Pumps and suppliers: confusingly simple

By Trevor Dahl

When I started in the equipment industry almost 20 years ago, I never imagined I would end up in the pump world.  However, here I am enjoying every minute of it. I would have to say my favorite part is the secretive magic of the pump world, something a person would never understand until they have calculated a system curve. Sadly, this world is troubled by two major problems — incorrectly sized pumps that lead to failure and the lack of support when problems arise.

The pump world is filled with many words the outside world doesn’t seem to make much sense of. You have friction loss, total dynamic head, net positive suction head, performance curves, system curves, laminar flow and a myriad of other terms that can sound like a different language to someone who doesn’t speak pump.

This gets even more complicated when you look at one pump model and realize it comes with 20 different options, all of them producing a different result. For those new to pumps, the most common question is, “why?” I believe this is because most see a pump as a machine that moves the wet stuff from one point to another, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

This leads to the world of pump failures. I don’t know how many times I have spoken with someone on site who uses colourful language about a pump that isn’t working properly. Yet, people fail to realize there is no such thing as the perfect pump. Pumps are built to precise specifications and each one leaves a factory designed for a specific job. If a pump is used for a job outside its designed purpose, bad things happen. This all comes down to fluid dynamics.

When designing a pump system or sizing a pump, you need to take data into consideration. This is why pump companies bombard you with questions. Every answer you give can drastically change the type of pump you need. There’s an important reason behind each question a company asks. What is the product you are trying to pump? Is it solid, abrasive, caustic or food grade? What is the temperature? How far are you pumping? What are the elevation distances? How fast do you need the product pumped? Is it an installed system or a temporary system? Do you have a duty point?  The list of questions is endless, but your answers depend on whether you receive a pump that will fail in the first few days to months, or a pump that is going to last years.

In the end, we are trying to stop you from having to deal with damages, downtime and unnecessary repairs. You want liquids being pumped to move smoothly and at peak efficiency. If you try to pump too fast you lose laminar flow; pump too slow and you are below efficiency. Both cause damage to the pump. There are many rules of thumb in the pump world and understanding a few can save you time and improve production. Using the right equipment can also result in big financial savings. I make a point to sit down and make sure I have all the answers I can get from a customer before I leave to make sure they are getting the right equipment for the job.

The biggest thing to remember is pumps are application specific. You will never force a pump to perform a task outside its design. The further you push a pump out of its design, the more expensive it becomes. In my early years, I had a customer who destroyed four pumps in a month. The repair bill each week was $175,000 all because they ran a six-inch hose instead of an eight-inch hose. Ignoring the recommendations was expensive. Accepting the mistake would have saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Flotech Pump is not trying to sell you a more expensive pump. The company is trying to find you the pump that will last the longest for what you need it to do.

This is where I had my largest eye opening. I came from the large corporate pump world, where six to 12-week lead times were the norm. I did however have a huge problem with this, especially when my customer’s operation was down and they couldn’t wait the time needed to get a pump or parts. In the end, they spent extra money to continue operations. When I moved down to a smaller company, I noticed big, positive change.

We stock parts to support the customer. It’s an amazing concept you would think everyone would know. It was weird for me to be able to say, “Absolutely, we have the correct parts you need in stock. And we will ship them today. You should have them tomorrow.”

I was lucky enough to find a company that shared the same idea as me — keeping parts on the shelf, collaborating with our customers and preparing for their needs. Even though there are times we have to wait for the delivery of a special order, we have a large selection of pump models readily available.

We understand that everything comes down to the dollar. Working with a pump supplier that takes your needs first will save you thousands on downtime and repairs, which is one of the reasons I am happy I found Flotech Pump.  For once it feels good to be able to say, “Yes, I have that, and I will have it to you right away.”

 

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