To repair or replace – that is the question

8th December 2016
Posted By : Anna Flockett
To repair or replace – that is the question

Helping clients decide between repairing and replacing equipment that has provided decades of sterling service, A&J Fabtech Water Division has expanded its services after years of building scrapers, skimmers, thickeners and other equipment for the water treatment industry. Andy Sheddon of the company runs through the options.

Designing, building and installing water treatment equipment has been the core business of A&J Fabtech Water Division for many years. Now, as was always inevitable, we have reached a point where some of our earlier projects have come to the end of their design life and the clients need to make decisions about what to do next.

Typically, they have to choose between writing off the existing equipment and installing new or refurbishing it so that it will run for another defined period.

Reliability is of paramount importance in the world of water treatment, so which ever route is chosen; both we and the clients have to be confident that the solution will provide the performance required for an agreed period going forward. Naturally, replacement, new equipment is going to be reliable, but refurbishment solutions can also be successful if they are carried out correctly, thoroughly and to an appropriate standard.

It is tempting to think that refurbishment will be cheaper than new build, but that is far from always the case. Craneage is going to cost the same for both the new and the refurbish options, while the cost of new parts will be weighed against the cost of servicing existing parts; both routes will involve labour costs.

In fact it is not unusual to find that there is little difference in overall project costs. However, there may be significant tax advantages to installing new capital equipment compared with the refurbishment option, so exploring the costings is a vital early step in the process.

When we know a client’s equipment is coming to the end of its design life, we contact them and suggest an inspection and condition report. We will have the original design drawing on file and they may provide valuable reference information. We will also have full documentation on any servicing, repairs or alterations we have undertaken.

Typically, we will find that the wearing parts deserve some attention but that most of the fabricated structure is sound.

Motors may need refurbishing, rewinding or replacing. Significantly, there have been major strides made with the efficiency of electric motors over the last 25 years, so with today’s focus on energy saving, and noting that water treatment equipment often runs 24/7, the cost of a new motor is likely to be recouped in reduced energy bills in a remarkably short time. In short, new motors are often the best option by a considerable margin.

After 25 years most gearboxes are going to be in need of an overhaul. Bearings will need replacing, while it is to be expected that gear teeth will be worn and/or damaged. To the cost of this work is added that associated with craneage to remove the gearbox and then reinstall it. This, plus the potential tax advantages of new capital equipment, may make a new gearbox a very attractive consideration.

Scraper blades, bearings and similar components will have had a tough working life, so it is almost inevitable that replacement is the best option.

With the information from our files and the inspection completed we have a starting point for considering future options. We may propose one or more refurbishment strategies and compare these with options for a new build solution. While we are happy to advise the client, ultimately it is their decision and we will support them whatever they choose.

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