Minimizing Down Time

Managing Industrial Wastewater Treatment

Is Downtime Avoidable?  Murphy’s Law happens frequently in the Wastewater Treatment Industry. How is your pump maintenance program?

 There are Three Types of Maintenance

  • Corrective Maintenance
  • Preventative Maintenance
  • Predictive Maintenance

When pumps make up a large part of your process and wastewater operations, unexpected shutdowns can wreak havoc on both upstream and downstream operations.  Not shutting the system down for repairs may lead to extensive downtime, noncompliance and possibly fines.  Downtime may also lead to loss of revenue when production has to be halted. 

Pump failures can cause a snowball of issues for any operation. Searching for the root cause of the problem becomes mission critical. Equipment or part failure always happens at the wrong time. With today’s supply chain issues the phrase first avaialble is becoming too common.  Long lead times can be expected, especially if parts come from international suppliers.  

Corrective Maintenance is what is needed when something breaks; it is better known as repairs. When equipment has ceased to operate properly, it is necessary to do corrective maintenance. This model is commonly called Run to Fail (RTF) model means that there are no other types of maintenance done. Problems are only addressed as things break.

Using this model has few benefits. There is less work to be done on a regular basis, so this reduces labor costs or the need to have repair staff on site. This method can lead to neglect of the equipment. Corrective repairs can also be more costly when they need to be taken care of. Equipment may have to be shut down due to lack of parts.

Steps can be taken to make repairs easier and faster through planning. Planning can reduce downtime when emergencies occur allowing operations to recover faster.   

Preventative Maintenance attempts to spread out the costs by planning activities on a regular basis. Equipment is regularly inspected, cleaned, and have adjustments made by knowledgeable staff. Since the maintenance is done on a schedule, equipment checks are addressed at specific intervals and not when equipment issues occur.  This schedule attempts to head off equipment failures by “preventing” the failures before they happen. 

Preventative maintenance may be labor intensive and might require having on site staff to perform the duties. While some failures can be prevented by using this method, other failures will occur regardless of the amount of maintenance that is done. There is a cost savings potential overall when using this plan over corrective maintenance schedules.

Predictive Maintenance attempts to forecast when equipment is going to fail. This is done by monitoring the equipment and then using the data that is collected to prevent the failure before it occurs. If indications show that some type of action needs to be taken, then that is performed.

Maintenance Tips to Improve Efficiencies

Tip #1: Have the name and contact information for your local pump distributor and service center ready for emergencies. 

When a problem arises, who is going to solve it?

Is there an inhouse team with the knowledge, tools, and resources available to perform the repair, or will outside expertise be needed?  Knowing who to call ahead of time can help bring in a service team faster.

Who is the primary contact, and a backup in case workload requires it. It is also a good idea to have the contact information for a local rebuild center in case the pump needs off-site work. 

Reach out to a pump manufacturer before there is an equipment issue. Larger manufacturers have distribution and partner networks that they can refer users to some that also offer repair services and in-stock spare parts.

Tip #2: Tip: Know your pump’s model and serial numbers. 

Knowing whom to call is part of the battle. Knowing what to call about is even more important. When the pumping system’s critical information is readily available, five phone calls can be turned into one, having service coming faster. 

In addition, having this documentation at hand will mean not having to search for it in an emergency, like when a submersible pump is clogged and overflowing.

Be sure documentation includes:

  • Manufacturer’s name
  • Pump size and type
  • Model number
  • Serial number
  • Horsepower
  • Amperage/Voltage
  • Intake and discharge pipe sizes

Tip #3: Diagnose the cause of the failure to make sure it does not happen again. 

Pump systems are designed to be workhorses, but not all pumps are intended for the same applications.

Some things to consider when diagnosing unexpected system failures include: 

  • Is the pump sized and scaled correctly for the job it is running? 
  • Is it running at higher operating parameters than expected? 
  • Is the pump designed for a commercial application trying to tackle industrial duty requirements?

All these factors will affect the overall performance and longevity of the pump and wastewater system.

It is also important to know that some failures can occur for uncommon reasons even a pump manufacturer or seasoned repair professional cannot predict. 

Tip #4: Try to always choose and source OEM-approved replacement parts.

The equipment’s performance is only as strong as the weakest link. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) replacement parts are designed, manufactured, and produced right alongside the same parts that went into the original equipment. This means the tolerances are tighter for production and the quality control is more stringent. If the local supplier cannot source an OEM part, contact the pump manufacturer. They will connect with a distribution partner nearby or ship it directly. The best pump manufacturers will also have dedicated technical support hotlines with trained team members that can help troubleshoot issues over the phone.

Aftermarket parts are produced by a different parts company and are often designed to be compatible with as many makes and/or models as possible. Due to these design differences, aftermarket parts won’t always provide the same superior fit of OEM parts.

Tip #5: Preventative Maintenance vs. Predictive Maintenance.  

Know the pump’s recommended maintenance schedule, and plan for a service period when it is convenient, rather than being forced to maintain the system when it is needed most. During scheduled maintenance, inspect the equipment thoroughly to look for any other potential issues. This can help offset the stress of an emergency shutdown.

In fact, the best plan for handling an emergency is to avoid it in the first place. With a little advance planning and preparation, users can not only reduce critical shutdowns, but also recover from them faster.  Many operators are operating using a Predictive Maintenance Program compared to a Preventative Maintenance Program.   

A Preventive Maintenance Program is work that is scheduled based on calendar time, runtime, or some other period. 

A Predictive Maintenance Program is work that is scheduled as needed based on real time conditions of assets.

Many equipment manufacturers understand the importance of UPTIME compared to Downtime.  Keeping equipment operating efficiently is very valuable. Equipment manufacturers understand the importance of keeping equipment operating. Developing software to track equipment performance to assist the operators in predicting less than peak performance.  Software commonly includes troubleshooting guides, maintenance guidelines, parts listing, and training videos.     

Instead of working on a schedule, predictive maintenance is driven by indications given by the equipment. Some complex methods can be used to collect data including automatic and computerized reading of data.

Predictive maintenance can also keep equipment operating in a more efficient manner. This method is also less labor intensive than other systems but carries a more expensive up-front cost.

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