(a.k.a. “Pump Guy”)
I’ve complained often in this column that industrial pumps lack sufficient gauges and instrumentation. Every engineer studies in school that pumps pump differential head or pressure. The suction pressure gauge indicates the energy (NPSHa) coming into the pump, and the pump’s work begins at suction head.
Then, the engineer goes to work in a process plant. He buys and uses pumps without gauges, and the engineer thinks he has a vibration problem.
I went to a pump show recently. I polled a few pump company executives, asking them “Why do you sell and ship your pumps without gauges and/or flowmeters?”
Among the responses were:
“When the gauges are quoted with the pump, the user/purchaser will state that they can buy them cheaper or already have them on the shelf.”
“If the pump supplier were to include the gauges installed; they will break off in shipment.”
“If shipped loose with the pump, the gauges will get lost, broken, or still ignored.”
“Anyway you look at it, the pump supplier will not win in supplying gauges. We can provide the means for the user to succeed when operating his equipment, but we can’t operate it properly for them.”
“EVERY pump manufacturer has gauges available to sell with their equipment, for a price.”
For A Price
I bought a new TV recently. The TV came with a remote control. The remote control uses a set of batteries, included in the box. If the appliance store salesman had said, ”We can sell you a set of batteries for your remote control, for a price. I would have said, ”That’s OKAY, don’t bother. I have some spare batteries at home in the kitchen drawer that I can use.” That’s true because I have an old pimento cheese container with a hodge-podge of spare batteries, C-cells, D-cells, 9-volts, AAs and AAAs for flashlights, gadgets, and smoke alarms.
I might have had 2 AAAs in the kitchen drawer. The new remote might have required 3 AAAs. I might have had a regular 9-volt, and the new remote could require an alkaline 9-volt. Then again, the new remote might have used a small watch-type battery, which I definitely do not have in my cheese container.
|The Pump Guy makes the case that pumps shipped without the instruments to properly operate them are like televisions shipped without batteries included for the remote control … It just doesn’t make sense.|
Then I’d be out of luck and upset with the appliance store and the salesman who didn’t push the battery issue or explain it to me correctly. But this wasn’t an issue, because two AA alkaline batteries were neatly packed into the box with the remote for my new TV. I installed them, and I still have my batteries in the pimento cheese container. Now let’s talk about new pumps shipped without gauges.
If a pump salesman offered to ship a new pump with a set of proper pressure gauges for a price, it’s likely that a dedicated purchasing agent would decline the offer, noting he already has plenty of pressure gauges on the shelf. A purchasing agent is only trying to save his company some money; that’s his mission. His job is to handle the paperwork of procurement, and he might remember having bought three cases of pressure gauges just last week.
Maybe the gauges he bought were simple gauges reading from zero PSI to 2,000 PSI. What good are these gauges if his new pump needs compound gauges that read vacuum to 60 PSI? And, what if his new pump needs the pigtails on the gauges or the isolation diaphragms? Well then, that pump will be installed into the process line without proper instrumentation.
When the bearings and seals begin failing mysteriously on that pump, the maintenance people will remember the pump manufacturer and the distributor who supplied them with shoddy product, without gauges, and called it “good service.” Next time, they’ll buy an imported pump on the Internet, which will fuel more talk of our jobless economic recovery, but I digress.
The response about “installed gauges being damaged during shipment” is well taken. Pressure gauges stick out from the pump, kinda like ET’s head on a stem. These gauges on paletted or crated pumps in containers might arrive damaged.
Maybe we should tell the automobile companies to ship new cars without side rearview mirrors and antennas; the external mirrors and antennas also extend away from the body of the car.
The fact is, most new cars arrive to the showrooms without damage to the mirrors or antenna. These mirrors normally collapse, or fold-in flush with the door to prevent damage during shipment. They’re deployed at the dealer showroom. The antennas retract to prevent damage.
Maybe the pump companies could install the gauges on a flexible swivel fitting that folds flush with the pump housing while in the shipping crate. They could be deployed at the pump dealer or on installation at the pump site. Swivel fittings exist. They’re popular on Cats and other mobile hydraulic equipment. It certainly is an opportunity for a rogue pump company to step away from the competition.
There are other areas on most pumps that would provide a measure of protection to the gauges. For instance, the gauges could fit into the suction and discharge nozzles of larger pumps during shipment. The gauges could be affixed to the inside of the plastic flange caps. When the caps are removed, the gauges would come out with the cap.
If not inside the suction and discharge nozzles, another nested or sheltered area on most pumps is the space immediately behind the flange faces. The gauges could be secured with duct tape right behind the flange face where the gauge boss is.
Most pumps have enough space to shelter two pressure gauges in the housing between the bearings and the seal chamber. This is normally dead space available for filling. Small gauges could be secured under the bearing chamber with duct tape between the front and back support feet of the pump.
Did you ever buy a computer program in the big brightly colored box that looks like it could house a couple of student dictionaries? And inside the big box is a lot of packing material with a little CD in a slip and a photocopied owner’s manual. When the pump companies supply the CD of the owners manual, they could hide a couple of small gauges inside that big box. My point is, if they thought about it, the pump companies could develop a plan to provide instrumentation controls on their new pumps.
And who better than the pump manufacturer would know what gauge range is best for its pumps? You can’t expect the customer to know this. I teach this in all my lectures.
Look at the customer specs. If you know the suction head, motor speed, impeller diameter, and the probable service (orange juice, river water, gasoline) of the pump, then you know what range gauge to use. I would imagine all pump companies know this, right? You’d think!
Here’s an idea. Most pump companies design gauge bosses into the castings of their flanges for installing gauges. And some pump companies will drill, thread, and plug the holes for the gauges on the flanges. Maybe the plug is the problem.
If the hole is left unplugged and the pump is started, it will spew through the hole. I recommend throwing away the plug for the hole. Then, the only option is plug the hole with the gauge. Yes! Yes! Yes! I have exorcised the demons!!!
Larry Bachus, founder of pump services firm Bachus Company Inc., is a regular contributor to Flow Control magazine. He is a pump consultant, lecturer, and inventor based in Nashville, Tenn. Mr. Bachus is a member of ASME and lectures in both English and Spanish. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615 361-7295.
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