Use operators to boost pump reliability

Preventing pump problems before they happen is the best way to save costs, and it is the operators who are the key to your pump maintenance.

By Ross Mackay

A favorite story of mine involves professional golfer Ben Crenshaw who approached his long time friend, coach and mentor Harvey Pennick, and asked him to help him with his wedge shots out of the sand traps. When Harvey started to talk to Ben about his long irons, Ben reminded him that his problem was getting out of the sand traps. At which point Harvey is reputed to have said, “Once we stop you going into the sand traps, then we’ll worry about getting you out of them.”

I frequently find myself in the same position as Harvey Pennick (although I wish I could fix my golf game as well as he could have) when companies ask me to teach their maintenance crews how to dismantle and reassemble their pumps. I would much prefer to focus on stopping the pumps failing in the first place, than on teaching people how to take them apart when they do fail.

The truth is that most maintenance mechanics are probably really good at dismantling and reassembling pumping equipment, after all, they’ve been getting lots of practice at it. What is really needed in these instances is to teach the people who are around the pumps most of the time how to stop them failing, and what kind of things they should be watching for and how to tell if a pump is in trouble.

In other words, start using one of the most neglected tools for pump reliability in every plant..... the operators.

Operators are the first line of defense for any company against repetitive equipment failure. They are on the spot all the time and, when properly trained, they can operate the pump properly and can identify and report any potential for danger. A skilled operator can perform inspections and conduct minor maintenance tasks that will lower maintenance costs and increase pumping reliability.

Every time I train people in a company that has a high level of pump reliability and where productivity and profitability is very high, I find myself working with a multi-disciplined group of engineers, operators and maintenance people.

All of them are working together to prevent the ball going into the sand trap in the first place.

Author of “The Practical Pumping Handbook” and a specialistr in Pumping Reliability, Ross Mackay can be reached at or at 1-800-465-6260

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