Dave Dyer explains the best methods for troubleshooting issues with heat transfer systems
Have you tried turning it off and on again? This is a line that illustrates the extent of troubleshooting most of us go to for IT equipment. However, it’s far from best practice for industrial systems.
When repairing industrial machinery, such as heat transfer systems, switching it off and on again can be dangerous and do more harm than good to the system and the heat transfer fluid inside. Instead, manufacturers must safely and efficiently address issues to return to optimum production.
As thermal fluid is not visible once it has been introduced to the system, manufacturers may assume that the fluid requires little maintenance over its lifespan.
However, visible changes in production and energy bills indicate that there is an internal issue.
Inconsistency in product quality and output quantity is the main indication that there is an issue with the thermal fluid. For example, in food processing, baked goods may be either burnt or undercooked, or components will not be blended properly in chemical or pharmaceutical processing.
Once the problem with the fluid impacts product quality, plant managers must cease production as the problem will not solve itself.
Confronting the issue quickly and efficiently reduces costly downtime caused by complete system shutdown.
Say no to the quick fix
A mechanical problem with the system itself may be treated with a repair or a new part.
Once the problem is detected, manufacturers should contact a company with expertise in heat transfer, such as Global Heat Transfer, to flush the system and re-charge it with new fluid.
Manufacturers may believe that they can fix the issue themselves with quick solutions such as adding additional fluid.
Rash decisions, such as this, are detrimental to the system and could result in the system being out of action for longer to allow time for system flushes, before it can be restored to optimum productivity.
Most manufacturers rely on one or two trained workers to safely operate a heat transfer system on a daily basis and deal with any issues. If these staff members are off-site, other workers may be unaware of how solve problems.
With sufficient training on the basics of operating the system for the whole company, workers can safely isolate any issues or prevent them in the first place.
Reactive or proactive
It is a common misconception that plant managers can only seek assistance with heat transfer systems once there is an issue. Waiting until this point can lead to costly replacements and unavoidable downtime.
Plant managers must be proactive in maintenance, rather than reactive, to avoid these unnecessary costs.
Like antivirus software protects our computers, implementing regular heat transfer fluid sampling and maintenance checks is the best method to prevent issues in heat transfer systems.
Drawing a live, hot closed sample allows manufacturers to view the status of thermal oil at regular intervals during production.
Testing the fluid while the system is running is the best way to get a representative sample and it means there is no unnecessary downtime for the plant.
Results from frequent sampling allows manufacturers to detect and solve problems with the fluid and system before it impacts production.
As a heat transfer system is filled with thermal fluid and operates at extremely high temperatures, finding the root of a problem cannot be as simple as switching the system on and off again.
However, like computers, manufacturers should invest in regularly surveying and maintenance, rather than dealing with issues once they impact production. In heat transfer, preventative maintenance is always the answer.
Image caption: Results from frequent sampling allows manufacturers to detect and solve problems with the fluid and system before it impacts production.
Dave Dyer is technical sales engineer at thermal fluid expert, Global Heat Transfer.
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