Whether in a chemical plant, food factory or any other application, faulty fans can be a costly problem. The temptation might be to go for a quick fix, but only expert assistance can get to and solve the root cause of the problem, as these two examples illustrate.

Fan Problems in a Chemical Plant. Management in this chemical plant had been experiencing significant fan failure for years, trying various fixes with little success. The unreliable nature of the fans created plant downtime and high maintenance cost for overtime labor and replacement parts. These costs varied year to year, but on average cost the plant $80,000 per year, primarily in lost production. When asked about the problem the management saw four key factors:

  • Bearing failures from poor installation practices.

  • High bearing temperatures.

  • Poor fan reliability.

  • Plant downtime.

    The management decided to look for assistance in solving the problem and brought in SKF Reliability Systems, San Diego, Calif. The company's recommendation was to carry out a complete machine reliability assessment on the fan system using the technologies and processes required to improve fan reliability. The plan was to:

  • Assess the complete fan system, including bearings, lubrication, motor, fan base, structure and ducting.

  • Assess maintenance practices.

  • Use advanced technology such as operating deflection shape analysis to gather and analyze multi-parameter data.

  • Analyze bearings to confirm analyses.

  • Make improvement recommendations for bearing and lubrication areas incorporating new technology.

  • Make recommendations on structural improvements.

  • Perform precision installation and train the customer on the procedures used.

    Acting on the SKF recommendations, the chemical plant management were rewarded with complete success. Fan vibration was reduced while increased fan reliability led to increased productivity and lower costs, saving the plant over $80,000 each year.

    Fan Problems in a Food Factory. Five fans of similar design were used in this plant. Four of them were trouble-free during the five years they were in place. The fifth was a constant problem. There were repeated unexpected failures, each causing 1.5 hours of downtime, requiring that airflow was diverted.

    In addition to lost production time, other production issues sometimes accompanied fan failure. The additional maintenance increased plant operations costs. Losses were as high as $120,000 for just one unexpected failure. After attempting several fixes, the plant management approached SKF for assistance in solving the problem.

    Again, the recommendation from SKF Reliability Systems was to have a complete machine reliability assessment using the technologies and processes required to improve fan reliability.

    As in the chemical plant, reduced fan vibration led to increased fan reliability. Increased productivity followed, together with lower costs, saving the plant over $120,000 per incident.

    For information on the SFK machine reliability assessment, visit www.skf.com or www.aptitudexchange.com.