Pump Engineer had the pleasure of speaking with Steven Bullen, Chesterton’s global product line director, to discuss the ingenuity of its new products, as well as the companies R&D, how it coped with COVID-19, and the future of this legacy company.

By Sarah Do Couto and Angelica Pajkovic

Every successful company, regardless of industry, knows the importance of continual innovation. When A.W. Chesterton Company launched in 1884, it was as a Boston-based purveyor of steamboat and engineering supplies. Today, the company has grown to be a solutions-oriented manufacturer of sealing devices for the reliability and efficiency of plant equipment, improved plant maintenance, and cost-saving initiatives.

The Bigger the Better — 442C XL Cartridge Split Mechanical Seal

Just this August 2021 Chesterton launched its first-ever 442C XL Cartridge Split Mechanical Seal, a split seal designed for ease of installation on extra-large shafts. Suitable for equipment shafts from 5.00” (125 mm) to 7.75” (195 mm), this product allows customers to install the seal without disassembling large pumps and avoiding operational downtime. For Bullen, this new product offering is key to reaching customers whose business was previously inaccessible to Chesterton, as the company sought to improve the user experience within its split seal product line.

“The extra-large size range is actually an opportunity to access even more customers who do not want to undertake a component level install – they want something that is more cartridge-based,” said Bullen. The 442C XL Cartridge Mechanical Split Seal is equipped with a spring carrier plate for reduction of installation errors and unique O-ring grooves for greater sealing capacity. This product also has automatic self-aligning faces and an interlocking rotary face.

“Fortunately, our field test program began a few months prior to the pandemic lockdowns,” explained Bullen. “That meant that the efforts to finalize the entire product range and deliver split seal technology that can provide leak-free sealing for large equipment could continue.”

Now that the product is available in the market, the 442C XL seal is assisting companies in coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. If there happen to be cases of infection in the workplace, Bullen said this product makes pump maintenance considerably less intensive.

“When pump users have positive COVID cases in the workplace, it can take out an entire crew of 15 maintenance engineers that are responsible for the pumps,” he said. “So, the ability to change a mechanical seal without the need for multiple technicians to be on site removing the pump completely has not been the traditional way. It is something new that our clients have been taking advantage of.”

With the 442C XL seal, Chesterton has not only been able to reach a larger client base requiring extensive packing sizes, but also solve a number of other operational problems along the way. After all, customer satisfaction is at the heart of this company and all that they do. If Chesterton can assist in making the lives of their consumers’ easier, more cost effective, or efficient in any way, it will.

Figure 1

Launching the Chesterton Connect™ 

The 442C XL Cartridge Split Mechanical Seal is not the only product to be recently launched by A.W. Chesterton Company. In January 2020 they released the Chesterton Connect, followed by the Chesterton Connect Cloud, a web-based dashboard and analytics platform for viewing, assessing, and managing data collected from equipment monitoring sensors. This Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) innovation provides 24/7 access to the process and operating conditions of pumps and other mechanisms. This allows engineers and technicians to identify and solve problems and emergencies before they occur.

“Typically pump reliability engineers and equipment engineers will monitor the bearing condition of a pump,” explained Bullen. “So, they monitor the vibration and temperature as an indicator of equipment health.” 

“What we have done with all our knowledge in seals is brought to the market a device that not only takes continuous readings of the vibration and temperature of the bearing housing, but we also added a system that is able to measure the pressure and temperature directly in the seal chamber,” he said.

By using Chesterton’s Connect Cloud, clients can view the overall performance of their pumps, assess variances and trends, add notes, and focus on the most effective maintenance efforts. This piece of technology Nalso tracks rotating equipment in real-time, creates instant reports, overlays and compares measurements for up to three sensors, and presents vibration trends for vibration velocity and acceleration in accessible, color- coded reports.

Without this kind of technology present, Bullen said technicians may be missing operational problems. “When users do not understand the relationship between the sealed chamber pressure, the temperature, and how it affects the seal, they can inadvertently cause seal failures,” he explained. 

That is why, he says, the Chesterton Connect Cloud technology is so vital – it not only protects the seal and process health, but it also ensures optimal seal effectiveness.

Figure 2

A.W. Chesterton Company at a Glance
Arthur Chesterton founded the company in 1884 to provide steamboat and engineering supplies to customers on the Boston, Massachusetts waterfront. The initial company focus however, remains the same today – providing clients with the solutions-based technology needed for their success. 

In 1885 the company introduced its own line of pump packing and gasketing technology. By 1905 Chesterton was offering its sealing products across America. By 1950, the company was operating on a global scale. In the 1960s, Chesterton began manufacturing and selling mechanical seals, including the first-ever off-the-shelf single cartridge mounted seal, which launched in the mid-1980s. 

Chesterton’s patented DualPac technology, which launched in 2019, allowed for longer lifespans in severe slurry applications. Through combining two materials into one packing, Chesterton could place its braided technology graphite filled ePTFE against the shaft to provide superior sealing, low friction, and high strength resiliency aramid to prevent consolidation and shaft wear. 

Today, the company is a comprehensive solutions provider for the manufacturing industry. It now has 500 sales and service locations around the world in 27 countries. Any company looking to meet operational goals efficiently, effectively, and without fiscal irresponsibility can trust A.W. Chesterton Company.

Continuous Research and Development is Essential

For any company to have the same successful longevity as A.W. Chesterton, they must understand the importance of ongoing research and development (R&D). After all, it is this continuous innovation that has kept Chesterton at the forefront of this market for many, many decades. To Bullen, this success is due majorly in part to the company’s internal team. 

“I have to give credit to the whole team at Chesterton. From the sales teams providing the user feedback, to the engineering team’s relentless pursuit of greatness, Chesterton’s commitment to providing value to industry through products that are reliable and easy to use has never faltered, regardless of market conditions,” he said. 

Bullen also said A.W. Chesterton’s success can be attributed to its ability to remain on top of industry trends. “We are involved in many industry associations and are very active on social media,” he explained.

“We also work with the engineering groups and product managers of our original equipment manufacturer OEM customers to ensure that we are staying on the same track.” In doing this, Chesterton is able to gather and assess feedback on its products and the industry as a whole before designing new, creative solutions as required. 

Figure 3

Mitigating Seal Failure
There is no single answer to why seals fail. “A properly installed and operated mechanical seal will last for many years if the fluid its sealing has the right properties, cool, clean and lubricating,” said Bullen. “Some Chesterton customers experience seal life in excess of 10 years – it is all about understanding the application and setting the right expectations.” 

Bullen did note however that most seal failures occur due to a lack of fluid film. “Lubrication film can breakdown for a number of reasons, whether that is due to increased seal chamber temperature, insufficient seal chamber pressure, or wear of the faces causing them to no longer be   at,” he said. Regardless, Bullen assures that A.W. Chesterton continually works together with its clients to ensure maximum success and efficiency. 

“We start by understanding the history of the equipment, the process details, and the expectations,” stated Bullen. “It is only by gathering this information that we will begin to develop our recommendations which will include products, training, and follow ups. Our customer’s success is our best reference.”

Continuing to Cope with COVID-19 

The coronavirus pandemic was challenging for all industries on a global scale, and A.W. Chesterton was not an exception. At the start of the pandemic, the company quickly transitioned to remote work for all non-manufacturing employees. Utilizing digital technologies however, it was able to continue its product development and introduction initiatives from home. “More importantly,” said Bullen, “we did whatever it took to deliver for our customers whilst keeping our people safe.” 

“We start by understanding the history of the equipment, the process details, and the expectations. It is only by gathering this information that we will begin to develop our recommendations, which will include products, training, and follow ups. Our customer’s success is our best reference.”

During this time the company also maintained its position as a knowledge provider to manufacturing industries, all while being unable to meet face-to-face with its clients. Instead, Chesterton ran informational digital seminars every week during 2020, connecting with channel partners and end users to discuss topics relative to equipment and reliability. The company also used this time to better communicate best maintenance practices for various applications. 

“The attendance was phenomenal,” said Bullen. “New relationships and opportunities blossomed.” 

Why Choose Chesterton?

“Today, more than ever, our Customer Service Teams and our Field Sales specialists are assisting customers with Maintenance efficiency and effectiveness that can be realized through the use of Split Mechanical Seals,” said Bullen. “If a user is new to Chesterton split seals, our commitment is 100% satisfaction, whatever the needs are for virtual or in person training. We want our customers to be successful.”

In 2022 A.W. Chesterton will release even more new products, said Bullen. All of these products will inevitably solve a myriad of additional industry roadblocks and challenges. “Everything we are doing today brings us closer to the customer,” said Bullen. This attitude will continue into the future. “We are listening carefully to their needs and adjusting quickly.”

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