Silver Linings in Unscheduled Downtime

Category: Articles
24 June 2015,

Unplanned downtime is something we all prefer to avoid at all costs. But once in awhile, a problem with your boiler, oven or kiln can deliver an unexpected benefit.

They’re hard to see when you’re staring at expensive repairs, lost production revenue or a safety issue, so we thought we’d share a couple of examples from recent projects.

Maximizing the Value of Old Heat Processing Equipment

In our first example, our customer was running two wood-fired boilers – one 600 hp and one 1,200 hp. They needed to tear-out the existing refractory lining and install a new lining in the 600 hp boiler prior to a scheduled inspection.

The customer preferred rammed plastic, but since there wasn’t enough time we installed a cement-free gunning mix to complete it within the 8-day project timeframe. We were able to complete the full bakeout and get the boiler back online after a successful inspection.

The initial cost of this job wasn’t cheap; there were definitely less expensive materials and installation methods available. But our customer had over 15 years of experience with various refractory materials for lining wood-fired boilers and knew of the pitfalls of going with the cheapest options.

The silver lining was that the extra money spent and our installation recommendations improved the efficiency of the 600 hp boiler to the point where he no longer needed to run the 1,200 hp boiler.

A few extra bucks invested in the refractory work saved him a considerable amount of operating costs shortly after. This wasn’t his original plan, but a very welcomed result! 

Better Installation Reduces Routine Maintenance

In our second example, our customer had a tunnel furnace that was operating inefficiently. The heat in the furnace was escaping through openings in the refractory around the rollers of the tunnel furnace.

In their previous installation they had used a ceramic-fiber blanket packed into their roller openings. This lasted only a few months before additional blanket had to be installed. After F.S. Sperry representatives explained the long-term benefits of sprayable ceramic-fiber, they decided to move forward with the Foamfrax installation around the tunnel furnace roller openings. This was considerably more expensive than the existing option, but in addition to the decrease in heat escape from the furnace due to tighter packing of the sprayable ceramic-fiber around the rollers, there was an additional unexpected benefit.

The silver lining was the Foamfrax providing additional protection to the roller bearings, therefore extending the useful life of the tunnel furnace rollers. The customer no longer had to replace multiple $30,000 rollers per year and also didn’t have to replace the ceramic-fiber blanket in the roller openings every 6 months. The savings provided to the customer by this solution are easily in the six figures per year by reducing the need to purchase new rollers and eliminating frequent labor and material costs with the existing roller opening solution.

Equipment failures and unplanned downtime are stressful situations that are filled with potential dangers. While these unexpected positive outcomes aren’t the norm, they happen more often than you might think when you use high quality installation methods and materials for your specific job.

Have one of your own to share? Let us know!

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