How Fluid System Fabrication Can Alleviate Resource Constraints
Bill Menz, Director, Global Technology Centers
Fluid system operators today are tasked with generating as much value from their systems as possible. At numerous points throughout a fluid system, some common inefficiencies can make this challenging.
In today’s industrial environment, keeping those inefficiencies in check can be more difficult than ever before. Industrial fluid processing facilities around the world must do more with less, as highly tenured employees near or enter retirement and leave behind a growing skills gap. Meanwhile, in-house technical staffs worldwide have dwindled as organizations have increasingly sought cost-cutting measures to maximize profitability in a changing industry.
Maintenance and instrumentation technicians, in particular, are in short supply. However, the role they play is as important as ever. Ensuring the proper operation and good health of critical applications throughout a fluid system is still imperative, even if operators have fewer in-house resources to do the job.
How do plants overcome these challenges? Outsourcing some common, but critical, fabrication and assembly work can be one way for fluid system operators to focus on maximizing the value of the end product. But there are some important considerations to be made when working with outside vendors for critical systems. How can operators tell if quality, leak-free work is being done at every connection?
Below are some common, essential applications that you can outsource and why it may be beneficial.
Grab Sampling Panels
Quality grab sampling practices are a must for any fluid system generating a product with a precise chemical composition. Quality grab sampling assemblies help ensure sample accuracy, which is important to ensure product quality. Additionally, because technicians capture samples from running processes, careful design and fabrication are required to ensure operator and plant safety.
In aging fluid systems, it is not uncommon to see rudimentary grab sampling systems—a single valve coming off a process line with no additional safeguard in place, for instance—that are regularly used to obtain a sample. Not only is this process unsafe, but it may not result in a representative sample depending on the process or application. Updating these designs is a must to preserve personnel safety and sample representativeness but allotting the resources to do so is not always easy.
Custom grab sampling systems, with differing designs and configurations tailored to various application needs, are available today. Safe, accurate sampling systems must take pressure, time delay, temperature, hazardous material, materials of construction, surface treatments, and purging all into their design considerations. For sampling system engineers who are lacking resources, it can be beneficial to entrust the fabrication and assembly of these critical systems to a team of experts.
Seal Support Systems
Mechanical seals are critical components of pumps, compressors, and a variety of other rotating equipment. To ensure those seals are always performing reliably, seal support systems can be designed for reliable performance and ease of maintenance.
Seal support systems often operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making their ongoing reliability a major concern for rotating equipment operators. Because they support a plant’s critical infrastructure, these systems require a high level of reliability in design, construction and throughout the selection of individual componentry. For instance, the use of tubing in support systems instead of welded pipe can drastically reduce the number of potential leak points in a support system. If a seal support system fails due to leaks or other reasons, it can lead to seal failure and costly, unplanned downtime for the plant.
In today’s industrial environment, it is not always possible to ensure that seal support systems are continuously monitored or serviced appropriately. If component replacement is required, it must be done quickly to avoid prolonged downtime. Supply chain reliability, proactive service and support, and quality parts should be considered. Choosing a vendor who can provide all of these services can help ensure consistent operational efficiency.
Gas Distribution Systems
Many industrial operations utilize a variety of industrial gases which are delivered to the plant through gas bottles, bulk gas storage, or on-site generation. Since fluid system operators are tasked with many other critical processes, it is not uncommon for gas distribution systems to be overlooked during regular maintenance. In these instances, not only could plants be losing money on an unnoticed leaky system, but a serious safety risk might be going unchecked, especially if the system is carrying a potentially hazardous gas like hydrogen or oxygen.
Quality components and leak-tight design are just as important here as any other critical application in the plant, along with ongoing maintenance and inspection. Gas distribution is one more critical system where resource-strapped plants can seize an advantage with a reliable, knowledgeable vendor.
What to Consider When Choosing a Fluid System Fabrication Provider
In today’s industrial fluid processing industry, in-house technical instrumentation resources are not a luxury most plant managers have at their disposal. In needing to ensure the proper operation of every fluid system and application throughout the plant, many operators and engineers are continuously playing defense—instead of adding value to their facility and their business.
Outsourcing the fabrication of critical systems and applications is one way for plant managers to alleviate those resource constraints, but it is important to select a vendor with the right qualities to improve operations. Engineering expertise, stringent testing, and high-quality components and materials are things to look for, along with proactive assistance from design teams who work to meet unique needs with custom or routine repeatable solutions.
Interested in learning more about custom fluid system applications from a reliable provider? Discover what is possible with Swagelok® Custom Solutions—expert assembly and fabrication for panels and enclosures, built with quality components for every part of fluid processing. If you’re interested in learning more, contact your authorized sales and service center.