It’s not the size of the equipment you have, it’s how you use it that makes the difference

You may have heard this piece of advice before. And it’s become a truism because it’s true.

It’s especially true for filtration specification and filtration solution design. Yes… it’s what you have and how you use it that counts! Peter Walker, world renowned inventor and innovator in the rarified subject of filtration and filtration solution design has some strong points of view – born of the bitter experience of filtration solutions he has been asked to “fix”.

He also has some advice for project designers and operational management. Which can help them avoid using what on the surface looks like a simple  solution, but turns out not to be – often with disastrous reputational and commercial consequences.

Here are some questions filtration-solution designers and users should be asking BEFORE this seemingly small subset of a major plant brings the whole system to a grinding halt, or increases its cost of operation:

  1. How critical is continuous flow of water through the system? What is the flow, what is the pressure, and what is the variability?  

The answer to these questions may lead to a number of different “what filter is appropriate” solutions but also, and maybe more critically, to different “how do we use it” solutions.  The best answer well not come from the design engineer or the operations manager. It’s more likely to come from a solution provider with wide experience in many industries working synergistically with the design engineer or the ops. manager. Walkers advice, “source your solution from someone who knows how to use it in your specific context, not just how to make it. You should be buying a solution that works over time, from some-one who will stand by it over time”

  • What is the maximum particle size?

Usually filtration solutions are specified to filter DOWN to a certain maximum size. But it’s often the large particles that clog the system up and cause breakdown or high maintenance costs. A solution that delivers the required result but can cope with large particles is critical in these conditions

  • How important is automation and how expensive is a reliability failure?

Often the filtration equipment is not the most expensive or the most critical component in the plant. The plant has a purpose which isn’t necessarily to do with the cleaning of water. Clean water is a critical component of the efficient operation of the plant though. In these cases the filtration design should just work. It shouldn’t need high levels of attention or maintenance. This kind of problem begs for an automated, self-cleaning, low maintenance solution. And you can’t buy these off the shelf. They’re not expensive. Actually, costed fully they’re the cheapest solution over the lifetime of the plant, but more critically, they don’t need daily attention and management, allowing critical skills to be focused on more critical areas  

  • How corrosive is the medium being filtered?

Again, a question which is sometimes overlooked or where corners are cut –  with plant shut down consequences. Off the shelf solutions often don’t come in exotic materials. And exotic steels come with a big initial price tag which is why they are sometimes overlooked in the initial phase of new plant construction. But just ask the maintenance managers or the operations managers who have to deal with the aftermath of this “cost saving” tactic what they think. Once again, the opinion of a solution provider with long and diverse experience can be the stich in time that saves nine.

  • What is the guarantee of the filter supplier?

When a solution breaks down, or needs more maintenance than it should, the fault can often be  found in the right sizing and specification of the solution, or in the correct configuration of the filtration solution. The question of guarantees quality and time is a bit like asking “how long is a piece of string” Peter Walker, internationally acclaimed filtration consultant. His approach is that his filters belong to him – forever. By that he doesn’t mean he owns them, he means that he owns the responsibility to keep them operational and optimally efficient. And what’s his secret? “I seek first to diagnose the problem accurately, then to prescribe the right medicine, and then to make the right filter solution from the appropriate material.” Peter likens the process to the difference between cooking for survival and for taste. If you want a great output you have to have the right ingredients and then you must mix and cook them properly. “I always own my cooking…. That’s why it’s easier for me to give extended guarantees”