Marla Keene - 14 November 2019
The management of ageing plants has become crucial at a time when it seems like everyone - within the industry and out of it - is talking about the environment, clean energy, and global responsibility. And yet the fact remains it can be a challenge to schedule and pay for all the necessary maintenance and upkeep on equipment, much less think of upgrades.
So how should professionals faced with the need to maintain the safe and reliable operation of older equipment meet those demands and also run an efficient, “green” plant?
What about reconditioned parts? The primary concern many may have with reconditioned or refurbished valves maybe if the replacement will be any better than the part they are replacing. And it’s certainly a consideration.
An improperly reconditioned valve will at best be inefficient and inaccurate, and at worst will leak and experience systemic failures. But this is why reconditioned parts should only be considered when sourced from a reliable reseller that puts valve stock through rigorous in-house testing by their experts, and warranties their work after installation for a significant amount of time, ideally no less than two years. Buying from an unreliable source that doesn’t understand the risk factors and wear that needs to be accounted for before resale (corrosion from acids/base reactions, high-temperature damage, hydrogen embrittlement or sulfide stress cracking) is a sure way to end up with a failed part.
The other advantage of using reconditioned parts is the ability to swap out like-for-like, even if the valve currently in use has become obsolete and is no longer available from the original manufacturer. While new parts can be sourced by third-party suppliers, non-OEM parts might vary in their function or fit in a seemingly insignificant but critical way that will only be noticeable when they’ve failed on the plant’s system after they’ve been installed, leading to expensive downtime.
There is also the issue of security. While older systems often used centralized fieldbus manifolds, now technology allows for decentralization by Ethernet/IP network nodes or some other type of industrial Ethernet protocol. This technology can very often be retrofitted to current equipment and does not require a complete overhaul of what is already on site. Security issues can often be handled through personnel training and software upgrades to these networks.
Finally, what about the need to be “more green”? While the newest technology allows for options to control flow rate or advanced safety options, reconditioned parts can still fit into a green manufacturing concept. Each reconditioned part purchased is a part that will be used throughout its functional lifespan instead of being relegated to a landfill sooner than necessary, leading to full use of those materials. But if the decision is made to purchase new parts, viable legacy parts can also be sold to a remanufacturer, who will refurbish any part that still has value and extend its lifespan. This option also helps offset the cost of new equipment.
A last thought: whether the choice is made to use new or reconditioned parts, it is important to maintain an excellent channel of communication with vendors. Parts may be costly, but unforeseen downtime because you can’t find a part is more costly.