Design,  installation, and startup are the biggest contributors to a reliable or unreliable plant.  It is difficult or impossible for a Maintenance Department to overcome issues inserted during one of these stages. Unfortunately,  most often the focus is placed on fixing the equipment after some functional failure has occurred.  The focus should be placed on preventing equipment failures in the first place.

Design and installation consideration should be given to minimizing piping strain.  Piping strain is affected by temperature, flexibility, mounting arrangement, and design.  Distortions in machinery from piping strain can lead to increased vibration levels, bearing failures, seal failures, coupling issues, and more.

The baseplate should be flat and level.  A warped baseplate can lead to soft foot conditions and difficulty in performing proper equipment alignment and reliability issues.

Soft foot conditions distort the frame of the machine and lead to bearing, seal, and electrical issues in equipment.  Additionally, soft foot conditions can make the normal alignment process much more difficult.

Correct placement and adequate adjustment mechanisms for the equipment are required for proper alignment.

The design and installation must allow for any movement required to bring the equipment into proper alignment once it has been placed into position.

Good alignment of the machines also means accounting for any anticipated positional changes in the machines that occur due to thermal growth or operational loading. Compensate for this by aligning equipment to the proper targets in the “cold” condition.

The above items are a few of the things that should be taken into consideration during the design, installation, and startup processes.  Failure to do so will lead to difficulty in achieving proper equipment alignment.  Improper alignment leads to functional failures in equipment and reliability problems. Don’t overlook the reliability improvements that are available to you by doing good equipment shaft alignment.

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by Trent Phillips