An industrial plant lives or dies by its equipment. When machinery is running as it should, the plant prospers. When it isn’t, the plant suffers due to rising costs and downtime.
In order to keep a facility running properly, it’s important to maintain the equipment on a regular basis. But many facilities have moved toward a reactive, run-to-failure maintenance philosophy where operators run a piece of equipment until it triggers an emergency.
In today’s profit driven economy, reliability managers are under pressure to reduce expenditures which usually come out of preventative maintenance budgets. Unfortunately, reactive maintenance only drives up costs, increases downtime, and puts strain on your entire production schedule – which further hurts a plant’s bottom line.
The Perils of Reactive Maintenance
The main peril of having a reactive maintenance program is that it drives up costs by causing necessary maintenance to become an emergency instead of it being planned ahead to take place during an outage.
For example, there may be a relatively minor repair needed for a particular piece of equipment. Proactive maintenance can spot and deal with that repair early on, but a reactive mindset will wait until the minor repair turns into a major one – thereby increasing the bill. Or, worse, the major repair turns into a major replacement, which costs significantly more.
Another peril of reactive maintenance is increased downtime. Power plants have very tightly-controlled windows for downtime. Anything that causes equipment failure will likely increase downtime beyond the planned window, which only increases the amount of time that operations will be suspended.
No one wants something minor turned into something major, and no one wants to suspend operations for longer than needed. But with reactive, run-to-failure maintenance, that’s usually what you get.
Taking a More Proactive Approach
Proactive, preventative maintenance is better than reactive maintenance because you’re actively inspecting your equipment on a regular, frequent basis and are searching for opportunities to nip problems in the bud.
The key is regularity. You need to have a schedule for inspections, equipment checks, and tests that is frequent enough to spot and solve problems before they progress. Annual inspections won’t get the job done. For some high-volume, high wear-and-tear pieces of equipment, quarterly inspections may not do the job either.
The more frequent the inspections, the better chance you’ll have at preempting equipment failure.
It’s important to also keep solid, accurate records of your past experiences. This will assist you in the regular outage intervals and for preventing larger problems from arising.
Also, planned maintenance can help you better predict when you’ll need an upgrade or a retrofit. It’s better to conduct any upgrades within planned downtime, but it’s really difficult to prepare for these upgrades if you aren’t aware they should happen.
Additionally, predictive maintenance goes a step further by using data-gathering techniques and analytics to examine trends and predict when a piece of equipment might be in need of a repair. This method requires a lot of technological resources, like sensors, but you can reduce downtime by an additional percentage through keeping everything online for longer periods of time.
Proactivity is the name of the game, and a proactive approach allows you to better plan for improving your equipment over time and taking advantage of new technology that can improve your facility’s bottom line.
Plus, proactivity makes the job easier for a maintenance manager, who will have a solid plan in place for the upcoming year.
Facilities that see the most success use a combination of preventative and predictive maintenance. We want to pinpoint problems before they occur and do what’s necessary to resolve the situation before costs get out of control. A combined, proactive approach will do the job.
ProcessBarron helps plants upgrade and retrofit their equipment with the latest in engineering technology. Contact ProcessBarron to learn more about their work and how a plant can benefit.