Aging dust collection equipment requires attention to maintenance
A survey on the age of industrial dust collectors highlights the importance of evaluating the equipment regularly and keeping it well maintained. The research by Plant Engineering magazine, sponsored by Donaldson Company, Inc., discovered that the average age of dust collectors in the U.S. market is 11 years.
Despite aging systems, 25% of respondents said their most recent dust system evaluation was more than three years ago, and 16% could not say how recently the equipment was thoroughly evaluated. Respondents were maintenance managers, staff engineers, or consultants responsible for dust control in their facilities. The average respondent managed five dust collectors.
“With the average age of equipment exceeding a decade, it’s important for owners to make sure the collector they installed is still appropriate for their facility and process,” said Rick DeJong, senior director of product technologies for Donaldson.
Frequently, a manufacturing process changes during the life of its dust collector, including expansions or remodeling. When changes occur in a process, Donaldson recommends the dust collector be evaluated to ensure the technology is still effective for the application and to verify that the ventilation system still has adequate air flow volume for the job.
In the survey, 40% of respondents reported that, since its original purchase, their dust collector has been modified; yet only 28% reported that that modification was guided or approved by a technical expert.
“Dust collector modification should be reviewed to ensure the changes do not alter the effectiveness of the total system,” said DeJong. “A technical expert can help decide how to best utilize the system in a new configuration. With proper guidance, owners can optimize the collectors they have, or decide whether a new collector is required for the performance they need.”
Upkeep of the dust collector is equally important. During its long life, a proper preventive maintenance schedule is essential to avoid costly unplanned downtime. Companies reported the average cost of unplanned downtime due to a dust collector failure is $3,300 per hour.
That figure may not account for all of the costs of downtime, noted Plant Engineering content manager Bob Vavra. “Our experience with maintenance costs is that many companies only estimate the cost of replacing parts,” he said. “The costs of idled or inefficient equipment also is a cost, and so is the cost of idled workers. If product cannot be produced, that’s a cost that cannot be overlooked. And if the unplanned downtime occurred suddenly because of a neglected system, there always is a concern for injury. The total cost of downtime is something maintenance managers need to assess and report when considering their overall maintenance budget.”
With good maintenance, many dust collector models can function well beyond two decades, but owners need to be more vigilant as the equipment ages—especially with downtime costs that can quickly escalate.
When it comes to selecting a new dust collector, 50% of respondents named reliability as their top priority. The response suggests that owners expect long life from their collector and consider it important to their overall operation.
Because reliability is so key, Donaldson officials suggest looking closely at the history of the manufacturer. Consider whether their collectors are known for long service life, and whether the company will still be in business in 10 or 20 years when replacement parts are needed.