Reducing downtime in industrial applications

For the industrial sector, having to ‘down tools’ because a heating system needs to be installed, repaired or serviced isn’t just inconvenient, it also affects productivity – and hence targets, profits and bonuses.
Therefore, prefabricated packages and modular boilers, which can reduce downtime where installation and maintenance are concerned, have been well received in this sector.

Prefabricated heating solutions – where complete heating packages are manufactured and assembled in a factory and arrive at a site ready to be installed – were introduced just a few years ago. At the time, prefabrication was seen as a completely new concept which challenged traditional thinking, but the advantages soon convinced any sceptics. In fact, ‘plug and play’ solutions are now seen as the way forward for the commercial heating industry.

The main benefit is that prefabricated heating solutions greatly reduce installation time. Specifying a complete package that’s been pre-prepared takes far less time than ordering separate components which need to be fitted together on-site. Once the prefabricated system has been delivered and is in place, there’s just gas, water and electricity to be connected and the flow and return pipework, condensate discharge and flue to be fitted. So, installations that would have previously taken close to a working week to finish can be completed in just one or two days, making it possible to fit heating plant over a weekend, when it’s unlikely to affect industrial production schedules.

The ‘plug and play’ concept is naturally appealing to those working to tight project timescales. Prefabricated heating solutions are often heavily relied on when project managers are trying to meet tight schedules or are attempting to fit work into a restricted window of opportunity, or their customers want downtime reduced to a bare minimum.

Prefabrication also reduces labour costs and improves both the quality and efficiency of boiler installations. And, by ensuring component compatibility, it takes an element of risk out of heating system design. As the separate parts are prepared by the manufacturer under quality assured conditions, the result should be a high-quality, engineered product, with each element of the system being fitted and checked before leaving the factory. Since there’s just a single source of supply, engineers installing prefabricated products don’t need to worry about ordering parts or components and, with the integrity of the prefabricated unit guaranteed, they can rest assured that the system will be complete and ready to work to optimum ability and efficiency.

We’d also argue that prefabricated heating systems offer a more sustainable solution. It’s far less likely that prefabricated system components will be lost at site during the installation phase, so replacement purchases won’t be necessary. In addition, with prefabrication, much of the plant is delivered to site in one vehicle, reducing the carbon footprint of the project.

Though prefabricated boiler packages offer many advantages, some issues need to be addressed before a project manager decides if it’s the right avenue for a particular project. Access is a primary concern, with site surveys and careful planning being required.

The project manager must ask themselves a few essential questions. For example, how will the package be transported to the plant room? Does the plant room have level access for a forklift or an open top for crane access? Will the boiler package fit through the doorway/opening to the plant room? Can the package be easily manoeuvred into position? Most prefabricated heating solutions are designed to fit through a standard doorway, but problems might arise if the door is smaller or it’s in an awkward position, and only some prefabricated packages include mobility features to make transportation smoother.

Many prefabricated solutions incorporate modular boilers – where several boilers are installed in parallel and operate in conjunction with each other. When the individual boilers’ outputs are combined, they will at least equal the total output required. Using a number of smaller boilers in this manner instead of one larger one can improve operating efficiencies – as the boilers work in sequence, sharing the heat load and firing up to match requirements, which reduces fuel consumption and wear on the individual units.

Modular systems offer advantages for the industrial sector, as they reduce downtime if a boiler needs to be serviced or repaired, or if it breaks down – providing greater insurance that productivity will not be lost. With a modular system, whilst one boiler isn’t functioning, the others are able to temporarily take on the extra load, so heating systems can keep running.

In addition, because a modular system usually has smaller physical dimensions than one individual boiler of equal capacity, space can be saved. And, where retrofit projects are concerned, modular systems can be installed more easily. With most large capacity commercial boilers, retrofit installations can be problematic – with walls sometimes having to be removed and cranes being needed to lift them in – but usually modular systems are designed to fit through a standard doorway.

Potterton Commercial has recently developed a revolutionary, flexible, prefabricated modular product. Rather than being delivered as one completely connected package, the new Sirius MB is supplied in individual modules, which allows the system to be quickly and simply fitted together on site, in a variety of linear and corner configurations.

This design minimises the site space required for installations and makes the heating plant adaptable to a range of plant rooms – even those with awkward access and layouts. Practically designed, each compact module can fit through a standard doorway, making transportation, manual handling and installation simple.

As a complete commercial heating package, the Sirius MB includes high efficiency condensing boilers, pumps, a pressurisation system and heating controls for ‘plug and play’ installations. The system is driven by the stainless steel Sirius WH boiler, and is available in three outputs of 220kW, 330kW and 440kW, using either two, three or four 110kW boilers.

The modulating and condensing Sirius MB boilers have operational efficiencies of up to 107%, ensuring they meet the requirements of Part L2 under the Building Regulations for new and replacement plant, while offering impressive fuel efficiency. The advanced controls allow modulation of the boilers down to extremely low outputs to match the system load and maintain optimum system efficiency, and offer weather compensation, optimum start and stop and frost protection.

The Sirius MB is manufactured to ISO9001 and is designed and built using corrosion resistant galvanised mounting frames and high-grade 304L stainless steel pipework. In order to prove the integrity and operational efficiency of the system we offer a commissioning service, which leads to a full five year parts and labour warranty on the entire Sirius MB package.

Opportunities for prefabricated and modular boiler plant are set to grow substantially over the next few years, and we predict that products will evolve further, making them suitable for a wider range of applications.

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