Oftentimes, a business avoids upgrading to new equipment because the old equipment “just works.” After all, there’s a cost involved in new equipment. Yet some of the old equipment might be resulting in hidden costs that you don’t see, simply because you’ve grown used to them. A particular case comes to mind involving a new starch cooker for a pulp and paper mill in Washington state.
They weren’t delaying buying new equipment. In fact, the difference in capability and performance between new and old equipment was something they had in mind. Yet there were still advantages to a new starch cooker that they hadn’t anticipated, advantages that enabled them to be even more productive and avoid frustrations they’d come to accept as a daily occurrence.
A large part of this is because the starch cooker we designed doesn’t use moving parts. The mill was impressed that the daily noise and vibration they were so used to enduring simply went away with the new starch cooker. Production engineers stated “that after removing a earlier style direct steam heater for starch cooking the Komax in-line starch cooker eliminated the noise and vibration which plagued the previous unit.”
In-line Mixing Chambers
Doing this without moving parts offers several advantages. There are fewer mechanical features that can break, come loose, vibrate, or start performing badly. This avoids a host of mechanical headaches. In-line mixing chambers instead enable steam to mix with the starch stream evenly and uniformly. This results in starch cooking to a high standard, with less vibration, less noise, less wear, and fewer potential maintenance issues.
Another big advantage was that our mixer could handle higher loads, operating with 50 lbs. of steam that the previous starch cooker simply couldn’t manage. Now, the mill could have kept operating with what they were used to – with less efficiency, noise and vibrations that frustrated their production engineers every day, and higher maintenance costs.
Old Costs Revealed
That all adds up. Old equipment can create a more stressful work environment where it’s more difficult to retain employees. It can make you believe that lesser efficiency is normal and acceptable. It can make you believe that high maintenance costs are just part of doing business. It’s hard to break away from what “just works,” even if it doesn’t work that well. New equipment is often worth the cost, and it can often eliminate a range of old costs that are difficult to recognize because you’re so used to them.