Take one look under the hood of a new car and you will marvel at the complexity of modern equipment compared to that of yesteryear. The same is true of equipment at utility facilities. New assets are more complex, as are the tools, processes, and skills available to maintain them. To keep up, maintenance programs must be modernized. Gone are the days of install it, fix-it-when-it-breaks, and hope that the time between those two events is as long as possible. Hope is not a plan!
Additionally, because modern equipment is complex, breaking into assets to perform preventive maintenance can have an adverse effect, decreasing asset reliability and expected asset life. Over 50-percent of asset failures are caused by the same preventive maintenance that was designed to remedy failures!
This presentation illustrates a plan for modernizing a maintenance program using practical examples from experience.
People: Many municipal utilities segregate their staff into functional groups, such as engineering, operations, and maintenance. These groups frequently operate in silos. However, an effective, modern maintenance program requires all disciplines to work together. Engineers must incorporate reliability into their designs. Operators must sound the alarm when assets first show signs of potential failure. Maintenance staff must have the training and capability to utilize technologically-advanced devices to best diagnose asset problems and identify the most appropriate corrective action. For all staff, a more structured and analytical approach is needed. Organizational structure and job classifications within an organization may need to be updated to hire or train the specialized skill sets needed and place them in positions in which they can most effectively succeed at improving asset reliability.
Tools: While the thought of wastewater facility maintenance staff pointing an ultrasonic device at a pregnant woman’s belly to detect potential birth defects is absurd, their use of ultrasound technology to detect asset defects is revolutionary and a necessity in a modern maintenance program. Partnered with oil analysis, thermography, and vibration, ultrasound allows maintenance staff to detect asset defects far earlier than the human senses could. Predictive technologies can prevent minor asset defects from becoming major asset failures. Doing so has major benefits – downtime and repair costs are decreased, and safety, equipment availability, and reliability are all increased.
Another benefit of using predictive technologies to get in front of potential asset failures before they happen is the ability of operations and maintenance staff to get out of reactionary mode (which can be highly stressful) and into a lower-stress culture of proactivity.