Follow these 7 principles to prevent bottlenecks in your plant or factory

Looking to reduce bottlenecks in your plant or factory? With these 7 key processes, you can optimize to improve efficiency and increase productivity.


Follow these 7 principles to prevent bottlenecks in your plant or factory

Heat exchangers play a crucial role in your plant or factory’s efficiency, but they can turn into bottlenecks if they fail to transfer heat at the desired rate. When your heat exchanger becomes a hindrance that forces you to slow down your entire process – you have an undesirable bottleneck on your hands. This limitation not only restricts your production capacity but also puts your operations at risk of shutdown. To ensure smooth operations and avoid setbacks, we have identified seven key areas for you to focus on. 

1. Check pressure drop in equipment

Monitoring the pressure drop of your heat exchanger is a crucial step that cannot be overlooked. Exchangers are specifically designed to operate at a certain level of pressure drop, and any deviation from this could result in a range of issues. When levels begin to rise, it’s a telltale sign that something is amiss and needs attention. 

As a Plant Engineer, you need to stop the equipment immediately and investigate the root cause of the pressure drop in order to take the necessary corrective measures. Ignoring this issue results in a cascade of problems that ultimately lead to production delays or even equipment failure.

2. Have spare parts and equipment on hand

Imagine you’re in the middle of a production run, and your heat exchanger suddenly stops working. If you have a plate pack ready to use nearby, you can get back up and running in a reasonable time. However, if you don’t have any spares, you’ll have to order one from the factory, which can take weeks or even months to arrive. This downtime costs your plant valuable time and money.

Therefore, it’s critical to have spare parts or alternative solutions readily available. As a Plant Engineer, you must ensure that your operation is well-equipped with the necessary resources to manage any unforeseen problems. And having a spare plate pack ready to use, close to your heat exchanger, is one of the most effective ways to keep your operations running smoothly.

3. Employ professional maintenance

A heat exchanger requires regular maintenance to keep it running efficiently – just like any other equipment. But, while tempting to do it yourself, attempting to service one without the right knowledge may result in suboptimal performance or equipment damage.

Instead, employ a specialist with the know-how necessary to service heat exchangers in a way that ensures they perform consistently and efficiently. A specialist can also advise on optimising the performance of your heat exchangers by identifying any inefficiencies in your current setup and suggesting ways to improve it.

4. Monitor your heat exchanger’s parameters

Unfortunately, you can’t see inside a heat exchanger to monitor its performance. However, you can still take its pulse by regularly checking pressure drop and thermal changes. A sudden change in these parameters may indicate a problem you need to address immediately. Don’t ignore it or hope it goes away on its own.

Issues such as fouling, corrosion, or scaling can – if left unaddressed – lead to decreased efficiency, increased energy costs, and equipment failure. Regular monitoring helps you identify these problems early on and solve them before they become major issues.

5. Recalculate, rebuild, reuse

Heat exchangers are a significant investment for plants and factories, and it’s natural to want to get the most out of them. However, sometimes a heat exchanger may no longer be suitable for its original purpose. But, in such cases, buying a new one is not always the best option. An old exchanger can become a valuable asset again – with proper adjustments.

In other words, it’s possible to recalculate your old unit to work for a new purpose. This process includes looking at its heat transfer area, fluid flow rates, pressure drop, and construction materials – and adjusting them according to the new requirements of your intended application. By recalculation, you can tailor your heat exchanger to fit your plant’s or factory’s current needs and help reduce costs associated with purchasing new equipment.

PRO TIP:Recalculating heat exchangers requires expertise and experience in thermal design, fluid dynamics, and material science. It’s essential to involve experienced professionals to ensure that the recalculated equipment meets the required performance specifications, safety standards, and regulatory requirements. Attempting to do it yourself not only jeopardizes the equipment’s performance but can also pose significant safety hazards. Trusting qualified professionals guarantees optimal results and a safe working environment for everyone involved. 

6. Deal with leaks straight away

Leaks in heat exchangers are a common problem that can lead to contamination and equipment failure. If you ever notice a leak, you need to take immediate action to stop it from causing further damage.

Leaks can occur inside and outside a heat exchanger, requiring different types of corrective action. If you notice one inside the equipment, it usually means there’s a problem with the plates, and you need to change them immediately to prevent contamination.

On the other hand, if you notice a leak outside the equipment, it typically indicates a problem with the gaskets. In this case, you need to change or reglue them to fix the issue.

7. Assemble your heat exchanger the right way

Assembling a heat exchanger may seem straightforward, but it’s a task that requires careful attention to detail. Therefore, carefully following the instructions is essential to ensure your heat exchanger operates optimally. 

When putting it together, refer to the unit drawing to ensure you hang the plates in the correct orientation and sequence. Setting them up incorrectly can result in reduced performance and/or increased pressure drops. Additionally, respect the unit’s closing dimension, as over-compressing the plates can damage them beyond repair. Take your time and ensure they are correctly aligned and secured..

Efficiency isn’t the be-all and end-all of a heat exchanger. There’s always a cost to consider. Want to know how to find an optimal ratio between the two? Read our article Operational efficiency vs costs for plate heat exchangers: 7 tips to strike a balance and learn to maximize your heat exchanger’s efficiency without breaking the bank.