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Rethinking maintenance strategies key to enhancing commercial resilience

Production, process, and plant managers operating across various industries have been urged to rethink their approach to heat exchanger maintenance following updated insight from a new industry white paper.

The message comes at a pivotal point for industry, as increasing energy costs, aggressive competition from overseas, and decarbonisation targets risk limiting industry recovery.

In particular, high-energy users are being warned that running key equipment to failure will result in additional costs in the form of equipment repair and poor efficiency levels.

To provide practical guidance, global engineering company, Alfa Laval, has launched the white paper Taking the Heat – which aims to make proactive maintenance of plate heat exchangers (PHEs) a priority for manufacturers.

According to the report, poor maintenance of PHEs across industry plays a major role in increased global carbon emission levels. Although viewed as ‘one piece of a larger puzzle’, without proper servicing and maintenance, the risks of production line failure, low levels of output and unsightly balance sheets are dramatically increased for businesses.

Relying on reactive maintenance not only perpetuates a false economy but increases the risk of unpredictability in machinery and costs. Remarkably, an academic report from 2013 found that around 15 per cent of all factory maintenance costs are credited to heat exchangers, with half of that figure due to fouling.

A report from OneServe also found that machine downtime is costing manufacturers in excess of £180 billion each year. Experts at Alfa Laval say taking a ground-up approach to PHE maintenance could drastically lower the chance of line failure and downtime.

PHEs are also commonly specified years ahead of becoming fully operational within a plant, making Alfa Laval’s case for energy-hunting and lean manufacturing even more pertinent. Energy-hunting uses calculations to estimate energy savings and aims to find new ways of reusing waste energy by changing the cleaning and maintenance program or updating configurations.

The report continues to highlight the measures businesses can implement to achieve lean manufacturing and a proactive maintenance schedule.

Rachel Bridges, Managing Director at Alfa Laval said: “Now is the time for renewed focus on effective maintenance strategies, not only to make the most of installed assets, but also to correct the course as commercial resilience is stretched to its limit. We project there are thousands of PHEs in operation that are not working efficiently which could be unnecessarily draining businesses. It is now time to make maintenance a priority for PHEs, not a reactive response to failure.”

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