Subject: Seal partnering 13-10

The latest fad to hit the process industry is "partnering," allowing industrial academics to have a wonderful time thinking up these new projects so they will appear to be doing something productive and useful. Although "partnering" implies many lofty benefits it always ends up being nothing more than the purchasing department negotiating a large discount from the seal manufacturer. The really important stuff that is costing you the most money, always takes second place.

Modern mechanical seal designs are supposed to run until the only sacrificial part (usually the carbon seal face) has worn away. In better than 90% of the cases this never happens. Through some convoluted thought process, or maybe a hard sell by their local seal supplier these same academics have decided that purchasing these failing seals at a discount will somehow make sense to whomever they have to answer. I know they're not going to like hearing this, but mechanical seals are really not a commodity. Anything with a 90% plus failure rate would have a hard time being put into a commodity status by anyone's definition.

If you serious about trying to finally getting some decent mechanical seal life in your rotating equipment, you're going to have to start looking for some very specific features in your mechanical seals and some very knowledgeable people to deal with when it come to application and troubleshooting. Consulting, application, and troubleshooting expenses have traditionally been built into the price of the mechanical seal. Large consumer discounts eliminate that service.

There are three things you would like to receive from your seal supplier:

Choose any of the above two. Isn't it kind of stupid to think you'll get all three!

We will start with the product. Decide on the type of seal you'll need :

Seal materials are an important consideration. With few exceptions you should be able to install the same seal in every pump of the same shaft size and reduce your inventory considerably. Make the decision right now to quit using "mystery materials" identified only by a part number or some generic term used to describe the material in your expensive mechanical seals. How are you going to fix something if you not know what it is? There is a lot to know about materials and it is a subject that is always changing as new materials are developed.

Look for non-clogging features in you seal designs because there are solids present in most of your applications:

There are other desirable features you should look for:

The seal should be easy to install.

The seal should generate very little heat.

Some cartridge seal feature to look for.

All split seals are not alike:

Once the proper mechanical seal has been specified for the application, the really difficult part takes over. Someone has to do the application for the individual chemicals and troubleshooting of failed seals. Because these people are rare, we see consumers throwing seals at the application hoping one of them will work. The 90% failure rate you presently experience is one of the results of this approach.

It would be wonderful if you could call in three or four seal companies selling the same product, with the same level of expertise and choose among them for your best price. The fact is you'll be lucky if you can find one good supplier, and I will bet he will not be the lowest price. He will likely have the highest inital cost. Isn't it kind of naive to think otherwise?

I know you are not going to pay attention to this, so good luck with your 90% + failure rate.


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