When updating, expanding or scaling a manufacturing process, it’s amazing how quickly logistics can complicate the project. Long lead times on equipment, delays with on-site fabrication, and facilitating communication between vendors have all proven to drive up capital costs and slow time to production.
In recent years, manufacturers have steadily increased their reliance on a faster and less expensive alternative to traditional stick-build process systems. Modular process skids offer a unique mix of flexibility and robustness that traditional stick-build process systems can no longer compete with, especially for the price. By installing modular process skids, manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, consumer products, chemicals, oil and gas can bring their product to market faster, cheaper and with less hassle.
If you work in one of these industries, chances are you’ve heard the term in passing, but exactly what are modular process skids and when should you use one? In this post, we’ll define modular process skids, explain their benefits, and show some examples of process skids that were custom-built for manufacturers.
What is a Modular Process Skid?
A modular process skid is a self-contained process system that has been built into a frame or “module” for easy transportation and integration. Modular process skids can contain entire process systems or individual process applications; including batch mixing or blending, delayed differentiation, solvent recovery, and small-scale distillation.
What are The Benefits of Using Modular Process Skids?
In a recent article published by Chemical Engineering, author Joy LePree interviewed today’s top skid manufacturers about the growing popularity of modular process skids over traditional process system fabrication methods. Ken Sipes, Director of Engineering for EPIC Systems, explained the cost benefits of fabricating skids off-site in a controlled shop environment.
“When labor is a limiting factor, you’re left with the same amount of work to be done with a smaller crew” Sipes said. “That crew has to work more, which means paying premium overtime wages, as well as per diems and travel expenses. However, taking a modular approach can spread the work out geographically to where the workforce is readily available, lessening the impact of those costs.”
In addition to labor, skid mounted process systems provide manufacturers with a long list of benefits. Here are just a few:
- Shorter Project Timelines –fabricating process skid packages offsite allows on-site facility upgrades to proceed concurrently without interruption. Completing these steps in parallel can eliminate months off the project schedule, allowing manufacturers to bring their product to market faster.
- Higher Quality Fabrication – Fabricating skids in a controlled shop environment eliminates weather-related risks and setbacks. It also reduces the need for craftsmen to perform overhead welds. Instead, shop craftsmen use orbital welders to do pre-fabrication on most materials, resulting in more precise welds.
- Rollout Savings – Manufacturers needing to install multiple skids across different locations can leverage engineering and design costs from the first skid and fabricate multiple replicas at a reduced cost for each process skid thereafter.
Real World Examples of Process Skids
On the surface, the concept of the skid mounted process system has many high-level benefits. In practice, custom-build process skids tend to tout several additional benefits that are specific to the project at hand. Below are how a couple of process manufacturers have put process skids to good use.
In-Line Blending Skid Adds 20 Flavors at Minimal Cost
This Fortune 500 company contacted EPIC Systems, a skid manufacturer based in the Midwest, to design and build an in-line blending process skid package. Coupling a pre-mix blending skid with the delayed differentiation skid pictured here, the manufacturer was able to dose in 20 new flavors into the pre-mixed base product. This helped expand their product offerings without having to invest in many individual batch mixing systems.
U.S. Department of Energy Uses Skid to Test Large Scale C02 Removal
The video below shows an example of a skid-mounted pilot plant, which was installed by the U.S. Department of Energy to test a new process for removing flue gas from coal-based power plants. As with the previous example, this skid was designed, fabricated and factory acceptance tested (FAT) offsite in a dedicated skid fabrication shop.
Designing a Modular Process Skid
In closing, modular process skids can provide a robust, cost-efficient alternative to traditional process systems and equipment. To see more examples of modular process skids and information on how we build them, visit EPIC’s process skid design and build page.