Retrofit, Upgrade or Refurbish; 3 ways to save money!

Cutting costs is an important objective of many companies to stay competitive. For some organisations, this means new investments, whilst for others, it means reducing delivery times and production costs. Do you know how your clients are planning to save money this year? In an interview with Rudi Aalders and Jos Greven, two of our sales engineers in the Service Department, we highlight three ways of helping customers save money, by retrofitting, upgrading and refurbishing existing equipment.

An affordable alternative

"Mechanical failures, outdated technologies and an inability to comply with industry standards are some of the reasons for wanting to invest in new equipment," explains Jos Greven. "Having said that, with the economy as it is today, clients like to be given affordable solutions and replacing old machinery with new is not the only way. Depending on the problem at hand, there are three very valuable and very effective alternatives. These are retrofits, upgrades and refurbishments."

When the service department gets wind of high maintenance costs, mechanical failures or investment plans, it is time for action. “We like to keep in contact with our clients to make sure we know when a problem arises," comments Rudi Aalders. "Then all we need to do is come up with a plan."

"The art is working in close cooperation with the client to find the right solution. And the first step is visiting the client to assess the situation,” continues Aalders. "Once we know exactly what's wrong, we can recommend the most suitable solution: either a retrofit, upgrade or refurbishment. Then when we get back to the office, we make a start on the sketches, budget and working with the client to schedule the shutdown period. On the client’s request, we will also send out our engineers for a second evaluation. Why? Because they are the ones who are responsible for implementing the plans!"

Retrofitting, upgrades and refurbishments

Retrofits

A typical reason for recommending a retrofit is high maintenance costs, as Greven explains: “When machinery is worn out, broken or has corroded parts, it becomes the perfect candidate for a retrofit. This means fixing the mechanical failures and replacing the broken parts. More often than not, the bottom bearings and lip seal constructions are the common culprits in machines that can be anything up to 25 and 30 years old. We replace the parts," Greven continues, “making sure the rest of the machine is left in good working order; giving the machine a new lease of life. The new parts have a 12-month guarantee, but may well last another 25-30 years! This makes retrofitting an affordable and effective way of reducing costs for the future."

Upgrades

Upgrades tend to suit clients that want to improve their production processes. A good example is when current processes no longer comply with industry standards like ATEX or FDA and GMP guidelines. "One example of a recent upgrade was when one of our clients in the food and beverage industry came to us after an important customer audit. Their outdated Nauta mixer had failed to meet current food-grade standards and the customer had stopped production at their facilities. In order to win the client back, they needed to improve their production processes. So we upgraded their old Nauta mixer by converting it into a hygienic construction using a domed cover for example, and changing the lubricant to a food-grade variety," Greven explains.

Upgrades can also be a good way of tackling insufficient production capacity. A good example of a recent project was when we helped a leading British-Dutch food company eliminate a serious bottleneck in its production line for instant soups. "In this case, the solution was to increase mixing speed, thus shortening mixing time," comments Aalders. “We gave the mixer two screws instead of one by replacing the single orbit arm with a double orbit-arm construction. This meant that the product could be mixed in a fraction of the time. We actually managed to reduce mixing time from 30 minutes to 12 minutes, which significantly increased capacity."

Refurbishments

The third of the alternatives to buying new machinery is the refurbishment, and the best way to illustrate this is with another of our engineering projects: “A good example of a successful refurbishment is the Plantextrakt project,” starts Aalders. “The client came to us with two Nauta mixers with two different drives that were continually in need of maintenance work. They were causing expensive, regular downtime, not to mention frustration for the company's process engineers. Moreover, the equipment no longer complied with the latest food-grade standards, which is essential for a company in the food & beverage industry such as Plantextrakt."

"We recommended a full refurbishment of both mixers, in situ. We replaced the flat cover with a new semi-domed cover; the bottom bearing was removed because of the cantilevered screw construction and the different drives were replaced by two identical ones.” The actual refurbishment only took eight days and took place at the Plantextrakt facility in Germany, because of the size of the mixers. "However, the total project took five months from start to finish and involved much more than just the engineering of the two as-good-as-new mixers," the sales engineers emphasise.

A process, not a product

"These engineering services, and especially the refurbishments take the application into account, the market sector, the industry standards and of course the customer’s wishes and requirements. We don’t just provide a product or even a service, we provide a process. And we can do this at the customers’ facilities or here at our facilities in the Netherlands. In fact, there is much more to our engineering services than meets the eye."

“We like to work together with our clients to find the right solution: we provide the high-quality products and spare parts, the expert design and engineering as well as the experienced manpower to make sure the client is left with equipment that performs to the same levels as its brand new equivalents. We offer the client a whole package - a process if you like, from start to finish. And sometimes it's easier, and more economically sound than specifying and buying new."

Reconditioning second-hand equipment:

We refurbished an entire second-hand installation, a formal Pfizer unit, shipped it from the UK back to our workshop, dismantled it, reconditioned it in its entirety, replaced old parts and put it back together again - as good as new. Then it was shipped to the US for use in an entirely different application.

Advantages to retrofitting, upgrades and refurbishments

  • Removing bottlenecks
  • Reducing maintenance costs
  • Reducing downtime
  • Increasing capacity
  • Increasing mixing speeds
  • Shortening mixing times
  • Upgrading to meet latest industry standards
  • Removing dead space in the mixer
  • Converting to food grade specification
  • Converting to CIP cleaning