Scott Stukel, CMRP, Director of Asset Management and Reliability at Total Resource Management
Times have certainly changed. It seems like soooo long ago that we could walk out into the plant and physically have a look at a piece of equipment. Nowadays many plants, utilities, and facilities are operating with a skeleton crew of mask-clad, social-distanced maintenance folks who are mostly just doing the bare minimum to keep the operation going. For facility intensive organizations, like schools, who knows if the air condition or heating equipment will turn back on when people return to the building. This has surely upended what we thought we knew about reliability and how we approach maintaining our assets. I prefer to look at the bright side, this is a unique opportunity for good ole ingenuity to kick in and for us to alter our thinking and how we approach asset management. Where do we start?
Execute Time-based Preventive Measures
I think the first concern maintenance groups are facing right now is the limited ability to do the preventive maintenance necessary to ensure reliable operation. Inconsistent and erratic operating cycles can wreak havoc on time-based PM plans, not to mention contribute to unexpected failures. It makes sense to continue to execute those time-based important preventive measures that we know are needed. However, we should also look at what we can do to gain more insight into the operation and performance of the equipment through monitoring of real-time information that already exists through sensors or control systems on the machines.
Monitor Real-time Information to Spot Anomalies
The key to this is to first understand the modes which can cause equipment to fail or not perform the way we need them to. Once we recognize that, then we can monitor operating parameters that indicate these anomalous patterns and act accordingly. In most cases that information can come from operations systems or sensors that are already in place. Modern technology allows us to be in our office or at home and know what is going on with our equipment and when we should take action. Why aren’t more of us doing it?
Seek New Solutions
There are other solutions that can be employed to assist us now, during the restrictions the pandemic has introduced that will also benefit us going forward post-Covid, including video and audio monitoring, digital twins, artificial intelligence models, and others. The point to consider is does it make sense to meet our objectives and is the value worth the effort & cost?
The point is that where it makes sense, especially for critical equipment and infrastructure, we can employ simple and effective technology and methods to achieve the highest level of reliability and performance possible despite difficult conditions and restrictions. Throughout time humankind has evolved immensely from turmoil and difficulties, let’s accept the challenge and come through the other side better for it.
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments or would like to discuss this more.