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An intern, a laser, and a dream

Quantify the cost of misaligned shafts and couplings
By Heinz P. Bloch, P.E., Process Machinery Consulting

In the summer of 1994, Jack Lambley, an intern at Impe-

rial Chemical Industries (ICI) Rocksavage site in the United Kingdom, was quantifying the effect of misaligned process pumps on power consumption. He arranged to have a surplus pump overhauled and fitted with new bearings. He then had the pump installed in a suitably instrumented closedloop arrangement operating on water. Prftechnik loaned Lambley a laser-optic alignment instrument. As an undergraduate student, Lambley had learned that misalignment affects bearing load and that excessive bearing load causes exponential decreases in bearing life. His supervisor, Steve Moore, had asked Lambley to read the engineering sections of SKFs general catalog, which stated that a 25% increase in bearing load cut its rated life in half. Lambley investigated alignment accuracy and methods the plant was using at the time. He found that straightedge methods were inappropriate for refinery pumps. Rim-andface alignment was too difficult and generally unreliable. Properly executed, reverse-dial-indicator methods required consideration of bracket sag, which would take more time. Still, from data available at Rocksavage, he calculated that typical misalignment was 0.02-in. vertical and horizontal offsets and 0.002 in./in. vertical and horizontal angularity. In 1994, lasers were already known to be inherently more accurate than the best competing techniques. Lambley believed them to be 10 times more accurate. The graphs and tabulations Lambley constructed are reproduced here, duly acknowledging ICIs role. The recommendations coming out of the study suggested aligning machinery to within 0.005-in. shaft offset and limiting deviations in hub gap to 0.0005 in./in. of hub diameter. Lambley further documented that adhering to these recommendations could reduce ICIs power consumption by about 1%. He confirmed that laser alignment was fast and accurate. He found that laser-alignment technology was bottomline cost-effective. He deserves credit for establishing facts instead of repeating the opinions of others. Average annual electrical demand for pump motors in a typical mid-sized refinery is $23,652,000/yr (27 kW/pump x 8,760 hrs/yr x $0.10/kWh x 1,000 pumps). The ability to save 1% of this total represents a gross annual savings of $236,520 (Figure1 and Figure2). It ignores the cost of laser alignment instruments and appropriate training. Also, its reasonable to assume 7 labor-hours of time-saving credit per alignment

job. Alignment work usually involves two craftspeople and a few hours of operators and supervisors time. Including the overhead contributions of operating and supervisory personnel, the total job typically consumes 15 man-hours with dial indicator methods and brackets, for which one needs to determine and take into account bracket sag. In contrast, it is reasonable to assume that laser-alignment by a two-person crew, including the inevitable participation of supervi-

In your reliability improvement endeavors, never let somebodys opinion get in the way of sound science and facts.
sory and operating personnel, takes perhaps 8 man-hours. That would explain the 7-hour savings, which could also be expressed as a roughly 40% reduction in total man-hours for laser-alignment tasks. For even more information, learn about thermography and infrared monitoring techniques. These technologies quantify beyond any doubt the temperature increase in a coupling located between misaligned pump and driver shafts. You might compare the energy wasted by a hot coupling to the energy loss Lambley described. Youll find that, regardless of calculation method, laser alignment is for the reliability-focused plant professionals and can result in surprisingly rapid payback. Last, but not least, in your reliability improvement endeavors, never let somebodys opinion get in the way of sound science and facts. I have seen many uninformed opinions expressed in trade journals on subjects including oil mist, alignment accuracy requirments, grease application, bearing housing protector seals, and one-type-serves-all lubricants. These opinions come from people with credentials ranging from junior mechanic to Ph.D and are all aimed at using unskilled labor to the maximum extent. The assumption is that this will keep cost down. In most instances, cost refers to contractor billing rates. I call them opinions because they dont take into account the ramifications on component life (bearing load) and increased failure risk. They lose sight of the fact that our role is reliability improvement; cheap and sloppy work will not get us there. July 2011 19

14,000 14,000 12,000 12,000 10,000 10,000 8,000 8,000 6,000 6,000 4,000 4,000 2,000 2,000 0 0

8 8 6 % Increase 6 4 % Increase 0

Some things endure the test of time. For good reason.

2 0 10 20 30 40 50 Horizontal offset (mils) 20 30 40 50 Horizontal offset (mils) 60 60 70 70

Accuracy 0 +/-3% of value 10 Accuracy +/-3% of value

Figure 1. Effect of parallel offset on power consumption of a pin coupling at 3,000 rpm. MISALIGNMENT COST
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10 10 8 % Increase

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8 % Increase 0 6 4 2 0 6 4 2
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10 Gap (mils/in.) 10 Gap (mils/in.)

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Gardner Denver. Since 1859.

Compressed Air Solutions
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Figure 2. Effect of angular misalignment on power consumption of a pin coupling at 3,000 rpm.


06-07 07-08 06-07 07-08 Dec 14,270 14,270 Dec 14,270 14,270 Jan 12,790 11,810 Jan 18,970 12,790 11,810 Feb 14,050 Feb 18,970 14,050 Mar 15,860 12,350 Mar 14,190 15,860 12,350 Apr 10,540 Apr 14,190 10,540 May 11,890 8,150 May9,140 11,890 8,150 June 5,325 June 9,140 5,325 July 9,660 5,325 July 10,120 9,660 5,325 Aug 6,640 Aug 10,120 6,640 Sept 11,346 7,100 Sept 11,346 7,100 Oct 10,770 7,500



Self-promoting noisemakers with very little practical industrial experience, but with a resum of 58 di erent employers in 25 years, tend to get more exposure than real eld-wise experts. e reasons are many, but its a fact that experts at major petrochemical companies have neither the time nor the incentive to write. A er all, they are gainfully employed by best-ofclass companies and arent in need of drumming up business for themselves. Moreover, their legal departments believe that sharing factual experience on the merits of using best-available technology is to be discouraged. e legal departments believe technical articles are either giving away a competitive advantage or consume time that would be put to better use in doing reliability-focused work inside the plant, or both.
Heinz P. Bloch, P.E., owns Process Machinery Consulting, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Contact him at and (515) 225-0668. 20