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Asset reliability practices in the reliability centered maintenance world.

The days of "broke/fixed" are over.

In today's challenging environment, the electric utility industry faces significant, and sometimes competing, demands. Our retail customers want one hundred percent reliability. No blinking clocks. No lost computer data. But they also want rate stability. Paying more for the reliability they want is not a palatable option.


Financially, Members in the cooperative world want to continue to see capital credits retired. Shareholders in the public sector want to see their investment grow. Everyone wants return on their investment.

These pressures, combined with current economic conditions, have resulted in an environment where "do more with less" and "work smarter, not harder" are the oft-repeated mantras we must now live by. Now, more than ever, utilities must truly be smarter about how our business is done--not just in the executive offices, but at all levels of the organization.

Enter the "Smart Grid" revolution. An electrical grid that uses information technologies to improve how electricity travels from power plants to consumers, allows consumers to actually interact with the grid, and enables improved response to power demand, more intelligent management of outages and better integration of renewable forms of energy.

But in order to take advantage of "smart grid" to meet customer expectations while 'doing more with less", utilities must evolve their asset management practices.

Most of us remember all too well the operational paradigm of "broke/fixed". Indeed, many of us still operate in that mode today. Something breaks, you fix it. The initiating work order says "X broken". You close the work order out with one word: "fixed". It's a simple, clean way to move work orders and ensure that backlogs aren't created by requiring field personnel to enter copious notes.

Yet the "broke/fixed" approach provided little to no information about the actual state of the assets in the field. Indeed, the "broke/fixed" paradigm is neither the most efficient nor cost-effective approach, and in today's world, with technology readily available for utilities to effectively manage its systems at all levels, it's continued application is, at best, outdated. At worst, it can be a disaster waiting to happen that can cost utilities, and the customers they serve, millions.

Today's necessity to "work smarter, not harder" compels us to think differently--to think in terms of efficiency and effectiveness at all levels of our business, and to leverage technology to get us there. Nowhere is this more evident than in the generation arena.

Despite the generally obvious need to perform regular maintenance in order to ensure both reliability and safety, many generation facilities struggle with performing maintenance on equipment in their facilities, be it corrective, preventative, or shutdown work. Managers and workers alike are often very frustrated by doing what turns out to be unnecessary activities on assets, repeat work, repeat preventative work over and over, or not performing work on equipment during an outage and then having the equipment fail on startup or shortly after reaching full load.

These frustrating scenarios frequently occur because organizations lack either the understanding of or the discipline to follow a strategy of maintaining the assets that is driven by detailed, asset-based information, rather than by a pre-determined schedule that has little or no basis in current asset information.

To be sure, for most utilities, doing this will require a significant cultural shift, based upon recognition of the fact that information-based management of assets is far more effective, both in terms of dollars and resources. And the cultural shift will require not only discipline, but the recognition that the lowly work order truly is the foundation of an effective information-based work management system.

The discipline required takes determination, employee buy-in, and management oversight for organizations to be successful. The discipline of ensuring people are following the work management process, oversight, review, and audit must come from the management team at the facility. Without this continuous review of the work management process, organizations can, and will, fail back into bad habits, or develop new ones. Changing this environment can be accomplished, but it takes a concerted and consistent effort by the management team to consistently return the organization to following the work processes required for success. This means that "broke/fixed" is not an acceptable entry of data on a problem reported and repaired to an asset. Operations management, especially the Shift Supervisor, must ensure that as much detailed information as possible is included in the problem description prior to approving the work order. Planning and Scheduling organizations must provide further details on spare parts, drawings, clearances, special tools, and coordinate with Operations the scheduling of the work crews will perform. Operations, the department that generally owns the equipment in larger organizations, must lead with the Planning and Scheduling group when work will be performed on equipment, not the Maintenance department. Too many times, organizations depend upon and expect the Maintenance department to decide what and when maintenance is performed on equipment, even though it is the Operations department that owns the production of electricity for the facility, not the Maintenance group.

Daily meetings need to be held first thing in the morning, and include all of the relevant organizations of the facility. These meetings should be led by senior management in the facility. The review should include what has occurred during the night, does Operations require this equipment repaired that day, does the work need to be "worked to completion", and what work, started the day before, needs to be stopped so this work can be completed. All of this information sets the "plan of the day". Emergent work does happen, but if an organization follows the disciplined process they have developed, emergent work is easier to manage and actually will decrease.

In the case of a generation facility, the following are examples of details that should be considered. Clearly, each facility is different, but that should not prevent the implementation of a disciplined work management process and policy across a fleet of facilities. Once fully implemented, support staff and senior management can now have a very powerful data base of information for review and analysis of each facility.

Most generation facilities have a Computerized Maintenance Management System ("CMMS") installed and operational in the facility. The success in performing maintenance activities using these systems is totally dependent on the discipline utilized to identify the assets in the facility. Take, for example, the condensate system inside the facility. Does the asset information contained in the CMMS system contain only the major components? In other words, does it only contain the information on these major assets: Condenser, Condensate Pumps, Feedwater heaters, Deaerator tank, maybe piping, and major valves? The road to success is to have the discipline to identify, find, and enter into the hierarchy of the CMMS component level information from the System, Component, Sub-Component, and Sub-Sub-Component level. This information should include the manufacturer, model, and serial number (if available). Each component that is identified should include a unique plant identified number attached to the component and also entered into the CMMS system. An excellent place to start for these unique plant numbers is the plant P&I (piping and instrumentation) drawings. Each work order should be written to this unique plant identifier.

What level does this mean? Let's start with the condensate pump as an example. The CMMS systems needs the following detailed information: the pump, motor, inlet and outlet MOV (motor operated valve) if present, limit switches for the valves, Solenoid valves for the operation of the shut off valves, the local pressure indication instrumentation, electronic pressure instrumentation, the flow element, and electronic flow instrumentation. Each major asset in the condensate system is then identified in the same manner, and all pieces of equipment down to the Sub-Sub-Component level for each asset are researched and entered into the CMMS system. The original P&I drawings for each system are an excellent source of reliable information to help the organization ensure all assets are identified and researched. Each major system is then analyzed in the same manner to build the hierarchy inside the CMMS application. It is critically important that individual tags for each identified component are developed, and ensuring that each tag is placed on the component in the field. Each component will then have the unique identifier available to be entered into the CMMS system for all maintenance activities.

To the old way of thinking, this likely sounds like "overkill"--too much work for too little return. But is it? Doing all of the activities is, in fact, hard work. Discipline and strategic planning must be exercised to get the organization to this level. However, once the organization has completed this effort, there are a myriad of sustainable benefits that the organization can start to capitalize on.

Once the effort is completed and all asset information resides in the CMMS system, the Maintenance Manager or Plant Director has a database that contains all of your assets that are contained in the systems of your facility. You now have a large advantage in continuing placing discipline into your maintenance organization. Start with the owners of the plant, Operations. Operations management, starting with the Ops manager and down to the Shift Supervisors, need to understand and support, with discipline and oversight to the operations crews, the need to identify and write work orders to the proper level. For example, if a problem on the condensate pump is specifically identified, say with the limit switch that is not making up for the outlet valve being fully open, a work order written to this level of detail provides key information to maintenance personnel assigned to fix the problem. With the detailed information available to them, maintenance personnel can pull the correct parts from stores and the correct procedural guides needed to quickly and efficiently address the issue. This results in enhanced efficiency, reduced costs and less down time.

In addition, there are longer-term positive ramifications of following this model. We have all heard that utilities today are very concerned about older workers leaving and the valuable experience they have developed being lost. There is perhaps no better way of capturing key system information than on the work order. The Planning department and future inexperienced workers then have very valuable information to use for future work activities. Organizations that have the will and discipline to establish and enforce a work management policy for their facility will reap the benefits for years to come. These organizations understand and support these activities, workers understand what is expected, and management is very involved and become very familiar with the assets in their facility.

And that benefits everyone.

Mr. Brown worked within the utility industry, his focus was on the maintenance and operation of nuclear, hydro, and coal fired facilities. Mr. Brown has over 37 years of experience delivering development expertise for preventative maintenance, computerized work management systems, reliability program development, and management expertise.

His previous work history included experience at Xcel Energy, Public Service of Colorado, Baer Consulting Inc., IBM, and Unipac Corp. Mr. Brown graduated from Regis University with a bachelor degree in Business and a minor in Information Technology, and an M.S.M. in management from Regis University.
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Article Details
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Author:Brown, Dan
Publication:Management Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2010
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