Industrial pump supplier, Castle Pumps, explores the role a good maintenance regime can play in minimising production downtime caused by pump failure.
Downtime caused by a pump failure can be costly in terms of loss of output and repairs. If your pump plays a critical role in your production line, for example, dosing a specific quantity of ingredient into a mix, if it unexpectedly fails, then production comes to a halt. Pump maintenance is, therefore, a critical operation within any plant to minimise costly downtime and not one that should be overlooked.
If you have a pump on-site and you don’t already have a maintenance programme in place, then your first step should be to make someone responsible for this. A pump maintenance programme involves a periodic check of performance, an inspection of the wearing parts and lubrication of bearings and joints. Spotting an issue early is one of the best methods of troubleshooting and preventing pump breakdown:
- Leaks: Check the pump and pipework as this will result in reduced performance and loss of pump output as well as causing a mess. Common leaking points are the stuffing box or the mechanical seals – a common wearing part to be routinely replaced.
- Unusual noise: Like anything with a motor, a consistent hum when running is quite normal. However, a clunking or crunching sound is likely to indicate worn bearings, and a popping sound near the impeller could mean cavitation.
- Extreme vibration: A properly installed pump that is working well should not overly vibrate, and therefore any excessive levels should be checked for impeller imbalance, damage and misalignment of the pump and motor.
- Corrosion: Rusting, cracking or discolouration of a pump’s casing or pipework need to be acted on immediately. Corrosion can result in pump failure through a weakening of the casing and components and contamination of the fluid being pumped.
- Overheating of bearings or motors: Some explanations may be internal rubbing/wearing of parts, excess oil and debris on the motor, the wrong power input, the pump running against a dead head or at a duty it cannot efficiently maintain.
- Clogging: Blocked or damaged impellers and valves are likely if a pump cannot handle the size of any present solids. You will usually notice clogging quite quickly as the pump will not deliver the same quantities of fluid.
- Differential Pressure: Inspect the operating pressure by calculating the difference between the pressure at the inlet and outlet of the pump to check that it is running on its curve.
- Coupling alignment: Checking the pump and motor have not become misaligned. If they have, then check the bearings for wear.
Keep spare parts on site
One of the largest causes of pump downtime is not routinely replacing wearing parts and, instead, waiting for them to fail before changing them. It is recommended to replace specific components such as the mechanical seals, wear rings and impellers every one to two years to prevent leaking and other issues. Best practice is to hold stock of typical wearing parts on-site to avoid any delay in maintaining a pump if any components fail. To save additional carriage and admin costs, it makes sense to buy wearing parts at the same time as you purchase your pump.
Employ a maintenance schedule
Preventive pump maintenance should be planned into a schedule. By outlining what tasks need to be carried out daily, weekly, monthly and annually, maintenance becomes a smoother, more efficient process, and tasks don’t get forgotten. Not only does it reduce the likelihood of unexpected pump failures and downtime, but it also helps to reduce the cost of ownership as replacing worn parts, for example, is a much cheaper process than replacing an entire pump.