Boosting productivity? Then look to your fluid system
29 Jan 2020
Maximising your fluid system efficiency is a must if you want to boost productivity and reduce cost and downtime, says Swagelok’s Stacey Phillips...
Running the plant safely, reducing costs, maximising throughput, and avoiding downtime are just a few of a plant manager’s responsibilities. Fortunately, more efficient industrial fluid systems can help plants fulfill each of these goals.
Here are a few strategies to boost fluid system efficiency, along with tips for implementing them.
Leaks are a common issue in most plants, and they can reduce profitability and increase maintenance costs. It is not always feasible to address every leak at once but prioritising the most problematic leaks can immediately boost efficiency.
The size of the leak, loss rate, and the process fluid are all important factors in deciding which leaks to address first. Consider a system losing 1,000 cubic feet of compressed air per day versus a system losing 100 cubic feet of expensive argon per day Though the argon leak itself is smaller, prioritising it could save thousands in immediate costs.
Once a plant identifies and prioritises leaks, performing a root cause analysis is critical to preventing them from recurring. Often, a leaky or failed connection is the result of installation error, not component performance. For comprehensive leak control and analysis, available third-party audit services can help plant managers gain a thorough understanding of their systems and where they can make improvements.
Optimise components and inventory
Sometimes leaks occur because the wrong component is in use for a given application. For example, a valve may not be designed for the function it is performing. It might not be made with the right materials. It might not maintain the service life potential required for the design specifications.
When selecting and specifying componentry, all fluid system operating conditions should be considered, including temperature, pressure, ambient conditions, process fluids, and vibration. Specifying the right fluid system component from the beginning, or making a change later based on your operational history, can help save a great deal of maintenance hours while increasing operational uptime.
Often, a leaky or failed connection is the result of installation error, not component performance
Additionally, being prepared with the right inventory can eliminate significant downtime if part failure does occur. Therefore, it is beneficial to keep spare, critical componentry on-site. This is especially true of specialty parts that might come with long lead times to reorder. Some suppliers will even organise, stock, and maintain on-site inventory for their customers.
Simplify design and assembly. Today, fully fabricated fluid system assemblies are available to make life easier for plant managers and engineers. By eliminating the time required to design and assemble a custom system from individual components, plants can save significant time and resources.
Consider this comparison: Assembling a standard sampling system with 135 different part numbers might require about 54 hours of assembly time. Building the same system with preassembled modules would require just 17 individual part numbers and approximately 6 hours of assembly time. The result is almost 48 hours’ worth of resources that can be directed to other critical tasks on the plant floor.
With proper leak prioritisation, such as choosing and keeping the right fluid system components on hand, and simplifying design and assembly, plant managers and engineers have significant opportunities to gain higher efficiency from their fluid systems. Following these simple, effective strategies can result in major value for any plant.
Stacey Phillips is field engineering regional area manager for the Americas at Swagelok