Everything is working just fine – Now is the time to improve!

Ever get down because the operator that is always “fixing” a “broken” refrigeration system is viewed as a hero while the operator who reliably and efficiently operates a system is forgotten about? Read on and see what I think you can do to get back on your boss’s radar even when things are running smoothly!

“Don’t fix what isn’t broke” is a good maintenance motto for much of your refrigeration equipment but it is a lousy motto for processes. Sometimes a piece of machinery is just perfectly suited to the task you are asking it to do. Let’s use one of my favorite examples: the M1911 pistol:

The design is essentially unchanged since its introduction in 1911. That’s some awe-inspiring design! Firearm manufacture started in the 13th century and through constant improvement became what we now take to the pistol range. Imagine if those early inventors worked on their new machine and stopped the minute they got something that “got the job done” without trying to make it work better:

I’m not suggesting you start tinkering with your ammonia pumps and compressors; Modern refrigeration equipment is extremely complex and finely tuned. Chances are though, that you do have plenty of suboptimal processes using that equipment. For many end-users, if the cold area is cold then things are “working” and they want things left alone. The fact that they may be overstressing their equipment and wasting tens of thousands of dollars in extra electricity is not known or simply ignored.

Let’s say you are one of the great refrigeration operators out there: you’re professional, attentive, and knowledgeable. You adhere to your mechanical integrity schedule for preventative and predictive maintenance with an almost religious zeal. Because you do the right things your system operates with very little downtime. The result of all this work, if you are like the vast majority of great operators out there, is that you fall off your boss’s radar. They don’t think about you because they don’t have to worry about refrigeration working for them. Your success means you shrink into the shadows – never a good place to be if you are looking for a promotion or a pay raise!

Is there a way out of this situation without creating “opportunities” to come to the rescue? Yes, there is! You already operate your system in a standard manner that works well, but is there a way it could work better? What would better look like? Would lower electrical costs, reduced downtime and minimal wear & tear be better? If you could quantify those positive changes in dollars, wouldn’t that get you back on the radar at work?

You bet it would! Very few things speak to management louder than dollar bills!

Average Head Pressure:

Results on a 16,000# -40F NH3 System

Electricity Usage:

Don’t settle for “good enough” when you have room for significant improvement. Excellence isn’t just a skill – it’s an attitude too. Optimize your defrost schedules, properly set your back-pressure regulators, balance your evaporators, de-scale you condensers, monitor your chemical concentrations to reduce usage, lower your head pressure. There are almost always things you can improve! Document your improvements and the savings from them and present them to your management. With any luck you can get the well-deserved positive attention you need for that long sought promotion and raise!

About Brian Chapin

PSM / RMP Compliance Consultant
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