Beginning in 1971, the Turbomachinery Laboratory of Texas A&M University (TAMU) organized the first of now 41 consecutive annual turbomachinery symposiums, now known as the TAMU Turbo. In 1984, Texas A&M added an International Pump Users Symposium, now called the TAMU Pump. Almost 30 years ago, both meetings shared three of the TAMU Pumps founding membersIgor Karassik, Charlie Jackson and Ed Nelson. These professionals stood out as unselfish, modest, informed and highly experienced teachers. They were the tutors to the next-generation engineers and have remained without equals.
Both the TAMU Turbo and TAMU Pump symposiums are steered by engineers. As members of the TAMU Turbo and TAMU Pump advisory committees, recognized leaders in the fluid machinery and power generation communities share the task of providing guidance to presenters and attendees. Some leaders are equipment users; others are manufacturers or vendors. Virtually all job functions and user industries are represented at these symposiums.
The TAMU Turbo symposium was established as a forum for users and manufacturers of industrial turbomachinery. Because of many overlapping areas of interest, the program continues to focus on commercial turbomachinery users within the oil and gas, petrochemical and utility industries. Both symposiums have very wide scope and content. The decision to co-locate TAMU Pump and TAMU Turbo events has proved to be successful.
2012: A real success for TAMU
The most recent symposiums featured lectures, tutorials, case studies, discussion groups and short courses, as well as exhibits of the latest services and full-sized equipment. As in past years, the two meetings emphasize technology and troubleshooting. Approximately 3,000 attendees registered for the 2012 event.
Representatives of Hydrocarbon Processing attended the September 2012 events. The technical sessions (lectures, tutorials, discussion groups and case studies) provided opportunities for attendees to expand their personal and professional needs and interests. Moreover, the exhibits featured products from many key manufacturers. Because exhibiting companies send their first-team players to this symposium, attendees were able to touch base with executives and even CEOs of companies with stellar credentials. Executives answered questions from first-time attendees and, a scant few minutes later, greeted the occasional octogenarian who wandered through the 300 exhibits. There was knowledge transfer in the exhibit hall, but there was also the occasional commiseration. Some things were different; there was change, and not all changes affected all parties equally.
Essential elements of TAMU Turbo and TAMU Pump
Because of their relevance, the two symposiums have obviously grown in size and complexity. In 2012, there were 11 short courses (Table 1), 19 discussion groups, and, of course, a highly appropriate and valuable product exhibit show.
TAMU Pump attendees could choose from six additional lectures, as listed in Table 2. This program was focused on pump users. Suitable courses, tutorials and case histories were again part of TAMU Pump. The discussion groups were led by engineers or senior technicians with vast experience; these leaders facilitated discussion from the floor. Attendees from the US and many countries actively participated in the discussion groups. Many attendees used this forum to obtain sound advice from their peers on problems of immediate importance. This author and HP believe that, collectively, the two symposiums are the most valuable events of their genre. Fluid-machinery users should continue to attend both TAMU Turbo and TAMU Pump, especially since they share the same timing and location.
Although the two events have considerable synergism, they do differ. The TAMU Turbo advisory committee members are not the same individuals forming the TAMU Pump board. Each of the two committees are made up of what many consider highly knowledgeable members. Unfortunately, TAMU Pump has recently been quick to reject certain presentation offers. For example, one presentation was encouraged by pump users seeking explanations regarding repeat pump failures. Rejecting solid information by acknowledged experts who had documented years of failure-reduction experience is disappointing; more important, members of the TAMU Pump Advisory Committee should be user advocates that are both knowledgeable and impartial. The users goal is high equipment reliability and low-failure rates. The manufacturers goals are aimed at sales and profits. Finding a balance that serves both parties is a leadership challenge. Participating manufacturers should be encouraged to be more open about their productsgood and bad. Formal presentations should supplement the many informal discussion groups.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, advisory committee members had the experience, desire and motivation to work closely with old and young potential presenters. Senior advisory committee members contributed wisdom and maturity; they also insisted on evenhandedness and civility of discourse. The same attributes are needed at a time when the dissemination of solid facts will help a hard-pressed pump user community eliminate dangerous repeat failures. For a pump user symposium to add more value, steps might be taken to elevate the tone of the discourse and to remember how Karassik, Jackson and Nelson communicated respectfully, authoritatively and without bias. We should all try to imitate them.
Tentative program for 2013
Although the program for September 30October 3, 2013, will not be finalized until March, TAMU Pump has taken steps to emphasize pump failure avoidance topics. For starters, the advisory board is giving consideration to repeating a well-attended tutorial that had received positive reviews in 2012. Put it on your calendar if repeat pump failures are one of your concerns.
Both symposiums can be superb training venues for your fluid machinery professionals. As they then return to your facility after attending in 2013, why not ask them to hand in more than the traditional request for travel expenses? Ask them to submit a 200-word summary of what they have learned and what others are doing different from the way we do it here. That is one method in which you can get top dollar for your training outlays. HP
Heinz P. Bloch resides in Westminster, Colorado. His professional career began in 1962 and included long-term assignments as Exxon Chemicals regional machinery specialist for the US. He has authored over 520 publications, among them 18 comprehensive books on practical machinery management, failure analysis, failure avoidance, compressors, steam turbines, pumps, oil-mist lubrication and practical lubrication for industry. Mr. Bloch holds BS and MS degrees in mechanical engineering. He is an ASME Life Fellow and maintains registration as a Professional Engineer in New Jersey and Texas.