Recommendations for Extending Equipment Life in the Municipal Market

As we enter 2010 and look back on the last eighteen months, there is no doubt that the United States has experienced some of the most challenging economic times.

By Ron Port

As we enter 2010 and look back on the last eighteen months, there is no doubt that the United States has experienced some of the most challenging economic times. The water and wastewater industry has not been immune to the economic malaise of our nation. With our aging infrastructure and increasing regulations on potable water quality and wastewater effluent discharge permits, the proper maintenance of the nation's capital assets is critical. Municipal budgets are tighter and municipalities are continually challenged with stretching their budgets to keep their capital assets properly maintained to ensure they are protecting public health and the environment.

One critical aspect to maintaining proper operation and compliance of a water or wastewater system is keeping up with preventative maintenance. Additionally, with the challenges municipalities face obtaining capital for replacing aging equipment, regular maintenance can keep equipment operating properly and ensure that plants are complying with drinking water standards and discharge permits.

As with any high performance system, the individual components must work together to achieve maximum efficiency. Premier companies in our industry have followed the principles of continuous development and improvement of their components in order to produce high quality systems that will continue to operate at optimal performance levels. In addition, these companies spend millions of dollars a year on research and development, engineering and testing to ensure that each and every part that constitutes a piece of equipment or an operating system works together properly to ensure optimal performance and achieve longer operating life.

However, there are companies in the marketplace that bypass the significant investment that original equipment manufacturers make to ensure they are offering premier equipment to our industry. These companies try to make a business by selling "knock-off" parts for many different pieces of equipment in a water or wastewater system. The consumer must be wary of such companies and the parts they are selling and installing in the original equipment.

Installing non-compliant parts from companies other than the original equipment manufacturer can pose many different problems for municipalities and the equipment they rely on every day. In order to offer counterfeit parts at lower prices, some companies bypass the investment in research and development, testing and detailed design engineering that original equipment manufacturers complete as standard business practice. The original equipment manufactures make certain that all parts are working in harmony, both mechanically and electrically, to ensure equipment durability, efficiency and performance.

Some vendors extend the definition of counterfeit parts to include aftermarket and other replacement components, especially when those are substituted for original equipment parts without the knowledge and consent of the equipment owner. While non-genuine parts may look like the original parts and the supplier will claim they operate like the original parts, the reality is they do not possess the same qualities and benefits as the parts offered by an original equipment manufacturer.

So why are counterfeit parts such a problem for the municipal customer? A few examples of problems that can occur when installing a counterfeit piece of equipment into an original machine are as follows:

  • The equipment may malfunction causing other components to fail due to incompatibility of the generic part.
  • Overall equipment life may be reduced due to incompatibility of the counterfeit part with the original equipment.
  • The manufacturer's process performance guarantee can be rendered invalid.
  • The plant may be in violation of required drinking water quality or discharge water quality to the receiving stream.
  • A municipality's certification can be rendered invalid
  • The manufacturer's standard or extended warranty may be voided.
  • Materials of construction may not be the same as the original part resulting in pre-mature wear, reduced part life and even total equipment failure
  • The equipment may operate in an unsafe manner creating a potential hazard for employees.

Non-factory original parts may appear to be an inexpensive purchase on the surface; however, they may result in substantial future costs such as pre-mature equipment failure requiring complete replacement, reduced performance and higher operating costs to name a few.

As we continue to stretch the life of equipment, using spare parts from the original manufacturer will ensure that the proper compatibility and operational efficiency of the equipment that you already invested in will deliver superior performance and reliability for years to come. It is very important to maintain the life and performance of the equipment you originally purchased by using original manufacturer's parts and following the recommended regular maintenance intervals.

You chose the original equipment you purchased because of quality, reliability and performance. Using lesser spare parts would significantly reduce the value of your well informed initial investment. Why would you substitute counterfeit, non-complying parts into the same equipment? WW

About the author:
Ron Port is managing director of ITT Water & Wastewater USA, with responsibility for managing the U.S. company for Flygt, Leopold, WEDECO and Sanitaire. He serves on WWEMA's Board of Directors.

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