Ask 10 pump users what features they most would like to see in a split-case pump, and you likely will get 10 different answers. Ask more than 300 pump users from around the world the same question, and you will start to see clear patterns and preferences.

That was the experience reported by ITT Residential & Commercial Water, which, early in 2003, launched Voice of the Customer (VOC), an extensive worldwide research program to determine the features pump users most would like to see in a variety of pumps and other HVACR equipment.

Designed with assistance from external consultants, the program consisted of in-depth personal interviews and both written and telephone surveys involving more than 300 consulting/specifying engineers, contractors, building managers, distributors, and other industry experts from around the world. The process took hundreds of hours over a seven-month period. Through analysis of more than 600 reported wants and needs, ITT identified the following as the top must-have features of an “ideal” split-case pump:

  • The ability to meet a wide range of hydraulic requirements in various configurations. A majority of the split-case pumps on the market today were designed 50-plus years ago and come in one flange configuration: horizontal. Today's shrinking equipment rooms require increased product versatility to maximize an engineer's flexibility in reducing the space necessary to support an HVAC system.

  • More-effective pump hydraulic design for better performance in chillers, cooling towers, and a wide range of other applications.

  • Flows from 500 to 15,000 gpm.

  • Heads from 30 to 310 ft.

  • Working pressures of 175 and 300 psig.

  • American National Standards Institute flange ratings of 125# and 250#.

  • Temperature of 0 to 300°F.

  • Multiple suction and discharge flange configurations to maximize potential piping connections and provide identical levels of hydraulic performance. Many consulting engineers and pump users said they become frustrated when they have limited space and/or specific piping needs in an equipment room and the best pump for the job is available in only one flange orientation.

  • Hydraulic matching of the pump impeller and casing to provide superior performance over a wide range of applications.

  • Faster and more-affordable installation. Contractors said they wanted a groutless, structural-steel base plate to save them the extensive labor and cost of mounting and aligning pumps. They said these features would save them many hours of installation time and reduce costs.

  • Easier service and maintenance through, among other suggestions, maintenance-free bearings and a “plug-and-play” capability allowing simple field modifications of mechanical seals and external seal flushing.

These and a number of other expressed “wishes” have been incorporated into the design of ITT's Bell & Gossett brand VSX split-case, double-suction pump.

The VOC process has been implemented across ITT and serves as the foundation of the company's development projects. Training sessions provided by internal ITT experts are provided on an ongoing basis.

“Although the VOC process can and should be implemented by any company,” Steve Schmitz, global product manager for ITT Residential & Commercial Water, said, “the true success of the Bell & Gossett VSX program can be credited to the refinements that were constantly made. The Voice of the Customer program will continue to be a key component of this process. Based on this invaluable feedback, ITT is designing a number of new pumps and other products for the HVACR industry.”