Castle Pumps explains nine ways to automate your pumps to free up your operators’ time for more value-adding tasks, while preventing pump damage, reducing waste and improving accuracy in the process.
A quote says, “Wasted time is worse than wasted money”. In fact, it is highly likely that wasted time is wasted money for your business, as labour costs are one of the most expensive overheads. So it is worth considering if your processes or production lines involve the time and labour-intensive manual operation of your pumps. If they do, significant savings could be made by automating them to free up operative time. Here is a selection of ways to automate your pumping systems.
Sometimes your pumps need to run for specified periods before stopping. For example, a circulating application may require a product to be pumped for ten minutes every four hours to prevent the ingredients from separating or the oil in oil-based products from sinking to the bottom. Fitting a timer would not only reduce the amount of time someone has to spend walking to the pump and operating it, but it also eliminates the chance of someone forgetting and it not being done.
Pumps used for dosing a specific volume of fluid can be supplied with a batch meter that can turn the pump off once the amount has been dispensed. This reduces reliance on the operator and ensures the amount is accurate and easily repeated. Batch meters are ideal for container filling applications and adding a set amount of additive or ingredient into a mixture.
A stroke counter is similar in principle to a batch meter but specifically designed for air-operated pumps. It counts the number of times the pump ejects air and can turn it off once a specified number has been performed. By knowing how much fluid is transferred per stroke, you can use stroke counters for batching. However, it may be less accurate if the fluid’s viscosity can differ depending on the batch or temperature.
Level switches can also control your pumps’ start/stop cycles. When the fluid in a container has reached a certain level, the pump can automatically turn on or off and continue until the sensor detects another specified level. This is popular for tank filling and emptying applications such as waste tanks.
Dry run protection
If your pumps are left to run with no fluid passing through them, they can overheat, and cause component seizure and damage to the seals and impellers. Pauses in your production line or operators forgetting to turn the pump off can result in dry running. A dry run sensor can automatically turn a pump off when a lack of fluid is detected.
The fitting of a leak sensor can turn your pumps off upon detection of fluid leaking from them. These are particularly good practices for pumps handling high-cost products or hazardous fluids, and chemicals that can be dangerous or flammable.
Variable speed drive
Where there are differing duty demands on the pump at different times, VSDs can help automate the speed of the motor to actual requirements rather than maximum capacity. They can be used to slow down or speed up the pump’s motor depending upon the pressure detected in the system.
Increasingly sophisticated systems have integrated data loggers that, without the need for manual inspection, can monitor factors such as vibration, pressure, temperature and motor current and track trends to ensure that issues can be spotted before they cause a pump or process to fail.
Radio-operated control pads enable pump start/stop or reverse operation to be carried out without operators physically needing to go to the pump. If a pump is operated multiple times per day, productivity can be drastically improved with this approach.
Whilst these are all excellent ways to automate a pump, it is rare that a particular installation will utilise them all. Castle Pumps advises users to think about what costs the most time or money in a process and decide which automation feature will be the best to employ.