All good things come to an end and flow control systems are no exception to this rule.
Most equipment in the flow measuring industry are supplied along with an estimation of the products estimated lifetime. Sometimes this is also supplemented by a technician to account for specific factors that can effect it, due to the intended application of the device during the installation process.
These guidelines should be treated as what they are, though, and that is a guide. With regular maintenance being the most competent method of assessing the condition of the equipment, you will be able to identify the tell-tale signs that will indicate all is not well, enabling you to take the correct form of action.
Below we identify five common signs that are effective signals in letting you that you need to upgrade your equipment.
The most common need to change or upgrade control equipment is brought about with a change in the system that it’s monitoring. This can involve either a new or extended operation within the business or a simple change to the layout of the existing equipment.
As such, any change in practice by the business should factor the systems new needs and circumstance into the planning and budgetary stages of the implementation. This will account for equipment becoming redundant and in need of an upgrade, but also potentially provide an alternative use for the old equipment at another point in the system, assuming that it’s still in good working order of course.
Factors that can have a knock-on effect with monitoring equipment can range from new piping networks which alter the fluid dynamics, different compositions of the fluids contents which therefore exerts different properties that fall outside of the equipment’s operational parameters, or environmental conditions such as increased humidity or increased vibrations in the monitoring area that alters the performance of the control equipment.
Incompatible New Systems
A change in physical operations is not the only revision that can trigger the need for additional upgrades. Changes to the computer systems in a business can also play a large part in out-dating old technologies and control systems too can be vulnerable to this.
As the central point of control, flow monitoring equipment can be viewed as the nervous system within an operation. If the networking ability is compromised between either the components of the control equipment or to the central processing hub, then this too will require remedial action.
One advantage within this area is that partial upgrades are a more common solution and also much cheaper and easier to execute. With software upgrades being offered free of charge by many manufacturers for their equipment and patches, in both hard and software, available to bridge communication issues, upgrading computer programs to accommodate new protocols can be a much more straight-forward task. This will still require a trained engineer to implement the changes ensuring there is no faults or bugs which could disrupt the system, but it can also be quickly remedied resulting in less downtime for the business operation.
Historic Mmaintenance and Performance Records
One of the main parts of a maintenance schedule is recording all information discovered and corrected during the service. This might seem to many on the outside as an unnecessary complication which is yet another sign of overreaching bureaucracy, but these records are particularly useful in identifying patterns.
Certainly within larger companies, the maintenance tasks, both scheduled and ad-hoc, will be completed by different technicians and so the written record of events provides a clear and detailed communication of the equipment’s actual performance. Through analyzing these records it becomes easy to find re-occurring problems being experienced and a reduction in equipment reliability shown through an increasing number of services.
The performance logs, meanwhile, can point towards the system’s overall efficiency over time. This can be used to highlight a deterioration in the equipment’s functional ability which can be more than the sum of its part, meaning that the equipment is becoming compromised beyond the nurture of re-calibration and maintenance.
Who Watches the Watchmen?
Whilst historic data provides one avenue, real-time information should also be used to check the accuracy levels being produced by control equipment. Through the use of secondary equipment to validate the data being generated from the control system, you provide a safety net and a greater overall level of reliability within the operation.
Portable and clamp-on devices can verify that measurements are correct and within operating parameters, working robustly as intended. More importantly, cross-checking these results can also ensure the equipment is producing accurate information at each point of this parameter range.
When a piece of monitoring equipment begins to fade in reliability, one of the first aspects of its performance to be affected is the range at which it effectively operates. This can, therefore, be used as an early warning that the equipment is reaching the end of its life-cycle or is in need of an overhaul to restore it to maximum operating efficiency.
The most central aspect of any business is always the sustained level of profitability being achieved. This can lead to decisions being made that are irrelevant to the condition of existing equipment if a more financially viable alternative is possible.
Not only is the cost of increased maintenance likely to tip a decision, but an increase in the price of spare parts or specialist technical support from third-party companies can also be a major factor to consider, especially if this is brought about because a piece of equipment is outdated and becoming obsolete, as the problem is only likely to intensify.
Another financial factor is the rise of new technology and equipment entering the market. A new solution may become available which offers the business greater savings in running costs. It could, therefore, prove beneficial for the company to replace and upgrade this equipment despite an initial economic outlay and a potentially unavoidable period of operational downtime if the rewards of doing so prove to be favorable in the long-term.