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18 Feb 15: Applications in Use 10: More on installed spares

 

Last week's column on installed spares drew a couple of comments.

 

Faithful correspondent Bryan Creagan of KSH in Montreal wrote:

 

"I cannot agree with you more, that installed spares are a waste of time and capital.  Out of 26 new machines I've worked on, only one has installed spares and that was supposedly because the machine was remote.  Every process pump (40+) was spared complete with piping and electrical services. 

35 years later,  half of them are missing and the other half are in no shape to actually function as a spare.  The floor can't be cleaned properly because there are twice as many concrete bases and U drains are compromised.  Rotten stock sits in the pump inlet and discharge piping for the non-functioning pumps leading to breaks on the machine.  Maintenance is a problem because of reduced floor space.  The list goes on.


"In summary, the worst owner decision I've ever seen and there were many on this particular project."

 

Then, Robert Eamer wrote:

 

"I would just add one caveat - where safety is the issue. Examples such as emergency generators (really an installed back-up to the electrical grid) and boiler feedwater pumps. In cases such as these, a rigorous need for regular maintenance and testing in service when there is no emergency is critical; otherwise we are just kidding ourselves in thinking that we are covered."

 

I (Jim) have the following comments on Robert's response.

 

The absolute worst installed spares disaster I ever encountered involved boiler feedwater pumps.  It was January in northeastern Ohio. The temperature was in the teens.  I was at my father-in-law's funeral, out-of-town, not even at the mill, but this happened on my watch and I was responsible for it.

 

We had four (count 'em--four) boiler feedwater pumps, any one of which, in good condition could handle our three old chain grate coal-fired boilers.  There was even a jockey pump that had been put in series with these four pumps in order to boost the pressure if any one of the four pumps could not do the job.

 

The entire mill, let alone the powerhouse, was a maintenance nightmare due to years of neglect. I was part of the turnaround team.  I had fired the powerhouse superintendent and replaced him with a competent, tough as nails maintenance foreman whom I  had promoted.  He had orders to get the pumps in order.  He was in the process of doing this when he lost them all. It was to the credit of the boiler operators that they were able to pull the fires in time to save the boiler side walls.

 

But the mill was down and it was cold.  We had a standby natural gas boiler.  They were able to get it up and running with its own water supply.  It was used to keep the mill from completely freezing up while repairs could be made, which took 48 hours.

 

When the dust settled, I still had my job.  I found and refurbished a large multistage pump that could blow the tops off the boilers.  I put it in a special room with spotlights on it.  I refurbished one of the other pumps (the one with the best casing) as a backup.  We tore out the rest of that junk.

 

This was a classic case of what happens when you rely on installed spares.

 


 

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