Managing the cost of maintenance

4 mins read

Can you work out the true cost of your maintenance… and can you afford not to?

Towards the end of each financial year, as companies set targets and predict sales and output for the following year, working out the maintenance budget can be one of the trickiest parts of the forecasting process. How can you accurately predict what you're going to spend on maintenance or what's going to breakdown over the next year?

Many see it as simply what goes through the maintenance budget nominal code, including the cost of repairs. But the real cost of maintenance is more complicated than this. It includes costs such as lost production hours, idle labour that cannot be switched onto other tasks, as well as the tangible cost of the actual repair. Companies must also consider lost revenue, lost margin and contribution to overheads, assuming production cannot be recovered, but if it can, then the added labour cost of premium working.

But all is not lost. By adopting a proactive planned maintenance strategy, utilising techniques such as condition monitoring, issues can be identified well in advance and corrective maintenance planned at a time convenient to the production process, avoiding a breakdown and leading to less cost, less disruption and less stress for all. Through the introduction of a planned programme of maintenance, you can budget accordingly, to minimise the risk of critical asset breakdown.

The way forward – maintenance partnerships

Maintenance partnerships provider PEME is a strong advocate of proactive planned maintenance. PEME's engineers supplement their clients' engineering operations, advise on their maintenance processes and work alongside their clients' engineering and maintenance teams.

Ashley Maile, managing director of PEME, explains: "The old adage 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' really isn't the only approach you should be taking with your maintenance strategy. Maintenance is often seen as an emergency service for the operations team rather than a key contributor to the production process. By partnering with PEME, you receive a 'fresh eyes, fresh thinking' approach, identifying problems before they become serious, and implementing a cost-effective maintenance strategy where everyone in the process is involved in the care of production assets."

First, PEME conducts a maintenance assessment in order to establish the gap between existing maintenance arrangements, best practice maintenance and the clients' aspirations. This produces an action plan that is used to drive continuous improvement. PEME then creates a tailored maintenance solution, by identifying the most critical plant and machinery that require an asset care programme, ensuring resource is efficiently used and correctly targeted at real-world failure modes for the critical assets.

Reliability techniques such as condition monitoring, reliability centred maintenance (RCM) and root cause analysis (RCA) are used. It is an all-encompassing process requiring buy-in from all levels of the business to guarantee its success, educating the entire team on best-practice maintenance and their role in the maintenance improvement initiative is essential. PEME therefore provides practical training for all levels from senior management to operators.

One area often missed by overworked maintenance teams that are functioning on a reactive, fire fighting approach is the opportunity for continuous improvement. PEME's engineers collect data, record and analyse asset performance, and put in place further measures to further eliminate, mitigate or control failures.

Why the need for condition monitoring?

Even the best preventive maintenance program will not stop all failures developing and causing unexpected machine stoppages before the next planned maintenance window. Condition monitoring provides you with information about developing failure modes, undetectable by human senses, enabling you to proactively prevent critical breakdowns and achieve increased machine operating life, productivity and profitability.

Condition monitoring assesses the health of an asset by periodic data collection and analysis and providing engineering decision-makers with information about the health of the plant and machinery, alerting them to when components are degrading so that remedial action can be taken to avoid downtime and emergency repairs.

There are four practical techniques that if used in combination, have the potential to protect the majority of your assets by recognising developing faults and identifying factors that will cause fault conditions. They can also be used to identify energy cost savings.

Vibration analysis is excellent for early problem detection in rotating machinery such as gearboxes, fans, motors, compressors, pumps and other active pieces of machinery. It identifies component faults such as defective bearings and misalignment and enables remedial action before an in-service failure.

Thermography prevents equipment failures by identifying faulty and overheating components in mechanical equipment such as motor cooling problems and surface-to-surface wear. Thermography is excellent for electrical panel safety inspections, highlighting fault conditions such as loose bus-bar connections and overloaded components. Thermography is also used in energy loss surveys and for ensuring steam traps are operating efficiently.

Acoustics is useful on slow moving or intermittent motion machines. Acoustics is excellent for the detection of compressed air or vacuum losses. A simple program of leak inspection and repair can significantly reduce energy costs. Acoustics can also be used for ensuring steam traps are operating efficiently.

Oil analysis is a non-intrusive means of determining if the oil in a machine is suitable for use and if wear is occurring in that asset. It is effective for a wide range of assets and a combination of tests can be carried out, tailored to the application.

To provide engineering management with key information about the condition of their assets, PEME utilises its PCR (PEME Condition Register), which allows remote access to view condition monitoring information for individual assets in a unique 3D format.

PEME maintenance partnerships enable you to call in the expertise to work alongside your engineering staff. By working in partnership, you benefit from years of maintenance experience and industry best practice, ensuring that the overall cost benefits from planned maintenance are obtained quickly.

Ashley Maile concludes: "A committed approach to change reaps the benefits in both the short and long term. By implementing a maintenance partnership not only can you minimise the cost and risks associated with in-service machinery failures, but you can also lengthen the life of your production assets. At PEME we believe you should spend a little to save a lot."

If you are interested in PEME's approach to maintenance partnerships and condition monitoring, contact Ashley Maile on 01733 297 500.