Sometimes it makes sense to make sure you get what you pay for, especially when large quantities of material and/or energy change hands. The problem is that by the time flowmeters (aka, the cash register) are rigorously audited, the various parties are often locked in a legal battle that makes resolving the technical problems much more difficult. Let me give you a couple instances of how companies got into this position with the understanding that I cannot divulge information about specific legal cases.
A new sewage district contracted to have an existing water treatment plant accept its sewage. Residents in the new district noticed their sewage bills were much larger than other residents already served by the water treatment plant. The problem was traced to expensive surcharges for high flows during wet weather events. Flowmeter performance was not seriously considered during the initial legal battle, and the district was ordered to pay the invoices with the surcharges. By the time I became involved, residents in the new district did not even shop in the town where the sewage treatment plant was located. My audit revealed significant flow measurement and calibration issues that were painfully resolved over time at considerable ongoing expense. These issues likely would have been resolved quickly and more economically had I been involved prior to or during the original legal proceeding.
In another case, two companies were locked in a multimillion-dollar legal battle when (as part of its strategy) one company claimed the steam flowmeters used for billing purposes were not accurate. The primary reasons for this claim were that the flowmeters were approximately 50 years old and had not been calibrated for about seven years. The case was settled shortly after I audited the steam flowmeters and their measurements in conjunction with the steam generation process — finding them to be surprisingly accurate despite their age and calibration history.
Repeating my opening statement, sometimes it makes sense to make sure you are getting what you pay for.
David W. Spitzer is a regular contributor to Flow Control magazine and a principal in Spitzer and Boyes LLC, which offers engineering, seminars, strategic, marketing consulting, distribution consulting and expert witness services for manufacturing and automation companies. Spitzer and Boyes is also the publisher of the Industrial Automation INSIDER. He has more than 40 years of experience and has written more than 10 books and 350 articles about flow measurement, instrumentation and process control.
Spitzer may be reached at 845-623-1830 or via spitzerandboyes.com. Click on the “Products” tab to find his Consumer Guides to various flow and level measurement technologies.