How Wear Affects a Plant’s Performance – and How to Deal With It

plant maintenance

Wear – the damage that occurs to equipment by two surfaces coming into contact with each other or something in the environment – can degrade your equipment and eventually result in a costly replacement.

Unfortunately, no one has identified a way to completely eliminate the prospect of wear from a workplace. “Wear and tear” is a part of life for any plant that has moving pieces or exposure to the environment, which is every plant in every industry – power, cement & lime, steel, you name it.

Understanding the different types of wear and how they happen is the first step to understanding how to manage and control this phenomenon. Here, we’ll outline the types of wear and then cover something your facility can put into place to mitigate the long-term costs and damage to your equipment.

Types of Wear

There are seven different types of wear, each with different causes and effects. They are:

  • Abrasion
  • Cavitation
  • Corrosion
  • Erosion
  • Friction
  • Heat
  • Impact

Abrasion occurs when two materials – one harder than the other – rub up against each other. Abrasion can gradually remove layers of a surface until the moving pieces no longer properly function.

Cavitation is related to impact wear (see below) in that vapor bubbles form in low pressure and implode in high pressure. This is frequently seen in pumps. Cavitation can cause pitting or holing in the surface.

Corrosion is the gradual destruction of a material by coming into contact with elements in an environment. Chemicals can cause corrosion, but the most common form is rust formed by moisture.

Erosion is when a surface gradually becomes worn away by small particle impingement (striking or colliding).

Friction causes wear by two metal surfaces moving against one another.

Heat wear is caused by high temperature deforming or softening materials, such as metal. Deformity or softening can result in equipment malfunction through bending, warping, or some other distortion.

Impact wear is when two surfaces repeatedly collide, or impact, with each other. These ongoing collisions will eventually result in material loss over time.

One piece of equipment can be subjected to multiple types of wear at the same time, which can complicate diagnosis of the problem and compound the difficulty of a timely repair. Fortunately, wear in all forms can be managed before it turns into a serious – and expensive – problem.

Managing Wear Properly

The best way to manage wear, in the end, is through preventative and proactive maintenance.

There are only two times when wear can be identified: before it has caused a problem, and after it has caused a problem. Costs skyrocket when plant managers wait until the second time occurs.

It’s better to preempt an expensive replacement by monitoring the wear on equipment that is either exposed to moving forces or is exposed to the environment in a vulnerable way. Every plant needs a clear maintenance plan with regular and frequent inspections and the know-how to engage a problem before it turns major.

Whether this is through proper lubrication to prevent friction, changing out one surface for a more durable one, cleaning equipment regularly to prevent corrosion, keeping temperatures down, or taking some other form of action, proactive maintenance can address the problem prior to it getting out of hand.

Southern Field specializes in plant maintenance across multiple industries. Contact us for more information on reducing wear and tear in your plant and cutting your overall maintenance costs.