By Steven Baird
Engineers, contractors and building owners are beginning to discover what fire safety professionals have known for years. Factory assembled pump packages reduce cost, save time, and increase the quality of the installation.
Pre-assembled fire pump packages mean fast, on-schedule installation of systems that are guaranteed to meet standards and codes. The whole system is performance tested in an ISO-certified facility to ensure optimum operating efficiency. In the event of an issue, there is only one accountable point of contact. Components are properly matched and don’t become a procurement burden, or take forever to assemble on-site. The package approach also reduces overall lead time, and avoids lost or damaged items during extended on-site storage situations, caused by unexpected shipping delays.
Faster, lower-cost installation
Within two weeks of order placement, contractors receive drawings showing exact package dimensions and connection locations, based on submittal documents. This means on-site piping connections for the system can be prepared in advance. When the system arrives, installation is simple and fast; two pipe connections, two power connections and you’re done.
A factory-built fire package typically includes all major pipework; everything from the OS&Y valve on the suction side to the butterfly valve on the discharge side, including the jockey pump line and sensing lines. Both controllers come pre-wired.
The actual installation process is reduced by up to 95 percent. This allows sprinkler contractors to maintain project profitability and to focus on what they do best.
System design integrity
Factory assembly gives all stakeholders peace of mind that the design will adhere to relevant industry standards. Specialist professionals in fire package development learn from hundreds of successful installations, and from designing fire packages all year long. They create plans using the latest 3-D modeling tools, and make it their business to cultivate detailed knowledge of fire and electrical codes in each region. As masters in their craft, they routinely incorporate features that occasional designers may not think to consider or include.
Codes, standards and requirements
Pre-assembled fire packages are the product of a tight and focused team of engineers. Procurement specialists and production experts work together closely to ensure that all components and custom modifications will meet NFPA 20 requirements and UL/FM component certification. Each specialist provides individual expertise, and also reviews the work of other team members. Every detail is double-checked, and nothing is left to be corrected on the factory floor, or later on-site.
Procurement specialists continuously monitor code requirements and specifications for all components ordered, to eliminate ordering and stocking errors.
If an individual with less experience is required to do this work alone, more time is usually needed to complete the purchasing steps. In some cases, critical requirements might be overlooked, leaving installers the difficult choice of delaying the project or building in components that are not code compliant.
Compatibility and sizing
Questions related to sizing and selection for fire packages that might normally pose a challenge to a contractor or mechanical engineer, are second nature to someone who deals with them all day, every day. The result is that with pre-assembled fire packages, sizing uncertainty and the risk of compatibility errors are virtually eliminated.
Factory-built fire packages are pre-assembled and tested in a facility that is certified to the global ISO 9000 quality standard. Production processes must adhere to an integrated quality system, and third-party quality specialists inspect procedures regularly.
Safety and operating cost control are primary considerations. Pumps are performance-tested to ensure optimum operating efficiency, before assembly into the packaged system. Then the entire system is hydro-tested to ensure that it meets pressure requirements.
Reduced overall lead time
Industry-standard lead time for just one fire pump is about six weeks. This would not include time for sourcing additional parts, as well as time for design, wiring, construction and testing.
Industry-standard lead time for a complete fire system is 10 weeks, and manufacturers are well aware of the need to meet commitments, especially where penalties for late delivery can be steep. Factory pre-assembly clearly saves on overall lead time.
Reduced procurement time and cost
While procurement processes might not seem significant, a typical bill of materials for a fire system includes as many as 90 different items that must be sized, selected and ordered, which could mean about two days just for procurement. Major components include a pump, controller, piping, wiring, valves and sensing lines.
For a system assembled on-site, procurement time commitment and complexity can be complicated further by site conditions, and schedule pressures. Mistakes in sizing and selection can lead to added workload and timeline delays.
Fire package procurement specialists use a streamlined ordering process, including proven procedures and advanced electronic tools. This substantially reduces total procurement time and the chance of errors.
Industry studies suggest that the cost to process an invoice ranges between $6 and $25. If a typical fire system involves 90 line items spread across multiple invoices, this incremental administrative activity translates into significant extra cost.
Fewer on-site storage challenges
“Where’s that valve?”
“Who’s the genius who left these bolts out in the rain?”
These are questions that should not come up in the course of installing a fire system. But, with so many components being received separately on-site and stored until they all arrive, items can be lost due to careless storage or shrinkage. Then when they’re needed, and the deadline is looming, an installer may not be able to find that sensor or controller.
Items may also have been left in unsuitable conditions or stacked poorly, leading to damage, delays and added cost. Pre-assembled fire packages are shipped to the site on a single skid, and are far easier and less costly to manage.
Minimal on-site assembly space commitment
Assembling a fire system from loose components can take weeks of work. Ninety components put together by three or more tradespeople require access to secure floor space, with electricity, lighting and specialized tools.
When timelines are compressed, finding and preserving the required space for two or three weeks is an additional headache that no project manager wants. As mentioned, with pre-assembled fire packages there are two pipe connections, two power connections and you’re done.
Dedicated project manager reduces risk and saves labor
In many instances, a dedicated project manager is assigned to oversee a pre-assembled packaged system from the moment the order is received, through to installation and successful start-up.
Key tasks and responsibilities include:
• Preparation of a formal submittal package
• Coordination of approval drawings sign-off
• Working with customers to ensure satisfaction and final approvals
• Maintaining project schedules during the factory assembly process
• Coordinating on-time shipment
• Coordinating on-site start-up processes
Assigning these responsibilities to a single, very experienced individual substantially reduces the chance of errors in the process, and ensures that the fire system will be completed according to agreed timelines.
Single supply source for warranty and troubleshooting
When a fire system is properly installed and passes inspection, life is good. When the system fails inspection, or doesn’t deliver the expected performance, a game of finger-pointing can sometimes follow. Controller manufacturers, motor manufacturers, designers, assemblers, and electricians can all be pulled into a frustrating and time-consuming conflict.
With pre-assembled fire packages, the manufacturer assumes responsibility for the warranty and all aspects of the system. Performance issues are resolved through a single point of contact.
Considered individually, the benefits of selecting a pre-assembled fire pump package may vary in their importance and impact. Taken together, they add up to tremendous value for engineers, contractors and building owners.
Steven Baird is the marketing manager of Fire Products at Armstrong. He is responsible for managing Armstrong’s global portfolio of fire suppression products, including packaged fire systems and fire pumps.