Inpro/Seal Company reports that year-to-date sales are 14% ahead of 2007. The company reports that if current, favorable market conditions continue, they are on track to deliver a record number of bearing isolators and record sales for 2008. Though certain issues and dynamics have come into play, the company attributes much of this success to several key factors. These factors include: the ability to deliver large quantities of bearing isolators overnight to Texas petrochem plants and refineries stricken by Hurricane Ike; the relationship with their distributor Flowserve; the increased acceptance of bearing isolators, with preference for the Inpro/Seal brand; and the successes of their shaft seals that positively seal equipment in dry powder and bulk process applications.
The bearing isolator
Invented by David C. Orlowski in 1977 to replace lip seals and other types of contact sealing methods that carried a 100% failure rate, the bearing isolator is a non-contact, non-wearing, permanent bearing protection device. Unlike its predecessors, the bearing isolator, which uses a non-contacting type labyrinth seal, never wears out. Inpro/Seal, the company Orlowski founded, went on to receive patent protection on over 40 isolator-related products.
With an international reputation for its ability to replace lip seals and other types of sealing methods, bearing isolators have become a “Best Maintenance Practice”. As such, most of the Fortune 500 companies in the process industries and over half of the world’s industrial companies use Inpro/Seal products in critical maintenance roles.
When Hurricane Ike hit the “Golden Triangle” of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange Texas, as a Category 4, it had the potential to produce the highest storm surge in history. Luckily, by the time it hit the Golden Triangle, on September 13, 2008, it had dropped to a Category 3, but still caused an estimated $27 billion in damages. Water from storm surges caused considerable damage to a number of oil refineries and chemical plants.
According to Rick LaBove, Inpro/Seal’s Regional Manager who lives in nearby Neederland, “The storm surge from Hurricane Ike did severe damage to two refineries and six petro-chemical plants, shutting them down. Thousands of pumps, motors, drivers, gearboxes and steam turbines were under water for 12 to 24 hours. Lost production time could cost the companies huge amounts of money, while consumers faced stiff price increases at the gas pump. Plant maintenance people had a massive job ahead of them as they had to return ruined equipment to operation as soon as possible”.
LaBove went on, “With the amount of salt water damage, basically nothing was salvageable. Top management, working closely with maintenance people brought in from plants across North America, decided that the best way to get equipment running was to completely rebuild everything with new parts. In addition, they decided that when it came to bearing protection, everything was to be replaced with brand-new bearing isolators. If other methods were used prior (flingers, lip seals), they were also to be replaced with new Inpro/Seal bearing isolators.”
Inpro/Seal enters the picture
With their ability to repair and replace as a single source supplier, Flowserve Solutions Division was retained to get equipment operational in the fastest possible time. With a need for thousands of bearing isolators, Inpro/Seal was the only company that could provide the overnight turnaround time needed. In some cases, they were able to ship the same day. Using assets across North America, Flowserve is currently in the process of rebuilding these plants. This includes: cleaning, sandblasting, painting and replacing all internal parts with new. Equipment that cannot be rebuilt to new specifications will be replaced.
With a proprietary data bank of 60,000-plus specifically engineered rotating equipment designs, Inpro/Seal has prints for every make, model, size and shape of rotating equipment made, which speeds up the manufacturing and delivery process. This is backed by a facility that operates 24/7 under stringent ISO conditions with the latest in (CNC) lathes, metal turning machines, mills, CAD/CAM and sophisticated testing equipment.
According to David C. Orlowski, President and CEO of Inpro/Seal Company, “The people at the Gulf Coast process plants and refineries are still rebuilding and will restart very shortly. Along with our distributor, Flowserve Solutions Division, we have been with them all the way with an intense, quick response time.”
Orlowski continued, “We might have been the only company in the world able to deliver bearing isolators on an overnight basis, but we could not have done so without the individual and cumulative efforts of our staff, management and distributor. It is with a great deal of pride that our company has been able to help the Gulf Coast rebuild in such a short time frame.”
Air Mizer Shaft Seals
Orlowski went on, “Also contributing to a record sales pace is the Air Mizer Shaft Seals. Initially a single product, the Air Mizer has grown into a multi-product line of shaft seals engineered for use where wet or dry particulates, powders and slurries are handled, processed, packaged and stored. Even though Air Mizer Shaft Seals are a larger ticket item, sales continue to soar as more and more end users realize that, once installed, they are able to produce sealing protection that other methods simply cannot attain.”
Orlowski concluded, “In our shaft seals, end users have found the logical alternative to dry running contact seals that carry a 100% failure rate. Because these kinds of seals start to wear at start-up, they are fast losing favor and are being replaced with our shaft seals that do not wear out. These are the only shaft seals on the market that can easily handle angular misalignment caused by shaft deflection and mounting conditions. There is nothing else like it on the market and certainly a contributing factor to our record sales.”