The importance of regular pump system maintenance08 January 2024

pump maintenance

Regular pump system maintenance is essential to prevent significant cost and reputational issues

Failing to adequately maintain industrial pumps can lead to various issues that can compromise the safety, efficiency, and longevity of the equipment and the wider systems the pumps are part of. One of the most immediate risks is the failure of the pump itself. Worn-out parts, clogged systems, or misalignments can cause a pump to break down, leading to potentially costly unplanned downtime. In addition, further unnecessary costs can be incurred when a poorly-maintained pump consumes more energy to deliver the same output.

Inadequate maintenance can also accelerate the wear and tear of pump components, leading to more frequent parts replacement and higher maintenance costs. Frequent breakdowns, reduced efficiency, and the need for replacement parts can significantly increase operational costs.

Worn-out seals or corroded parts can lead to leakages, resulting in the loss of valuable fluids, environmental contamination, and safety hazards. Without proper lubrication or cooling, pumps can overheat, damaging internal components and reducing their lifespan.

Other issues, such as misalignment or imbalance, can cause excessive vibration, damaging the pump and its supporting infrastructure. Also, cavitation, which can be a symptom of poor maintenance, can damage a pump’s impeller and other components, as vapour bubbles in the pumped liquid collapse, causing destructive shock waves.

Good maintenance practices

Regularly inspecting pumps for signs of wear, damage, or corrosion helps in identifying potential issues before they escalate. Proper lubrication is also vital for the smooth operation of pumps. It’s essential to use the correct type of lubricant and to ensure it is applied at the correct intervals. Regularly checking and replacing worn-out seals is crucial, as is ensuring that cooling systems are working to prevent overheating.

Vibration can indicate misalignment, imbalance, or other mechanical issues. Regularly monitoring and analysing vibrations can help with the early detection of problems. Ensuring that the pump and its motor are properly aligned is also essential to prevent wear and tear and to ensure efficient operation.

As part of condition monitoring solutions, vibration sensors can now continuously monitor a pumping system to identify vibration-related issues as they emerge. Other types of sensors can track a pump’s performance and help to identify problems like reduced flow or increased energy consumption. Systems such as these can also monitor the state of bearings to enable them to be replaced as soon as any performance issues are indicated.

Ensuring the maintenance team is well-trained enables them to identify and address issues promptly and to follow necessary safety protocols during maintenance activities to prevent accidents and injuries.

Keeping detailed records of maintenance, parts replacements, and performance metrics can help plan future maintenance and identify recurring issues. Having a well-stocked inventory of essential spare parts, which can be informed by historical requirements, can reduce downtime in case of failures. And understanding the expected lifecycle of a pump and planning for eventual replacement or upgrades can help in budgeting and ensure continuous operations.

Industrial pump maintenance involves a combination of regular checks, timely interventions and proactive measures to ensure longevity and efficient operation.

By Thomas Marks, general manager, the Association for Electrical and Mechanical Trades (AEMT)

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