Member voice - Challenges of reactive maintenance in the electric power industry

The detrimental effects of reactive maintenance in the electric power industry. A blog by Bryan Christiansen, Founder & CEO of Limble
Published: Fri 08 Jun 2018

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While a few organizations in the electric power industry are using some form of proactive maintenance, the fact is that reactive maintenance still plays a big role in their overall approach to maintenance. A significantly larger role than it should have.

Due to inefficient maintenance strategies (or lack of it), power plants are losing out on productivity and incurring significant losses.

Today, we are going to focus on reactive maintenance and how it is setting back the industry.

How Does Reactive Maintenance Prove Inefficient?

As you probably know, reactive maintenance means that you react to problems instead of proactively trying to prevent them.

As a result, you encounter unexpected shutdowns, reduced efficiency, and a plethora of performance issues.

As just one example, your power grid may not able to store the optimum amount of electricity due to poor maintenance and resulting efficiency loss.

Let’s explore this in more detail.

Challenges Posed by Reactive Maintenance for Power Industry

1. Inefficient Machine Performance Resulting in Loss of Productivity

The idea behind this is simple.

Avoiding proactive maintenance means that you are missing out on recurring maintenance tasks like filter and oil replacements, tune-ups, and malfunctioning parts replacement. As a result, your machines are not able to perform at their optimum capacity.

If that wasn’t enough, you can also encounter increase cases of waste, low output, increased power consumption, and many other inefficiencies. In the end, your plant suffers significant loss of productivity which always translates into a financial loss.

All of that can be easily avoided through preventive maintenance. However, keep in mind that the best preventive maintenance schedules are based on real data and insight you get from your equipment and technicians. We wil touch more on that in the next section.

2. Lack of Real-Time Data Makes Maintenance Difficult

Here is the thing - even if you run weekly or monthly maintenance rounds, you still have the chance of waking up to an equipment failure.

There are 2 reasons for that.

One, no matter how diligent you might be with your scheduled maintenance efforts, breakdowns will still happen. The equipment can’t last forever so that is simply unavoidable.

The second thing is, just because you are doing preventive maintenance, doesn’t mean you are doing it right. If your maintenance schedule is based on your guesses, there is a high chance you are doing too much preventive maintenance on some assets, and too little on others.

Having real-time data is one of the solutions to this problem because it can help you recognize when something isn’t working as it should. Plus, if you feel there is something wrong, the real-time logs and history will give you ready access to the information you need to figure out what’s wrong.

That is why some CMMS solutions are looking to use IoT for predictive maintenance and gather data from sensors which are installed in the machines. They keep a check on your machine health 24/7 and send you instant warnings when something goes wrong. Additionally, your maintenance team can monitor different equipment aspects like oil levels, power consumption, and rpm, all in real-time.

This, in turn, allows you to send your maintenance team to quickly attend to the problem whenever sensors notice low levels of machine oil, blocked filters, malfunctioning motors, and similar.

However, this is not all sunshine and rainbows. Some organizations don’t have the resources to invest in predictive maintenance.

The good news is that combining preventive maintenance with a modern CMMS can be just as effective because CMMS lets you track and analyze maintenance work and asset history which lets you develop highly optimized maintenance schedules.

3. Decreased Longevity of Equipment Due To Improper Maintenance

Let’s start with 2 statements:

1. Lack of preventive maintenance leads to increased number of unexpected shutdowns.

2. Asset’s expected lifespan is reduced with every breakdown.

Now, consider the fact that 42% of unscheduled downtime is caused due to aging equipment and you just ended in an never ending circle of repairs. Equipment that breaks down ages faster which makes it more prone to future malfunctions and breakdowns.

If we can agree that most of these shutdowns are happening because of lack of preventive maintenance, the solution is quite clear.

If that is not enough to convince you to leave reactive maintenance behind, keep in mind that constant repairs bring along several other costs like the need to buy and store replacement parts and increased overtime labor costs.

4. Increased Chances of Critical Shutdown and Failures

There is probably no need to reiterate how lack of maintenance is the biggest indirect cause of critical breakdown and failures that cause significant downtime and make a direct impact on your profitability due to loss of productive working hours.

Additionally, such failures also create an emergency in the plant which puts a lot of stress on your whole maintenance department. You can prevent such emergency situations and bring down the number of yearly emergency repairs by going for proactive maintenance strategy.

5. Consistent Cost of Emergency Repairs

While we can continue to list all disadvantages that come with reactive maintenance, at the end of the day, the equation is simple – relying too much on reactive maintenance is not cost-effective.

One of the main reasons for that are emergency repairs that that can bring in extreme financial losses. Loss of productivity, cost of replacement parts, overtime labor costs, hiring expensive outside contractors to deal with specific issues…can all be costly expenditures, especially in the power industry.

And all of that can be significantly reduced by employing some form of proactive maintenance.

The Solution - Transform into Proactive Maintenance

With such a focus on sustainability, there was never a better time to adopt a proactive approach to maintenance.

Implementing preventive maintenance with a suitable CMMS is easier than ever and depending on the vendor, upfront costs can be negligible.

It is the single best way to increase the longevity of your plant’s assets, save a significant amount of money, and give a break to your maintenance team from dealing with stressful emergency repair situations.