10/21/2019 | Process Innovation

The pump jigsaw puzzle

Modular plants assembled from predefined functional components is the current hot topic. Equipment suppliers are one step ahead: their pumps are already often based on standardised modules. This benefits manufacturers and customers alike.

According to an old rule of thumb, there is at least one pump for every employee in the chemical industry. Their specifications are as manifold as their fields of application, from the high-precision dosage pump to the “work­horse” that moves solvents or cooling agents through the plant in gigantic volumes. Some pumps have to be particularly accurate, others particularly robust against aggressive chemicals, or they have to cope with abrasive material flows. No wonder, then, that over decades a trend towards highly individual products has developed. However, this also had disadvantages: If every device is custom-made, the costs for planning and implementation increase, maintenance is time-consuming and spare parts are difficult to obtain.

For some time now, suppliers have been taking a different approach. Instead of planning and manufacturing each pump individually, they have “dismantled” the equipment into typical individual parts. Most pump producers have adapted this idea in recent years. Typically, each producer defines a limited number of basic components. A pump, for example, consists of the housing, the motor, and the pump head. For each of these components, several options are available, e.g. different motors and drives, different materials or mechanical options. With this collection of components, a wide range of applications is already covered. Additional parts such as sealings are also available with a range of properties to cover specific requirements regarding pressure or materials with higher chemical resistance.

A large variety of customer requirements can already be met by combining components. With the help of interactive catalogues and IT tools, customers can assemble their “individual” pump from off­the-shelf components. And they can also check if a process could be designed with small adjustments so that it can be mapped with a standard configuration.

The transition between a standardised, a customised and an individually designed pump is smooth. The website of manufacturer KNF states: “Starting with a series product, any pump can be modified to provide an individual customised solution, which is then referred to as a project pump”.

Other manufacturers have divided their offerings into product lines with varying degrees of individualisation. Hermetic Pumpen offers one product line with standard pumps and one that focusses on very individual customer requirements. At ACHEMA 2018, the company introduced a tool with which customers can check whether they can work with a modular series pump or whether they need a custom pump based on their design limits. Other manufacturers such as Zeilfelder or LEWA also offer modular product ranges.

Both manufactures and customers benefit from the new equipment concepts:

  • If the planning and design process does not start from scratch, but rather uses predefined modules as the starting point, many parameters are already predefined. This requires significantly less planning.
  • The predefined modules are in stock. Instead of starting the manufacturing process after the customer order has been received, suppliers can assemble the pump from pre-produced stock – a major competitive requirement these days.
  • The same is true for spare parts: they can be kept in stock with manageable storage costs. If need be, spare parts can even be interchanged between different pumps and hydraulic systems. In this way, downtimes can be minimised.
  • Maintenance is simplified. Mechanics and engineers are familiar with the components and can carry out repairs quickly and specifically; this also reduces downtimes.
  • Investment costs and life cycle costs are reduced. Even if the pump is not custom-made, it can be designed precisely to meet requirements. The customer pays for what he really needs – but as a series product. The same applies to spare parts that are far cheaper than tailor-made parts.

Modular pumps in modular plants – and there is still more room for modularisation: KSB has introduced a service concept that also relies on modularisation. Customers can compile their individual service agreement from predefined modules in several categories. Thus, the process of setting up a contract is accelerated while the customer still can choose the options that fit his needs best.


Kathrin Rübberdt


Keywords in this article:

#fluid technology

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