A facility's maintenance team is at the leading edge when it comes to ensuring that processes are being run efficiently, effectively, and safely. Utmost care must be taken in all aspects of industrial maintenance; work on process pumps and equipment is no exception. The following best practices, when consistently followed, can help keep your plant running smoothly.
1. Remember to wear your PPE (personal protective equipment) whenever you are working around or maintaining a process pump. This includes safety glasses, gloves, hearing protection, and a respirator if necessary.
2. Check the MSDS sheet prior to working on a pump unit. These sheets are required for every chemical being used. The sheets include the chemical makeup and the First Aid measures necessary for care.
3. When installing a process pump, it is necessary to recheck all parts of the system before starting up the unit.
- Ensure that the motor is wired correctly. If the wiring is not correct, it can cause the motor to rotate in the incorrect direction and will either a) spin the impeller off if it is a threaded design, or b) prevent the pump from moving the product to full capacity because of incorrect rotation.
- Prime the pump if it is necessary before startup. If the pump is allowed to run dry, it can cause the mechanical seal to "burn up," or the pump can overheat and seize up. These things can occur in a very short period of time.
- Always check the power frame before startup. Each pump with a power frame or bearing setup will have lubrication necessities. Quite a few pumps are now shipped "dry" without any lubrication oil. Make certain you follow the manufacturer's specified lubrication requirements; improper or incorrect lubrication will most likely void any existing warranty.
- When installing a base, make sure that the base is absolutely level, properly supported, and anchored. Recheck pump alignment with the motor before operating.
- When aligning a pump and motor assembly, always mount from the pipe to the pump. Never pull the piping to meet the bolted-down pump flanges. This can cause major misalignment issues, pipe strain, and leakages.
4. If specified and on all large units, start the pump with a soft start installed. This will prevent quite a few issues caused by starting the motor at full load. These type of "hard starts" can cause the motor to burn out and can cause issues on the pump side, up to and including: Shaft breakage, impeller shearing, excessive motor strain, and unnecessary wear on couplings if they are installed.
5. Check, recheck, and triple-check that all valves in the system are open and operating properly.
6. If an installed unit is changed in service with a different impeller trim, style of sealing method, elastomers, or something else, be sure to note the change within your company's maintenance tracking system as well as on the pump tag. This will prevent numerous questions and the potential for unsafe misapplications based on old information. Distributors are only as good as the information they are provided.
7. If you are in a major breakdown for a pump, unless absolutely necessary, stay away from the pump boneyard. Each pump is sold for a specific application, and while it may look identical to the pump installed, there may have a number of differences internally.
8. Cost savings: Be the hero for your plant – having a backup pump for applications that can shut down an entire system is a must! Expedited shipping and plant downtime add up quickly while a facility awaits arrival of the new unit. Even having a seal kit kept on the shelf can mean the difference between a few hours of downtime and a few days.
We all have work to do and are under pressure to get it done quickly. However, with proper controls in place and a solid foundation for safety, the goal of higher uptime levels will be much easier to achieve.