by Jeramy Freeman
Whatever the industry, facility, or operations, managers share similar challenges. Foremost is the safety and security of employees. Second is the need to keep the complex network of electrical, electronic, process and control, automation, and building management systems functioning at optimal levels. Meeting high productivity levels, while keep operating costs in check, can be a juggling act. Prudent managers are aware of items/tasks that can be “juggled” and those that should never be put at risk, which include personnel safety and reliable electrical power. With industrial facilities, an annual plant turnaround should include examining electrical power distribution systems of the facility.
Like any engineered system, electrical power distribution systems cannot be designed and constructed to operate indefinitely at 100%. To help ensure electrical reliability, plant facility management should:
- make room in the operational expenditure budget for planned maintenance activities; and
- put a strategy in place to optimize the budget and reduce unplanned downtime.
When evaluating the business gains and risks associated with an increasingly critical power infrastructure, decision makers often need to quantify the value of maintenance services, just as they would any major business expense. According to the generally accepted industry rule of thumb, reactive/unplanned maintenance costs three to four times more than preventive/planned maintenance. However, investing in preventive maintenance is often resisted, because there is no direct payback.
In their book, Maintenance Excellence, Optimizing Equipment Life Cycle Decisions, authors John Campbell and Andrew Jardine propose the existence of three types of maintenance, each with an assigned per unit cost, as shown below:
An interactive calculator is available — based upon Campbell’s and Jardine’s theory — to illustrate the savings potential of increasing planned (preventive) maintenance activities by only 10%.
NFPA 70B-2016 Annex Q-2 provides an example of costly reactive maintenance: “An industrial plant experienced damage totaling $100,000 (USD), not counting the cost of downtime. It was discovered that dirt, gummy deposits and iron filings in the main switchgear caused the failure. The cost of this event would have supported a comprehensive electrical preventive maintenance program covering all of the plant’s electrical distribution system for several years.”
Making The Case For Maintenance
Developing a maintenance strategy for your electrical distribution system is a sound business decision. Here are five reasons why:
1. Protect People And Equipment . Management must ensure the sustainability of their businesses. With that comes the responsibility to evaluate and adopt all measures technically and economically available to minimize the risk of unwanted events. These events might cause loss of plant assets and put workers in danger. Electrical distribution equipment such as circuit breakers, fuse-contactors, etc. is designed to minimize the risk and severity of accidents or equipment breakdown. Therefore, the first priority of maintenance is to ensure this role is performed.
2. Maximize Electrical Equipment Uptime . Regularly scheduled maintenance lessens process disruptions and reduces stress on electrical equipment. It takes less time to perform preventive maintenance through a scheduled outage than an emergency repair on electrical equipment.
3. Enhance Energy Efficiency . Research shows regularly maintained equipment is more energy efficient. Over time, normal wear and tear causes stress to components that can result in diminishing device energy efficiency. Reduced wear and tear on equipment means less wasted energy while it is running. Additionally, scheduled preventive maintenance can be performed during off-peak business periods.
4. Improve Spare Parts Management . Spare parts alone can add up to half of the total maintenance costs. Substituting preventive maintenance for reactive maintenance helps to reduce the number of faults on complex parts and/or systems. As a result, more money and time can be spent on improving your production process.
5. Optimize Total Cost of Ownership. Plant managers want to keep their facility’s electrical distribution equipment running well for as long as possible, considering the significant costs of any new equipment acquisition (capital expenditure). Business operations must also be kept running as smoothly as possible at an optimum cost (operational expenditure). Without maintenance, the potential for unplanned downtime increases.
Shutdown Tips For Plant Turnaround
Most planned maintenance activities are conducted during a scheduled shutdown to minimize the impact on operations. As 2016 comes to a close, many company shutdowns will take place within the next two weeks. Depending upon the size of the facility and complexity of the electrical installation, some companies are already looking ahead to their 2017 shutdown. Following are preparedness steps to assist in shutdown planning:
1. Ensure electric maintenance personnel are qualified, as defined by OSHA/NFPA 70E.
2. Have updated one-line diagrams available.
3. Obtain OEM operations and maintenance manuals.
4. Verify the equipment to be maintained is properly rated, set and labeled (prior to maintenance activities).
5. Arrange for power during shutdown.
6. Specify which equipment is to be cleaned, inspected, maintained, serviced, and tested as well the speciﬁc order in which each piece of electrical equipment is to be removed from service for inspections, maintenance, or testing.
Fixed-rate service plans are a growing trend to manage increasingly complex electrical power distribution systems or systems with multiple brands of equipment. In addition to meeting regulatory requirements, these offer the flexibility to customize a scope of work as well as the term. Having a single-source service provider helps ensure the uniformity and integrity of the test results year over year. It is important to select a qualified service provider with the expertise to service multiple types of equipment and manufacturers.
Another component of service plans is their fixed-rate nature. Maintenance budget fluctuations are eliminated, since there are no hidden charges. Billing can be structured to provide a fixed payment schedule for the duration of the service plan, and a single plan can cover the entire electrical system.
Investing in electrical preventive maintenance is sometimes resisted because, like insurance, there is no direct payback. However, the failure of electrical system components is three times higher without maintenance activities, and in some cases, more (Source: IEEE). The best way to avoid this financial impact is to reduce the risk of an unplanned outage, which requires time, effort, planning, and money.
Freeman has more than 10 years of professional experience in sales, marketing strategy, offer development, and product marketing with Schneider Electric. He earned a B.S. in electrical engineering and an MBA with a specialization in marketing from North Carolina State University.