Achieve Optimum Centrifugal Pump Performance

Proper bearings, lubrication and seals as well as proactive maintenance are crucial.

By David R. Mikalonis, SKF USA Inc.

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Figure 3. Operators can serve as a plant’s eyes and ears to detect developing problems.

Operators can monitor:

Bearings. Detecting faults in a bearing’s outer ring, inner ring, rolling elements and cages also can suggest potential problems elsewhere in a pump system.

Lubrication. Spotting under- or over-lubrication within pump bearings can lead to a more-effective lubrication program.

Shaft. Checking pump shafts can uncover imbalance, misalignment, bending, rub, excessive thrust and looseness.

Seal integrity. Watching for leaks and inspecting lubricant cleanliness can provide an indication of the condition of pump seals.

Foundation. Inspecting pump foundations and bases can warn of looseness caused by loose or corroded hardware, deteriorated grouting, base-plate straightness, and pump housing soft- and sprung-foot conditions.

Vane blade pass. It’s important to look for conditions such as wear, blade/vane failure and looseness of shaft fit, as well as contamination and obstructions due to foreign debris within the process.

Impeller clearance. Proper settings are key for optimum performance and represent a good indicator of pump impeller and wear ring conditions.

Cavitation and flow turbulence. Such problems can impact performance and overall pump health over time.

Temperatures. This should involve monitoring several aspects, including bearings, lubrication, sump and the pump housing.

Process parameters. Shaft speed, head pressure, discharge pressure, differential pressure, vacuum, suction, flow, reservoir levels, valve positions and product consistency all deserve attention.

Coupling operator oversight and effective proactive maintenance with proper pump bearings, lubrication and seals can contribute to smoother flowing operations, better performance and service life and, ultimately, optimum uptime.

David R. Mikalonis is sales manager, pump industry, for SKF Industrial Division, SKF USA Inc., Kulpsville, Pa. E-mail him at

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