the training process is easier with a control system that has consistent programming styles and machine interfaces across an entire plant. More efficient training of new staff will lead to less downtime for the manufacturer.
Early Involvement of Operator, Maintenance Personnel Essential
A key to success in this comprehensive approach to pumping systems is that the manufacturer must have a thorough understanding of the capabilities of the software they are using. Common control platform systems most often are accompanied by a library that explains the functionality of all of the components involved, and it is definitely worth the time to become well acquainted with that library.
Manufacturers are also advised to take care when purchasing hardware. For example, a recent project for a food manufacturer required selecting a larger more robust system to accommodate additional logic and functionality. To achieve this, the client was advised to upgrade the processor to ensure there was enough memory to handle the system requirements.
Another key to success for manufacturers is to involve operators and maintenance personnel early in the design process. By creating this opportunity for involvement up front, these personnel will understand how the system will operate when it is fully installed and how they use it and maintain it on a day-to-day basis.
Systems Approach to Pumping Systems Garners Growing Support
Among the growing list of advocates for an integrated systems approach to pumping systems is the U.S. Department of Energy, which collaborated with the Hydraulic Institute to publish a 2006 guidebook for manufacturers. The guidebook extensively details the benefits of this strategy, including the gains outlined above and improved energy efficiency within production facilities.
The DOE report, Improving Pumping System Performance: A Sourcebook for Industry, also provides guidance for analyzing lifecycle costs before making the decision to implement a systems approach such as a common control platform. The report provides the following advice: Using a lifecycle cost perspective during initial system design, or while planning system upgrades and modifications, can reduce operating costs and improve system reliability. The components of lifecycle costs include the cost of initial equipment, energy consumption, maintenance and decommissioning.
The lifecycle costs of pumps are difficult to summarize because, even among pumps of the same size, initial costs vary widely. Other costs such as maintenance and disposal or decommissioning can be difficult to quantify. Several industry stakeholders have participated in efforts to encourage greater consideration of lifecycle costs in pumping system specification and operation. For example, the Hydraulic Institute, a U.S. pump manufacturers trade association, has developed a lifecycle costing guidebook to increase industry experts’ awareness of the subject.
Plant and corporate managers are often bound by a concern for a company’s profits when considering the investment of capital funds. Decision makers are usually attuned to activities that translate directly to the bottom line, such as projects that increase productivity. Fortunately, many (if not most) energy-efficiency projects provide other benefits in addition to energy cost savings, such as the following:
- Increased productivity.
- Lower maintenance costs.
- Reduced costs of environmental compliance.
- Lower production costs.
- Reduced waste disposal costs.
- Better product quality.
- Improved capacity utilization.
- Better reliability.
- Improved worker safety.
A highly efficient pumping system is not merely a system with an energy-efficient motor. Overall system efficiency is the key to maximum cost savings. Often, users are concerned only with initial costs, and they accept the lowest bid for a component while ignoring system efficiency. To achieve optimum pumping system economics, users should select equipment based on lifecycle economics and operate and maintain the equipment for peak performance.
Concept Systems is a Certified Member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), a global non-profit professional association that seeks to advance the industry of control system integration for the success of members and their clients. For more information, visit www.controlsys.org.
Improving Pumping System Performance: A Sourcebook for Industry provides guidance for analyzing lifecycle costs before making the decision to implement a systems approach such as a common control platform. Click HERE to read more.