Learn the system

Published:  13 November, 2018

Dave Dyer, technical sales engineer at Global Heat Transfer, explains how a detailed understanding of a heat transfer system can help manufacturers maintain efficiency and prevent costly downtime.

When operating in facilities that use heat transfer systems, manufacturers must ensure their plants run safely and efficiently to meet equipment regulations.

However, in many ways, regulatory compliance is only a minimum in terms of safety checks and maintenance.

The better the operator’s understanding of the system, the more able they are to spot issues early and prevent costly downtime.

To avoid problems that cause safety hazards and system failure, everyone in a manufacturing plant should know the specifics of the systems they work with. Staff training should include the basic functions of the system and the best practice for plant maintenance to optimise productivity. Starting up and shutting down a heat transfer system, for example, are fundamental skills needed to ensure efficient production.

The ins and outs

The main function of a heat transfer system is to distribute heat around a facility and to specific areas of the production line. The heating process begins at the main heater, which is comprised of a burner and coil which is cited inside the heater. The burner heats the coil containing the heat transfer fluid. A pump circulates the fluid through the system and controls the pressure. This main circuit of the system allows the fluid to travel around the plant efficiently, but more components are needed to ensure the system is safe and stable to use.

One of the most overlooked pieces of equipment in the system is the gasket, which connects flanges that seal the system containing the fluid. At any sign of gasket failure, the heat transfer system must be shut down to prevent hazards and to isolate the issue. Automatic valves are also in the system to regulate temperature and adapt to the product specifications.

Safety

A clean working environment aids productivity and keeps workers safe. Manufacturers can improve plant efficiency by cleaning and fixing leakages immediately as well as using the correct equipment based on temperature and other environmental factors. Leaving oil spills unattended or using plastic equipment can be a health and safety hazard.

As well as protecting workers through cleanliness, purchasing and maintaining safety equipment can improve the efficiency of the heat transfer system. Spray guards are used around flanges and known potential leak points, causing the oil to coalesce back to a liquid and rendering it non-hazardous. This makes the leak safe but visible so manufacturers can solve the issue.

Risk management

Though a system is only required to have one major and one minor service a year, plant managers have a lot to gain from proactive maintenance. Staff should proactively check the system as frequently as possible to look for wear and tear, leaks or other changes.

Some visual checks denote external issues, yet visual cues such as inconsistent heating of final products, may be an internal maintenance issue. A lack of representative fluid analysis and proactive maintenance can lead to fluid degradation and carbon forming in the system. Implementation of a continuous maintenance programme for thermal fluid.

Looking at a heat transfer system alone is not enough to maintain its efficiency. Just like an optical illusion, studying each component reveals more details. With knowledgeable, trained staff and preventative maintenance, manufacturers can optimise productivity of their heat transfer system, creating satisfaction for workers just like when you spot both hidden images in an illusion.

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