Each owner of a bulk handling system understands the importance of performing regular maintenance versus trouble-free operating and income. Besides this maintenance, the knowledge of the system operating crew is of significant influence on the equipment’s performance and process. An explanation of this crew skills influence has been addressed in our earlier blog: PNEUMATIC SHIP UNLOADER: Operator Skills vs Unloader Capacity.
Quite some equipment owners have the feeling that only good maintenance is the ticket to trouble-free operation with the corresponding saving/earnings in operational costs. This blog will address another factor for reducing operating costs for gaining even more production rates with is frequently yet unknown under equipment owners.
Most bulk handling systems are equipped with valves, pumps, compressors, blowers, measuring instrumentation, a monitoring system with computers, etc. All pieces (like a puzzle) need to fit and work in good harmony for optimal performance to energy consumption. Over time all equipment is undergoing normal wear and tear, which results in, for example, extra friction, internal leakages, higher temperatures, variable tensions strength in mechanical springs, etc., all in all resulting in less performance and higher operational costs.
By only replacing worn-out components and expecting that the rest of the equipment (system) will adapt automatically for bringing back the performance to its original design and lowering operation costs again is a fairytale that never comes out.
Step one and the golden rule for the running/operating equipment perform correct maintenance, but there is the optional and recommended step 2: tuning and tweaking.
Let’s take a look into, for example, a damaged tank pressurization valve its influence on performance in a pneumatic system.
- Internal leakage
- Extra wear and tear on the surrounding parts
- Longer pressurization times
- Extra energy during pressurization
- Higher temperatures in the compressor
- Potential alarms going to be triggered
- To overcome the alarms, the operator might adjust the control system parameters
- More cooling required
- More time for conveying the cargo
- Lower overall performance
At some point, the crew decides to stop the operation and exchange the valve. Once the valve has been back into operation, it is expected that the system will convey as previous prior the damage. Still, the crew must first check all variables like temperature monitoring, energy consumption, resetting alarms, and not forgetting, putting back the control system parameter settings to their original value. This is only for one part of the many, many components within a complete bulk handling system. For an operator taking care and attention to all components while keeping it running at the lowest operational costs might be overwhelming, and a chance to forget a couple of “puzzle pieces” is potential.
In case the crew performs excellent attention to maintenance, and according to the book, it is still recommended and optional to pay extra attention to the complete “recalibration” of the entire system.
By doing this recalibration, all components will be one by one inspected, tested, and, where needed, fixed or adjusted to their required settings. During this period, the entire system’s operation is down and requires, therefore, to be scheduled in advance for minimum impact to the daily operation.
Tuning and Tweaking
After the recalibration, it is needed to collect the data about the following;
- No more alarms and alarm list reset?
- No more internal leakages?
- Are all components able to be trouble-free operated/controlled?
- Is the receiving part of the system to its design performance, like pressures, volumes, capacity?
- Is the conveying part of the system to its design performance, like pressures, volumes, capacity?
In case all the above has been witnessed and filed, it is time to tune and tweak the entire system for working together again.
As the system and its components are working as designed, we must consider that each parameter chance will influence another part of the system. For example;
- It has been observed from the files that the receiving part of the system is underperforming
This underperformance could be caused by various influences like cargo conditions/specifications, crew operating performance/skills, control system settings, pressures, temperatures, etc.
Based on the tuning and tweaking party skills, a priority in the needed attention points and corresponding values is then selected and executed accordingly. At the same time, each adjustment/input is linked to another part of the system. The experience level of the flow engineer comes into place on knowing which “wheel need to be turned/dialled”.
In this case study, we have a customer who mixes fly-ash with cement in a ratio of 30/70, assuming profit per tonnage sold mixed product is USD 10. The convey system he uses for collecting fly-ash is underperforming at only 100tph, meaning the needed time for mixing both products becomes more protracted, while the selling rate to the market is now dropping. Actions are now required:
Step 01 (tuning and tweaking the conveying rate of the fly-ask collecting system)
Let’s assume that by the correct tuning, a convey increase rate of 8% is achieved, which results in approximately 20.000 ton extra fly-ash on an annual basis is available for the customer to mix.
Now able to sell 8% more mixed product to the market per annual (approximately 66.000 ton)
Now able to sell 8% more mixed product to the market per annual (approximately 660.000 USD earnings)
So, by investing, let’s say three (3) days per annual of tuning and tweaking (3 days of downtime of the system and not selling product to the market), much savings can be achieved; see below the summary.
- Each day of downtime will cost him 1.000-ton profit equals USD 10.000, in total USD 30.000 “investing”
- Earnings after tuning and tweaking are USD 660.000 per annual.
- The efficiency ratio on tuning and tweaking is then approximately 4,5%. This means that it costs the owner only USD 0,045 to generate USD 1 of profit!
- Return on “investment” is after only 17 days!
Much attention is given to maintenance only, while an even higher efficiency ratio can be achieved via tuning and tweaking by a correct skilled party.
Based on more than 50 years of experience in this industry, Lion Bulk Handling can perform this acquisition for you. Book your visit here: http://www.lionbulkhandling.com/services/