Practical Considerations in Industrial Equipment Modernization Projects

Alexis Devenin, Mechanical Engineer, MBA, PMP is an Engineering Project Manager with 20 years of experience working in the steel, mining and renewable energy industries.

Equipment modernization is a very common type of project in industrial plants. The goal is to upgrade the performance of old equipment by implementing modern technologies and materials. This helps extend the life of the equipment and achieve higher productivity and better quality in the produced goods.

While much has been written about the “repair or replace” decision with different grades of mathematical sophistication, not so much has been written about the practical considerations necessary to ensure that this kind of project achieves its objectives in a sustained way.

Previously, to develop this kind of project, complete diagnostic tests of the equipment were necessary. This must include all of the different technologies or technical dimensions (mechanical, hydraulic, electric and automation, software and hardware, communications systems, etc.). A partial or incomplete analysis can result in ineffective technology implementation.

As an example, I remember a project of implementing an automatic positioning system in a timber sawing machine. The new system would replace the manual positioning practice (done by an operator with mechanical tools), which took several minutes each time. The new system would do the job in less than a minute, with an accuracy of +/- 0,5mm—which was adequate for the product specification. Nevertheless, due to the age of …

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