Operations & Management
Keeping mills cool in summer months
By Steve Birtch & Roger Drost
By Steve Birtch & Roger Drost
April 1, 2019 – No matter where your mill is located in the world, it is essential to address the challenges of warmer temperatures to make sure the mill continues to run reliably and safely.
Recently, we spoke at one of the leading industry conferences, PaperWeek Canada, on creative approaches to achieve “best practice” performance at the mills during warmer climate. Listed below are the benefits of beyond-run-of-the-mill thinking.
Switching with the seasons
Historically, mills purchase expensive cooling systems (industrial chiller coolers, heavy-duty air conditioners, low-temperature air handlers, modular cooling towers, water-cooled chillers, and dehumidifiers) to cool equipment during the summer. Then the system is idled as the colder months approach. After many months of inactivity, a high rate of equipment failure can occur; yet this issue remains undetected until the facility powers the system up for the summer when it’s needed the most.
One way to remedy this is to design a flexible cooling system. This system can be installed quickly and turned on with a switch for the summer months and then returned to the vendor in the colder months. Should an issue arise with the equipment, the vendor can quickly replace it with a new one to ensure the mill continues to operate reliably. This approach not only boosts reliability but is also more cost-effective than purchasing and maintaining assets that remain underused for most the year or even worse, bear the costs of lost production due to faulty equipment.
Reliability from redundancy
Even if the mill is confident of its cooling equipment, always plan to identify valid cooling solutions in the event of an unplanned incident or planned downtime as part of the site’s incident-prevention and preparedness program. Bring in an expert for a site evaluation to assess the risks, calculate the space and comprehend the logistics of moving temporary equipment in and out of the site. Cooling services professionals will be able to map out the scope of the project, identify issues and risks, model conditions, simulate potential solutions, provide cost estimates and secure local permitting.
Monitoring and safety
As discussed, unreliable equipment can bring mills to a halt. Work with a vendor that can maintain the equipment according to strict schedules to make sure it’s there when you need it most. For additional support, find a vendor that offers a remote monitoring service to oversee every piece of equipment 24/7 and relay critical information. Remote monitoring alerts engineers immediately of an issue, so quick decision-making can occur to keep operations running.
Workers exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress. Exposure to extreme heat can result in occupational illnesses and injuries. Heat stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps or heat rashes, according to the CDC. To address the issue, a temporary cooling system can drop the temperature (even by a few degrees) to keep conditions safe and comfortable.
For example, the workers of a manufacturer were being exposed to 54°C+ temperatures, putting them at serious risk of heat stress. The manufacturer worked with a reputable temporary cooling vendor to design a cooling system, combining a chiller and air handler to let cold air flow into the area. Employees could then work, even in the summer months, at a safe temperature without risk. Improved conditions meant fewer safety-related penalties and higher productivity because workers didn’t have to take as many breaks to cool down.
As the warmer months approach, think about your cooling system and equipment to keep workers safe and operations running.
Steve Birtch is a customer solutions manager at Aggreko in Toronto, while Roger Drost is the Atlantic Canada manufacturing solutions manager at Aggreko and based in Saint John, New Brunswick.