Pumps: efficiency, reliability and performance remain key concerns

09 September 2008

ITT Water & Wastewater has extended its Flygt N-Pump range of pumps with the introduction of lar

ITT Water & Wastewater has extended its Flygt N-Pump range of pumps with the introduction of lar

Improving pump efficiency and reliability while maintaining performance remains key for global pump manufacturers to remain competitive. Becca Wilkins reports on the latest developments and models in the sector.

Demand for pumps across the globe is still high despite the current problems in the US economy. Pump manufacturers are focusing on improving the efficiency and reliability of their products in order to survive in an increasingly challenging market.

Simon Ruffles, general manager for Pioneer Pump, told iC, “There is a growing demand for pumps and therefore there is development of more efficient models. Having highly efficient pumps means that you can use smaller engines to achieve the same objectives that you used to use larger pumps for. This means that you can reduce your footprint including your fuel consumption as well as manufacturing costs. So the more efficient the pump is in its original design, the more efficient the overall package cost is.”

Product drivers

Modern pumps are more environmentally friendly than their predecessors, with fewer engine emissions, less noise and less fuel consumption.

The most important pump product driver according to Mr Ruffles is reducing the noise of the pump against its performance. He added noise levels have dramatically improved in the last five years, with reductions from 100 db down to, on average, 65db and even some as low as 55 db.

“In Europe we are completely governed by the Machinery Directive and the noise emissions standards that nowhere else in the world has - the US comes close - but it makes it difficult for manufacturers to compete,” he said.

Per Forsberg, international sales manager for Pumpex in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) told iC, “When we talk about being environmentally friendly we should not just talk about the pump efficiency we should also consider the total impact the pump will have on the environment from the mining of the metal to the scrap yard.”

Reducing pump maintenance is also a focus for pump manufacturers, as it is for engine manufacturers, according to Mr Ruffles. He said some engines now only require a 500-hour service cycle, which means instead of every week the pump is tended to every two weeks.

“We are saying if you only need to get to the engine every 500 hours what else can we extend so that the engineer only has to be there once? Things like increasing the size of our oil lubrication chambers, which means that we can put more oil into our bearing housings and mechanical seals, again reduces the amount of maintenance time required.”

Mr Ruffles added because the pump is more efficient and the engine is smaller the fuel tanks last longer and can commonly run between five and ten days.

Mr Forsberg said the most important product driver that manufacturers need to improve upon is the reliability of the pump. “But as important as reliability is that the pump has to be easy to use, service and maintain,” he added.

Market

The global pump market in the construction industry is “patchy” according to Mr Ruffles.

“The Middle East and areas where they are dewatering a lot seem very buoyant and more developed areas such as Europe are experiencing a downturn along with the construction industry as a whole.”

He added the company has primarily seen growth in the Middle East during the past 12 months mainly because of high levels of construction activity.

The downturn in the US economy has impacted more directly on Pioneer Pumps’ customers he added because a large portion of the business deals with construction equipment rental companies.

“We are seeing a small downturn in their purchases on the basis that their fleets are fairly mature now,” Mr Ruffles said.

Emerging markets such as Africa, the Middle East and certain parts of Asia are offering more opportunities for growth and offsetting any downturn in the market, according to the company.

“There’s definite growth in countries such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan as well,” Mr Ruffles said. “The growth is occurring because developing countries such as China and India are investing a lot of the wealth they have created in infrastructure projects.”

Mr Forsberg said the market has been very positive since 2001/02 - driven by a healthy global economy. He said the current slowdown in the US market has affected Pumpex’s business in the US, but sales in the rest of the company’s markets have not suffered.

“We have definitely heard about lower activities in many markets so even if we haven’t seen it in our sales I suppose we do expect a slower market starting in September or October this year,” he said.

The biggest growth for Pumpex has been in Europe and in the Middle East and the company has increased its sales volume and market share in countries including Romania and Bulgaria. Mr Forsberg attributes this to a switch in interest in these markets from non-professional to professional pumps.

“The switch is caused by a change in market behaviour – customers in these territories are demanding more reliability and quality. Another reason for the change is that the rental business has increased in these countries and they too want to use professional rather than non-professional pumps,” he said.

Product development

Pump manufacturers have developed new models on the back of a buoyant construction industry.

Pioneer Pump is introducing the Pioneer Prime PP86C12-C18ACERT vacuum assisted self-priming pump this year, which, according to the company has been developed to provide a high-efficiency solution for high pressure dewatering applications. Delivering 21 bar, the first in a new series of high-pressure pumps will have maximum flow of in excess of 11355 l/minute. The company is also launching a new 100 mm solids handling low head dewatering pump – the PP44S8-C1.5ACERT. It is available with a 76 mm solids handling impeller or, for more demanding mine dewatering applications, a 51 mm solids handling high efficiency impeller.

Meanwhile, Mr Forsberg said Pumpex has improved the motor efficiency for its mid range pumps by more than +10% and improved the modularity of all pumps up to 9 kW so that more spare parts can be interchanged between more models.

The introduction of the SP series of small, heavy-duty, lightweight sludge pumps is the most significant recent product launch from the company, he added. In the last 12 months the range has been extended to include two smaller models - the 0.9 kW SP 10 and 1.5 kW SP14.

“There are quite a lot of small light sludge pumps on the market but they are also for light duty applications, but these sludge pumps are made for heavy-duty applications. Even if you don’t need a high capacity pump you may need a heavy-duty pump and that has been very difficult to find on the market,” Mr Forsberg said.

Outlook

In the past contractors in some countries have used lower quality pumps because salaries were lower and their importance to the construction process was somewhat overlooked.

However, attitudes are changing as salaries rise in the emerging markets and contractors realise it makes financial sense to invest in more reliable and efficient pumps. With this in mind, producing high quality, robust pumps remains the focus for global pumps manufacturers.

Meanwhile, Mr Ruffles told iC emerging markets such as Africa, South Africa, South America and Asia, will provide future growth for the pump industry. Looking towards next year Mr Forsberg said the pump rental business would continue to evolve.
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