Canadian Rental Service

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Pump it up!

To be successful in the pump rental business, according to Majid Tavakoli, you must have a very strong customer service program and an excellent maintenance department.


November 24, 2010
By Mike Davey

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To be successful in the pump rental business, according to Majid Tavakoli, you must have a very strong customer service program and an excellent maintenance department. Tavakoli is the vice-president of applied products for Thompson Pump.

pump

“If a pump is out on rental, and it’s stopped pumping, you have an emergency on your hands,” says Tavakoli. “We look for distributors who take these issues seriously, and are dedicated to keeping that pump operating.”

Although the purpose of a pump – to move fluids such as liquids, gases or slurries – is relatively simple and unchanged from ancient times, there has been a spate of innovation in recent years.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes develop over the last few years,” says John Farrell, vice-president of sales for Thompson Pump. “A lot of work has been done to create higher efficiencies and better fuel consumption rates. Thompson Pump has also put in a lot of work on different technologies for add-on priming systems. The goal is to make our equipment smaller and more efficient. And, of course, we spend a lot of time on our green technology.” 

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Farrell explains that there are other types of pollution that quality pump design can help with, other than the obvious problem of emissions.

“We’ve always followed a policy of using high-quality components to help prevent breakdowns, which of course is very important for the rental market, and we try to design pumps that will have a minimal impact on the environment,” says Farrell. “However, when people talk about those impacts, they often leave out noise pollution, which can be just as damaging to workers in the long term. We’ve managed to reduce the noise levels down to about 67 decibels at 23 feet, which is a big improvement.”

Part of that “green” technology is simply increased efficiency in pumping, defined as the ratio of the power imparted on the fluid by the pump in relation to the power supplied to drive the pump. In other words, higher efficiency means less horsepower is used to achieve the same objective. In general, the efficiency of a pump will decline over time, due to wear. For example, clearances may increase as the impellers wear down.

“Our pumps are more efficient than they used to be,” says Tavakoli. “They were running at about 55 to 65 per cent efficiency, now they’re about 85 per cent efficient. A lot of it has to do with new impeller designs and casing designs, and the use of new and better materials in their construction. The new designs of the impellers and the new pump cases make everything run better and smoother.”

However, there are other “green” technologies in the pumping world that have less to do with efficiencies than they do with emission of effluent. 

For example, Thompson Pump offers the Enviroprime system, used in many applications where the project site can’t be contaminated by pump fluids. According to the company, the Enviroprime system provides quick initial priming and consistent re-priming, as well as preventing blow-by. It also eliminates the need to fill the pump hosing with water to obtain the initial prime at startup. Also on the “green” front from Thompson is their Oil-less Vacuum Technology (OVT) Priming System. It allows for dry running in addition to a host of other features, and can be added to any of Thompson’s centifugal pumps.

Gord DeBruin works for Claessen Pumps, a distributor of Grindex submersible pumps in eastern and southern Ontario. He also notes that efficiency has increased, and credits innovations in research and design.

“Pumps are definitely becoming much more efficient,” says DeBruin. “With the bigger pumps especially, the motors are becoming more efficient. Improved impeller designs, tweaking the diffusers and some other things. There’s a lot of R&D that goes into it.”

When it’s time to purchase, DeBruin has two recommendations.

“For a rental operator, one thing you want to look at is longevity of the product. You might spend more on a higher quality pump, but it will last longer and bring you more income,” says DeBruin. “The second thing is the market in your area. Rental operators should study their market and try to find out what’s needed. We have some rental operators that deal strictly in 3-inch pumps, but another store in a different location doesn’t have any. Sometimes it’s regional differences and sometimes it’s the market being served.”

Dan Schaffer is export manager for Grindex. He believes it’s important for rental operators to look at the total expected life of the pump, and the mean time between failures (MTBF), before choosing a pump line.

“You need to look at the total cost of ownership,” says Schaffer. “Typically, a rental operator should look both for quality and the lowest cost of ownership. You have to look at your total cost. How often you have to repair it, how long repairs and maintenance take – those are the things you really have to look at.”

This is a statement that Roger Hiscock may very well agree with. Hiscock is the branch manager of Marindustrial Ontario.

“There is a very small percentage of rental shops out there that will embrace offshore products that just don’t have the quality needed,” says Hiscock. “These units might be cheaper, but those operators aren’t doing themselves or their customers any favours. You get what you pay for. Subaru, for example, offers a three-year guarantee. They do this because they build the pump to last.”

John Ciaraldi of Tsurumi says that abrasive water is the big source of wear on water pumps.

“We carry a silicon carbide mechanical seal so our pumps can pump more abrasive water than those carrying carbon ceramic seals,” says Ciaraldi. “We also have rubber mounts to relieve strain on the steel cage and on the pump case. This gives better life to the mechanical seal housing and mechanical seal.”

John Farrell notes that no matter which way a rental operator decides to go, there are advantages to the pump rental business.

“It’s a good business to be in,” says Farrell. “You can be in it on a smaller level, or on a larger level. Really, it all depends on what you’re trying do and what kind of service you want to provide.”