Tag Archives: industrial

Proper Storage, Handling of Heat Transfer Oils Critical for Facility Success


Heat transfer oils are common in industrial applications and properly storing and handling them is critical in keeping facilities running smoothly.

Most heat transfer oils are considered class IIIB liquids by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), meaning they aren’t subject to the heavy regulations that more flammable materials face. However, they do present storage challenges of their own.  According to  Jim Oetinger, former Director of Technology at Paratherm, now retired, one of the most common storage mistakes users make is one of the simplest to fix.

“The main thing with heat transfer fluids is you want to keep the drums inside,” Oetinger said. “If you store a drum outside, the drumhead fills with rain and as the temperature changes, that oil is going to pull a vacuum and it’s going to pull water through the seals. You end up with water in the bottom of the drum and if you pump that water into your system, you are going to have a steam explosion inside the system and you are going to blow a bunch of fluid out.”

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That kind of damage to equipment can be costly. Even if no repairs are needed, it can still lead to downtime and lost productivity.

“You have to go through a boil out with the system,” Oetinger said. “You have to run it at low heat with the vent on the expansion tank open. You have to get the tank hot and open the vent up top, then you have to let the steam flash off.”

Another storage aspect that tends to get overlooked is proper labeling. It isn’t always safe to assume what is in drums or totes before pumping it into a machine.

“You don’t want to be questioning what’s in the drum,” Oetinger said. “You should never pump fluid out of a drum that isn’t labeled. Don’t just grab any drum and pump fluid into the system. Sloppy maintenance procedures are really a problem.”

While proper storage is important, correctly handling and transporting fluids in the facility is equally critical. Having designated lines to move materials helps prevent contamination and keeps everything streamlined.

“You need to have a dedicated pump for heat transfer fluids,” Oetinger said. “You don’t want someone taking the pump and using it to pump water or something else. It’s going to contaminate the hoses and cause problems when you pump the oil. You want to make sure you are pumping into a low-pressure part of the system and you want to use rubber hoses.”

These are just a few of the more common storage and handling mistakes that can occur when dealing with heat transfer oils. Oetinger said the best way to avoid these, and other, issues is to have a clearly defined scheduled maintenance plan.

“Look to see if they have scheduled maintenance,” Oetinger said. “There are things you should be doing every day on these systems while they are running, things you should be doing every three months, every six months and once a year. You have to see if they are checking the safety devices or increasing the bearings on the pumps. You want to make sure there are maintenance procedures and (employees) are following them.”

Michigan Researchers Create New 3D Printing Technique

Researchers at the University of Michigan have created a new approach to 3D printing they believe will make the process faster.

According to reports, the new technique can lift complex shapes from a vat of liquid, solidifying liquid resin with two lights and controlling where the resin hardens and where it remains fluid. This method allows for the creation of 3D objects in one single process. This process can be up to 100 times faster than the conventional 3D printing process.

Members of the Michigan engineering department believe this process can be used to create objects that are stronger than their counterparts created with filament. In addition, additives can be used to change the complexion of the resin, allowing more versatility. The university has filed three patent applications related to the process.

Scientists Create Alloy Using Nanoscale Diamonds

British scientists were successful in introducing nanoscale diamonds into aluminum, which will likely lead to the creation of new materials for the maritime industry.

According to reports, scientists at London’s Brunel and Tomsk State Universities used ultrasonic treatment to incorporate nanoscale diamonds into an aluminum melt.  This is the first time nanodiamonds have been successfully used in the creation of a synthetic alloy.  The teams used a technique called shock-wave compaction to create an alloy they say is without pores or defects.  This alloy will not degrade when introduced to nanoparticles.

Those involved believe the new alloy will predominately be used in maritime applications.  They believe it may also find use in the aerospace, automotive and space industries.

OSHA Releases Respirable Crystalline Silica FAQ

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a new FAQ document in an effort to better explain its standards for respirable crystalline silica in industrial applications.

OSHA worked with industry and union representatives to create the FAQ, which outlines things like permissible exposure limits (PEL), required medical exams and when to asses employee exposure levels.  Currently, the PEL sits at 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air averaged over an 8-hour workday.

The rules for exposure were initially published by OSHA in 2016.  Those in general industry and maritime applications were given until mid-2018 to comply with the standard.  Hydraulic fracking operations have until mid-2021 to comply.

You can view the FAQ here.

A Safe Work Environment Starts With Engagement

Maintaining a safe work environment for employees presents a unique set of challenges in industrial applications.  While there is plenty of debate as to how to improve safety, most would agree it’s a mission critical part of their business.Engagement is Key in Maintaining a Safe Work Environment

Whether you are operating a machine shop, factory or industrial plant, safety is always going to be a concern.  With employees working long, difficult hours around potentially dangerous equipment, the chance for injury, or worse, skyrockets when proper procedures aren’t followed.

But how can employees work safer? And how can managers help them do so?  According to Safety Culture and Change Management Consultant Phil LaDuke of Environmental Resources Management, maintaining a safe work environment starts with engaging all employees.

“Making safety easier hinges on engaging workers in safety,” LaDuke said.  “The difference between a motivated worker and an engaged worker is that a motivated worker will work for a reward.  An engaged worker will work because it’s the right thing to do.  If you treat people like they are children, that is what you will end up with.”

Related: Meat Processing Industry Reaches all Time Low Number of Non-Fatal Accidents

LaDuke, who has worked as a safety consultant with oil, gas, mining, automotive and manufacturing companies and published two books on workplace safety, said facility managers often need to look deeper when it comes to maintaining a safe environment.

“Too many people are armchair behaviorists,” LaDuke said.  “They think they can just have one employee monitor another and remind them to stay safe.  You need to look at the cause and effect factors in your system that are causing people to be harmed, not who you can blame for being lazy or incompetent.”

A lot can go wrong in an industrial setting and LaDuke called out preventable fall from height incidents as a major safety concern and “isolation of hazardous energy” incidents as frightening and almost always deadly.  But the biggest cause of injury is perhaps the most basic.

“It’s not sexy, but one of the biggest is slips, trips and falls,” LaDuke said.  “People say ‘how often does someone fall or trip and injure themselves?’  The answer is quite a lot.  A lot of those are serious injuries and some of them are life limiting.  They screw up their knee, or they screw up their back and it can be very serious.”

Building a culture around safety can help mitigate these incidents, as employees who are engaged are more likely to call out issues they see and take action to fix those issues.

“A lot of companies have a saying ‘see something, say something, do something.’” LaDuke said.  “If you see someone in danger, say something to someone so people don’t get hurt and it can be fixed.  It all comes back to respecting people, letting people know they can make a difference.”

Read More: Oil Industry Poised for More Growth in 2019

Too often, policymakers misunderstand the impact of poor worker safety on the bottom line.  Workplace injuries can be costly both financially and in terms of productivity.

“It costs money, it saps your productivity and it’s a symptom of a poorly run operation,” LaDuke said.  “Your injury records are going to determine how much money you are going to have to put away as encumbered cash.  That can be devastating.  If you show me a company that’s struggling financially, I’ll show you a company that struggles with safety.”

For many companies, improving the work environment starts with a cultural change in the way they think about safety.

“Companies don’t routinely count safety as part of their costs, they don’t talk about it like they do quality or productivity,” LaDuke said.  “People think injuries are free and they’re not.  The more injured workers there are, the less profit there is.  You are spending money on something nobody gains anything from.”

More than 95 million tons of steel manufactured in the United States in 2018

More than 95 million tons of steel were manufactured in the United States in 2018, the most since 2007 and in increase in 6.2 percent from 2017.

According to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), American mills averaged running at about 78 percent production capacity, up from about 74 percent the year prior. While the increase is encouraging after an industry downturn, it hasn’t quite reached the 90 percent level that some experts consider indicative of a strong economy.

In recent years, production has averaged about 82 million tons. That was substantially less than the 98 million tons produced in 2007.

AEM Program Aims to Help Manufacturers Attract Talent

In an effort to help companies attract talent to the industry, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) has released a workforce recruitment toolkit to help organizations bring in new employees.

According to the organization, the toolkit will become part of its workforce development program along with a webinar series and scholarship initiatives.  AEM worked with various equipment manufacturers and sellers, as well as education experts, to create the program.  Equipment manufacturing and other similar industries are facing skilled labor shortages as talent moves to other sectors.  According to a recent report by Deloitte, as many as two million manufacturing jobs could be left unfilled over the next decade.

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According to the AEM website, the program is aimed at companies in all segments of manufacturing.  The organization represents more than 950 companies throughout the United States.

Simple Steps Can Help Reduce the Cost of Downtime

TurbineUnplanned downtime due to equipment failure is a costly, yet preventable, part of any industry that can sometimes be overlooked.

In industrial applications that rely on a lot of complex equipment operating under extreme conditions, it isn’t uncommon to see breakdowns happen.  Some downtime is necessary for things like maintenance and scheduled repairs, but when it happens unexpectedly it can cause major problems.  An average company in the manufacturing industry will see as much as 800 hours of downtime each year.  This can result in thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of dollars lost.  For automotive manufacturers, who on average lose between $22k and $50k per minute of downtime, the cost can soar into the millions.

Costs from downtime come in two forms, tangible and intangible.  Tangible costs are usually easy to find and examine.  The loss of production capacity of a piece of equipment being down, the cost of labor for an idle worker and the cost of repairing broken equipment are all examples.  The intangible costs are more difficult to find.  Downtime can cause responsiveness and customer satisfaction to slip.  It can put stress on employees and equipment, leading to a vicious cycle of downtime.

Related: Controlling Contamination Critical for Keeping Equipment Running

But how can downtime be prevented? There are steps that any manufacturer can take to minimize lost hours and lost profit.

  • Keep a routine maintenance schedule – It can be a challenge to stay on top of maintenance in a huge plant filled with technically advanced equipment. That is why sticking to a tight, routine maintenance schedule with a consistent reporting process.  That way you can see a potential breakdown coming days or weeks in advance while also identifying troubling trends with your equipment.


  • Have a plan in place – Sometimes, it just isn’t enough just to respond to problems as they come. It is critical to create an action plan for different breakdown scenarios and train employees on those plans.  In the short term, you may only reduce downtime by a couple of minutes, but those minutes can add up.  This is especially true when it comes to those intangible costs.  Some events may come out of left field entirely, but it is still important to plan for whatever you can.


  • Be ready to adapt – Having an employee or a team sitting idle (or sitting idle yourself) because of a breakdown isn’t exactly efficient. If you can’t help directly with getting back online, make sure you and your team are cross trained and ready to jump on something else.  You may be able to make up some of the loss helping out someone who is behind on other projects.


  • Prepare messaging – Make sure you have messaging ready to go in the event of downtime. Be ready to contact whoever needs to fix the problem immediately and ensure they understand the gravity of the situation.  Next, reach out to employees to let them know what is happening via internal contact lists.  Finally, reach out to customers and clients, let them know there is a problem, that it’s being taken care of and provide a timetable if possible.

While it is almost impossible to prevent all downtime, especially when factoring downtime that has been planned, these steps can help keep it to a minimum.