Efficiency is a primary concern for all industries. Every business wants to increase its operational capacity without incurring extra costs or spending huge amounts of money on a new facility. Engineering consulting services is an excellent tool to show clients how to debottleneck their operations and maximize their efficiency.
What Is an Operations Bottleneck and Why Is It a Problem?
The term bottleneck arises from the relatively narrower neck of a bottle as it tapers toward the opening. This narrow neck limits the amount of fluid that can pass through the neck and out of the opening. While for actual bottles this is a good thing since it prevents too much liquid from gushing out and keeps the person drinking from choking, for other areas a bottleneck tends to be a bad thing. In the context of traffic for example a bottleneck occurs when two or more lanes merge into a single lane, limiting the number of cars that can get through and delaying traffic. In an industrial and commercial context a bottleneck limits the amount of product a plant or facility can produce, thereby also limiting profits.
How Engineering Consulting Services Can Help
Engineering consulting services help clients debottleneck their operations by applying process engineering and operations best practices. This in turn relieves the bottleneck and allows capacity to be increased. In order to do this, engineering consultants typically apply one or more of the following:
Evaluate the Entire System – The first place to start is with a thorough evaluation of the entire operational system. This allows the engineer to see the full, big picture and to get a firm handle on how daily operations are conducted. From this holistic approach the engineer can then begin to recommend improvements and fixes.
Analyzing Depth of Problem – Not all bottlenecks are created equally. Sometimes improvements can be made through relatively minor fixes such as an adjustment to operating pressure, a slight change in process sequence, different valves or line size, etc. Understanding the depth of the problem and resolving easy fixes is crucial to debottlenecking operations.
Focus on Optimal Areas of Improvement – Full scale, systemic bottlenecks may require more intensive fixes. Certain equipment may need to be upgraded or serviced, entire processes may need changed, etc. These larger scale fixes can be time consuming and costly, that is why the consulting services can help narrow in on the most optimal areas of improvement, those that will yield the most benefit in terms of efficiency improvement, at the lowest cost.
Apply Fundamentals of Process Engineering – The hallmarks of process engineering are extremely useful for operations debottlenecking processes. These key areas include:
- Process Design – The design of the system itself may have room for improvement that can dramatically increase efficiency and output.
- Process Operations – The system itself might be great in theory, but the execution and daily operations may have shortfalls that can be corrected.
- Process Control – It could be that the system is otherwise well designed and well operated, but that there are vulnerabilities in the system that decrease process control, consistency, and reliability.
- Supporting Tools – Often an ancillary tool or system can be employed that will improve or bolster the primary system.
Operational Changes Have a Major Effect
In concert these practices and small changes can add up to a very major effect for the client’s company, resulting in greatly improved efficiency and operations. As an example in one of our major projects Polaris helped a large refinery increase their crude unit capacity, vacuum unit capacity, naphtha hydrotreating capacity, reforming capacity, and kerosene hydrotreating capacity. Over 50% of the yielded benefits were directly attributable to implemented operational changes rather than simply increased throughput. Our engineering consulting services can help debottleneck your facility’s operations as well. Please contact us for more information.