An interview with Adrian Goodbrand, Director of Sales and Marketing at Vacuum Furnace Engineering (VFE)
“Perfect production goes hand-in-hand with planned preventative maintenance. A simple maintenance schedule, incorporating the annual/bi-annual services and the routine plant checks delivered between the services, is the best method of preventing a breakdown and maximising uptime so operators get the most value and optimum output from the machines.”
As an essential part of creating the vacuum within a furnace, the integrity of a machine’s vacuum pump is paramount. But as Adrian explains, the global pandemic is continuing to challenge many manufacturers’ abilities to adequately maintain these vital parts.
“Because of COVID-19, some sites are struggling to get their machines serviced as regularly as they usually would. Others are finding the process more complicated due to government guidelines for working safely during coronavirus. In many cases, equipment has been lying idle. When it comes around to production returning to these sites, operators need to be able to guarantee that the machines are back to full health before they begin production.”
Read on to discover why vacuum pump maintenance is so important, how to identify if your pumps need servicing, and what steps to take to preserve your pumps — and your output.
The importance of pump maintenance
When a pump fails, production follows suit. Downtime can be costly in terms of the following:
- Loss of output as a result of paused production
- Cost of emergency callout and critical repairs to the pump itself
- Scrapping a critical load (this can run into £100K+ for some applications)
“Downtime is the single best reason to maintain your pumps”, Adrian explains. “A planned preventative maintenance (PPM) schedule involving routine and planned maintenance will prevent these costs. A PPM schedule involves a periodic check of the pump’s performance and an inspection of the wear and tear to parts like the seals and oil lubrication checks.”
A regular visual inspection by an accountable person will ensure the routine maintenance is carried out properly. What should this person look for when conducting their inspections?
Five early-warning signs that a pump needs servicing
“Assigning accountability for the PPM schedule to a person within the business is an effective way of diagnosing early-warning signs that the pump is not performing to an optimal level. But this person needs to be able to recognise those warning signs for what they are.”
Here are five key indicators that the pump is working properly or may be risking compliance:
- Vacuum leaks from joints/seals etc. This will reduce pump performance and increase the loss of pump suction
- Noise increase or reduction from normal levels
- Excess vibration. This could be due to a misalignment which, left unchecked, could lead to lasting damage
- Overheating of the pump or motor is a clear sign of a fault or a fault with the cooling system
- Visible blockages, either within the pump or the cooling channel
The process environment for applications can be harsh on vacuum pumps, but catching this wear and tear early and replacing worn parts as necessary will prevent costly repairs and unplanned downtime further down the line. As Adrian explains, not replacing the worn parts regularly enough or at all and waiting for failure is a major cause of pump failure.
“Putting in place a planned maintenance schedule for your vacuum pumps that incorporates all the recommended routine tasks with a spare parts replacement regime will give you the best chance reducing the cost of ownership of those pumps, unplanned downtime and the need for replacement cost.”
Vacuum pump protection
Contamination from the process in the form of particulate matter such as volatile metallic elements, organic compounds, vaporised liquids, moisture or gases can be sucked through the pump causing premature wear and tear of the pump’s internal parts.
“This excessive wear can take the form of abrasive, corrosion or adhesion and general fatigue”, Adrian explains. “Having the correct protection in place is important to prevent the acceleration of wear and tear on the pump by these means.”
Using filtration is the most common way of protecting the pump. The philosophy and type of filtration used to protect a pump is dependant on the process conditions the pump would be exposed to and the type of contamination that is given off. These also need maintaining.
“Filtration systems also require maintenance in many cases. It is important this is also included as part of the PPM schedule if improvements are to be realised. A schedule that incorporates the routine checks by a competent engineer is one of the best ways to diagnose potential faults or discover early warning signs.”
This is something that we routinely support our customers with to help them optimise their equipment and keep their businesses running, even throughout this challenging time.
Extending your pump life with routine ServiceCare
VFE’s wide range of application experience in vacuum systems, together with our team of highly skilled and qualified engineers, helps us to realise the right filtration solution for your process and the right protection for your vacuum pumps.
Operators recognising the cost and production benefits of a routine PPM schedule can sort this quickly and easily for all their vacuum furnaces using our ServiceCare agreement.
“A ServiceCare PPM contract will keep your equipment in prime condition ensuring that not only does it comply with health and safety legislation but that it operates correctly, efficiently and above all accurately”, Adrian explains. “As well as carrying out the planned checks and maintenance, our engineers will talk with your team about how you can improve your operations. That’s a key part of how we help our customers to achieve perfect production.”
Setting up a ServiceCare agreement will benefit your operations in several ways:
- Extended pump life and optimised performance
- Reduced oil use
- Minimised downtime
- Reduced waste
- Cost reduction
- Reduced environmental impact
“We also offer 24/7 callouts for some sites as required”, Adrian explains. “As part of that service, we would look at what caused the breakdown and whether or not they have a PPM schedule in place to prevent the issue happening again in the future. When it comes to the whole picture of maintenance for that pump, you're doing the best thing to optimise its life.”
If you are interested in reducing costs and future proofing your operations through a routine ServiceCare agreement, click the button below and get in touch today.