industrial plumbing services

Avoiding Falling into the Engineering Trap

Avoiding falling into the Sales Representative Engineering Trap

Many times I have seen this occur, a Maintenance Supervisor or Engineering director contacts a firm that promotes themselves as having the ability to resolve a particular mechanical issue with their “solve all widget.” A contact form is filled out and an eager sales representative calls to make an appointment to “come out and see what the problem is .”

See if this sounds familiar. The appointment goes like this: The sales rep shows up, appears to have genuine interest, listens, makes notes, takes measurements and suggest several items from their glossy catalog or web site. However he/she prefaces any suggestion for equipment or items to correct the existing condition with “let me turn this information in to our engineers and they will suggest the correct item for your application.”

In base theory this is applicable, however not the way to wind up with a truly correct permanent resolve the first time.

For starters the “engineer” working for the product company is using flow and performance charts that are based on standardized conditions or a window of standardized conditions. These charts may or may not be applicable to your particular facility. I also believe that you would be hard pressed to find one of these “engineers” that have actually had hands on involvement in diagnostics and plant systems analyses.

For example with regards to aircraft performance charts , consideration needs to be taken into account that when the charts were generated, the aircraft and engine were new ,the test pilot is a well trained skilled individual and the weather conditions are new perfect. Modifications and age of the aircraft need to be taken into account; small changes can make a tremendous difference in aircraft performance in different situations. All of which if not considered can have a disastrous outcome.

In every manufacturing facility that I have had the privilege of working in, a unique set of dynamics exist with regards to how the support utilities interface with the process being performed  and the equipment on site.  As you already know these variables come from the fluctuations in current and flow from the utility providers and compounded by load cycling of equipment as well as age and state of repair of equipment.

There are so many variables that truly the only way to determine the resolve to a particular problem ,the feasibility of a proposed project or availability of utility for installation of equipment is to do a complete and through survey of the existing conditions.

I have seen instances of persons performing these surveys where they walk through the plant jotting down information at face value, listen to steam traps with sonic ears or testing equipment temperature with measuring devices and call it sufficient. This alone will have barely scratched the surface; to do the job correctly one must monitor all of the related utilities or equipment over a realistic production shift of the facility.

One needs to put hands on the effected equipment or utilities and actually break the line open, measure flow, volume and pressure across the frame of the above mentioned production shift.

One area that I see constant incorrect sizing is steam traps. The piece of affected equipment came with a trap size by the OEM and functioned well in the beginning or marginally, over time performance has slipped and heat up is taking too long or desired temperature is not being reached.

Maintenance personnel are directed to correct the problem and assuming the temperature control portion is functioning correctly the trap is deemed failed. The trap is replace with a unit from an online catalogue that looks identical to the one currently in place yet no consideration is taken into account for plant pressure AT THE POINT OF USE or AVARAGE PRESSURE AT POINT OF USE.

Actual pounds per hour of condensate discharge are ignored as well. There have been calls placed to the OEM of the affected equipment for correct trap sizing yet once again the sizing is based on standardized factors that almost never exist in all of the various manufacturing facilities.


The overall point is to procure accurate diagnostic information in order to make educated decisions on trap size and issue resolve, it is necessary to put hands on the systems involved and perform due diligence in fact collection.

As a licensed General Engineering firm, we can safely perform all required work as well as collect the data needed to accomplish your goals.

Please contact us so that we may review your options and provide you with helpful realistic suggestions that will aid you in  making  an informed decision on the resolution of problems or the feasibility of future projects.

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