From day one, the year 2020’s offer for the pumps sector reads: expect much more of the same.
The same unresolved Brexit pressures, global trade uncertainty, skills and labour at a premium, leading to a greater drive towards game-changing efficiencies and sustainable practices.
Those pressures are of course industry-wide but much of the answers will be sought from pumping solutions and their related products and systems. Most of all perhaps in the food and drinks sector, where many of the impacts will be felt most.
Given that many of the conventional efficiencies have been realised, labour costs for example may have little room for improvement, the focus will be heavily upon productivity and the innovations required to achieve this.
Progressive cavity pump specialist SEEPEX has made significant advances in pump technology – with the awards to prove it.
Companies should consider focusing on the cornerstones of innovation: listening to customers, collaborating with industry and fostering a supportive staff environment
Lesley Eaton, marketing executive, SEEPEX
So it may come as a surprise to find marketing executive for the company Lesley Eaton urging a wider interpretation of innovation.
Whereas we are encouraged to regard the word as synonymous with disruption or breakthrough technological or processes, she cautions that the concept has as much to do with people and culture.
“A joined-up approach to innovation is essential. A dedicated technology and innovation department comprising R&D, innovation strategy, engineered solutions, and product and industry management, will pay dividends. As each area is interlinked – new ideas are generated by innovation strategy, new products require R&D, new applications for existing pumps fall under the remit of engineered solutions,” she says.
“A dedicated innovation department will ensure that the correct resources are available as and when required. After all, where’s the value in a good idea if there isn’t a framework in place to enable development beyond the idea phase?”
Daunting as that may sound to companies seeking to align their operations with the needs of manufacturers, this need not mean searching for “the next big thing”, advises Eaton.
“Companies should instead consider focusing on the cornerstones of innovation: listening to customers, collaborating with industry and fostering a supportive staff environment. Big or small, with a wide or specialised offering, any company can enjoy the benefits that come with being an innovator.
Thus innovation can come down not to a new product but using an existing one in a different application. Or improving the performance of your product range.
“For example, our Smart Conveying Technology is up to 20% more energy efficient than traditional PC pump designs Developed in response to feedback from industry which demands quicker maintenance, this ‘smart’ design has been developed to enable the stator, rotor and mechanical seal to be changed without dismantling suction or discharge pipework.
“Furthermore, the adjustable stator segments restore pump performance as wear occurs, increasing the service life by up to 200%. These innovations improve maintenance and reduce whole life costs. Remote monitoring enables predictive maintenance of the pumping elements, keeping process efficiency high and resulting in less downtime for plant operators.”
Bu?rkert Fluid Control Systems has applied the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ philosophy to good effect, saving a key client on downtime and boosting operational efficiency, while effectively saving money too.
Food and drink firms rely heavily upon process control valves in order to manager liquid and gas flow when manufacturing their products. Which makes the availability of replacement parts a prime concern.
Bu?rkert’s client, a malt processor, relied on more than 200 third party valves and was concerned that the original equipment manufactuer would eventually be unable to support the product with replacement stock.
Sales manager for Bu?rkert, Craig Kerr, said the client investigated the implications of a wholesale replacement of all the control valves. The cost proved prohibitive, given the time it would take to realise the full payback return on the investment.
Explained Kerr: “We were provided with a spare control valve from the production line and asked to deliver a proposal that would resolve the issue of ageing controls, while retaining the value in the valve body.”
In preference to the more costly option of a complete replacement valve, Bu?rkert assessed the condition of the valve body and identified the control head alone as requiring replacement.
This solution has been very cost-effective, saving thousands in process hardware and replacement costs by allowing the customer to retain the original valves
Craig Kerr, sales manager, Bu?rkert
The pneumatic actuator – itself obsolete – was replaceable with Bu?rkert’s Type 8691 control head. All it required was the addition of an adapting bracket.
“The manufacturing process operates a decentralised control system using ASI, with the valves either open or closed. Bu?rkert’s suggested solution [provided] a simple, plug-and-play control head that would easily attach to the control valve body.”
Replacement took just one hour per valve including assigning an address for the PLC. An integrated valve position sensor then stores the details. The stainless steel composition and chemical resistance of the product are also well suited to the food and drink sector.
Adds Kerr: “This solution has been very cost-effective, saving thousands in process hardware and replacement costs by allowing the customer to retain the original valves and minimise any potential downtime from the upgrade.”
Innovative approaches to existing products not only benefit retrofits but can speed the design cycle, as SKF has demonstrated.
The firm supplies bearings for pumps and compressors, working among other sectors with food and drink. Last year it unveiled what it says is the world’s first commerical load sensing bearing based on the company’s proprietary fibre optic sensing technology.
Understanding bearing loads is essential in the design of rotating equipment such as pumps, explains senior applications expert at SKF’s Drives Competence Centre, Lars Kahlman.
“During the last years SKF has, through extensive testing campaigns and simulations, developed algorithms that make the technology really accurate and robust. Our Load Sensing Bearing gives access to data that has been very difficult to access so far because it takes accurate strain measurements directly within the bearing.”
Providing more precision and certainty in product development speeds design and verification, thanks to the access to data it ensures, says the firm.
The bearings, which are interchangeable with conventional ones, ensure optimised design, lower development costs, shorter design cycle and the ability to digitalise the design and verification process.
OEMs and end-users can use the tool when testing and installing new equipment to check that the correct load and lubrication requirements have been defined and are not exceeded in the real installation.
Flow solutions too have become more innovative, thanks in some cases to expertise from other sectors. Kilfrost, a pioneer in safety critical aviation de-icing, addressed the issue of heat transfer in refrigeration systems.
Plant managers had long been dogged by having to choose between toxic or poorly performing heat transfer fluids explains technical manager Michael Reynolds [pictured]: “We knew we had to make a fluid that was non-toxic and more energy efficient than current fluids. So we formulated it with [the North American] NSFapproved organic acid technology inhibitors. We developed it to reduce the incidence of pressure drops across the system. It was essential to reduce pumping costs and increase hydraulic efficiency.”
He adds tests of the Advanced Low Viscosity (ALV) Plus fluid suggested that it was 66% less viscous than mono-propylene glycol (MPG). It also provided 35% in energy savings, an operational temperature down to -40°C and outperformed MEG, MPG, Bio-PDO and ethanol-based heat transfer fluids. Kilfrost claims savings of nearly 40% on pumps operating costs.
After a Canadian trial it has been approved by the NSF as safe for incidental food and beverage contact, with interest from UK and European beverage and brewing firms.
“Our results could show benefits for both the primary and secondary cooling setup in terms of efficiency and equipment installations, but maybe they will also herald a new dawn for heat transfer and temperature control altogether,” states Reynolds.
Seal of approval
Centre relaunch aims to highlight engineering opportunities
AESSEAL has officially reopened its mechanical seal Test House following an upgrade totalling more than £1.4 million.
The test centre, where the company’s mechanical seals and compressor dry gas seals are trialled, underwent a major refurbishment over the past two years. AESSEAL food and drink market offers includes solutions for dairy and brewing, among others.
The overhaul will accommodate expansion of the firm’s gas seals manufacture operation – its first high speed dry gas test rig was installed in 2017 with a further £800,000 spent on five more and a sixth due to arrive in 2020.
AESSEAL test house manager, Michael Rich, said: “All our test rigs can be run on an automated basis, leaving operators more time to focus on preparation and posttest analysis.
“They are also user friendly, which means new test technicians can be trained quickly, adding another efficiency to this rapidly expanding area of our business.” The event, attended by Rotherham council leader Chris Read, was intended to attract more local students into engineering careers.