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ARTICLE #41: Pump Training – Do You Need It? 

If equipment operates with no problems, maintenance and operating personnel knowledgeable and no process changes have taken place for a long time, nor new company changes are envisioned on the horizon – you better off spending your money on a vacation cruse to the Bahamas. But, if you go to bed with a cell phone on a night table, dreading a call that your plant, or part of it, is down, then you may want to give your Bahamas cruise idea a different priority. And if, when aligning a pump, your maintenance crew knows that a “come-along” is not an expression inviting you to join for lunch, but a chain with a ratchet, - then you got another reason to consider training. 

And once you decide that training is for you and/or your organization, the next step is to determine exactly what kind of training. One day or one week? At a nicely air conditioned conference room, or at a sweaty maintenance shop? Maintenance only, or to include operators? How about engineers? Do they need training, or do they already know all the answers, and if so, why do you still leave your emergency cell number at the plant?

 The days of leather chairs and overhead slides at a conference room with breakfast, lunch and hors d’oeuvres (I cant’ believe I can spell this) are gone. Theory is important, but without practical, hands-on reinforcement, it is of little use for those who work with machinery, such as pumps.  Real pumps are not nice and clean demo sets. They are rusty, worn, corroded, broken and jammed. And, the instruction manuals are often misplaced, lost, or out of date.

 Consider the example of worn packings shown below:


 What is wrong in this picture? Why is a shaft sleeve so worn out? Why in the middle? Where is a lantern ring, and – what is a lantern ring? There are five packing rings shown, but why two are smaller size then the other three?

 Taking a pump apart, touching and feeling its internals is very different then going “by the book”. When such hands-on experience is coupled with pump basics theory, only then a true effect and a goal of training can be achieved.

 The group size should not be excessive, to make sure each individual has a chance to get his or her share of hands-on training. Typically, 12-16 people is an optimal group size, and for larger plants it is best to select several mixed groups, to make sure there is sufficient coverage to operate the plant by those who are not in training at the time. It is a good idea to also have operators and engineers at the group, and not only maintenance. This helps operators better understand the consequences of their actions, such as pump flow control, energy consumption, and reliability issues, which are not normally apparent sitting at the control room. Besides, synergy gained through interaction between maintenance, operators and engineers can be an excellent side benefit which management may welcome. And, speaking of management, it would not hurt to have even some top managers to climb down his or her tower (once in a while) and mingle with the troops. Besides, it may be time to learn something new anyway, as things tend to change over the years.


 Beware of those that claim to have no problems, as only those who do not do anything, do not have problems. Pump Reliability issues are usually easier identifiable, as they are more apparent: if equipment breaks often, it requires action to make it last longer (better MTBF), or even eliminate failures completely, if possible. Less visible, however are energy efficiency problems. Centrifugal pumps do not operate at a fixed flow rate, but it changes depending on the demand. When throttled below a so-called Best Efficiency Point (BEP), a pump inefficiency can cause tremendous waste of energy, and the actual value of the wasted energy will amaze you. Yet, not enough is done even these days, to properly evaluate pump-to-system interaction, with the purpose to identify, prioritize, and correct inefficiencies of the pumping systems.

 As a quiz for you, how much money is “burned to waste” for a typical 2,000 hp cooling water circulating pump at the plant, when such pump operates at 50% flow rate? (The first three correct answers will qualify for a free attendance of our Pump School). Send your feedback to us at www.PumpingMachinery.com. The answer will be posted.

Dr. Lev Nelik, P.E., APICS

Pumping Machinery, LLC

Pump School Training Services