As operations consultants, our firm gets involved with a project during startup (or during operations after startup) when there are significant problems surfacing, and the owner is either concerned, frantic, or both.

When called in to evaluate a situation, we usually undertake to identify the problems or shortcomings, understand the real needs of the facility, and determine the root causes of the problems and how they can be corrected and avoided. We have developed a detailed analysis procedure and have acquired considerable experience data. This accumulated history reveals one dominant scenario: instances where insufficient or inadequate thought and planning has been given to the maintenance of various elements of the facility. In a short time, items are failing or not operating properly, or need replacement.

From the perspective of the outside consultant, brought in after the fact, it often boils down to the issue of maintenance! Maintenance is that realistic and important factor that is usually minimized or even overlooked in facility planning and design. Everyone says they include maintenance in the project, but is it really maintenance, is it adequate maintenance, and is it effective maintenance? And then, is it properly done?

The missing ingredient is the assurance and confidence of reliability of function and operation. We call this operational assurance, an important factor in smooth and effective facility operation.

What we are really looking for is the proper combination of thought, design, and features that will ensure that the facility will function as planned. It requires proper maintenance provided for in the planning and design stage, as well as an effective maintenance program implemented and operating following construction.

If that can be achieved, and then continued properly, the chance for any number of problems to surface will be minimized. This is asset management, and it is the key to facility effectiveness and company profitability. But where is the payoff for each of the participants on the initial project team?

Benefits To The Architect/Engineer

By offering the client a program for their facility that includes a realistic approach to maintenance and the ability to maximize building use, the A/E has added another selling/marketing tool to his kit. The A/E can now discuss with the client the realistic life and lifecycle cost of the facility, as well as the initial cost.

The additional upfront work for the A/E is small indeed, but it requires some research and knowledge into the realistic, modern aspects and concepts of maintenance. The additional cost in features that are designed for easy maintenance and high utilization is more than offset by the savings in lifecycle costs. This provides a bigger package for the A/E, and helps establish long-term, good relationships with the client.

When creating the design and selecting materials and components, the A/E now has to research the maintenance recommendations and requirements for each item. Most vendors and suppliers do have a recommended maintenance program for their products, but the A/E must use personal experience and judgment in making the selections. The alternative is to get this input from someone else on staff with real hands-on experience and knowledge from the maintenance side.

The net result of including the maintenance aspect in the design package is that the final facility is much more prepared for its real-life existence.

Benefits To The Owner/User

The benefits from this approach are also quite significant for the client. Experience data has shown that a facility with a well-conceived maintenance plan can reduce its annual maintenance costs by 15% to 25%, including the cost of replacement components. Other benefits for owners, extending from the design-and-build stage through to usage, include:

  • Materials and components selected to withstand normal and abnormal wear. The life of these components and materials can be extended by a factor of 1.5 to 2.5, and occasionally more;
  • More effective asset management helps to maximize productive use of the facility;
  • Fewer, if any, failures during the building/construction stages;
  • Fewer, if any, failures during startup and run-in stages;
  • Lower capital cost for rebuilding or replacing components and materials;
  • Lower maintenance costs due to thoughtful design and planning;
  • Fewer costs incurred from satisfied occupants; and
  • Higher facility reliability and customer satisfaction, as well as efficient and attractive layout, translate to greater returns when rented, leased, or sold.

Key Issues For The A/E

In any well-planned and designed facility, there are maintenance issues to be considered by each of the participating groups. For the architect/engineer team, they include the following:

  • Designs that address maintenance as well as function, utility, and efficiency;
  • Selection of materials and components for long life and ease of maintenance;
  • Development of designs and details for long life and ease of maintenance;
  • Designs that will help minimize or avoid user abuse;
  • Easy accessibility to components for inspection and maintenance;
  • Ability to isolate system components for inspection and maintenance;
  • Providing access in the facility for inspection, removal, and replacement of key equipment and components;
  • Providing information and manuals for materials and components regarding usage, care, inspections, maintenance, component replacements; and
  • Demonstrable cost benefits and life benefits of a serious, positive/proactive maintenance program (an anlysis).

Here are some more specific maintenance recommendations for the design team. Recognize and understand the dynamics, as well as the sources, of wear, deterioration, abuse, and failure in the facility. Factors include:

  • Wear from normal use;
  • Wear and deterioration from age, weather and exposure; and
  • Abnormal wear from use and abuse.

Know which materials and components will require inspection and maintenance. Factors include:

  • High-usage and high-wear items;
  • Exposure to weather and the elements;
  • "Appearance" items; and
  • Exposure to abuse.

Distinguish between the types of inspection and maintenance. Current maintenance philosophy promotes positive/proactive approach to maintenance. Inspection serves to find the potential problems before failure; maintenance is to correct and repair after failure. Here are some definitions of use:

  • A preventive maintenance (PM) program is primarily inspection and small maintenance work such as lubrication, cleaning, adjusting, measuring, etc.
  • Planned/scheduled maintenance includes regularly scheduled changeouts, replacements, and repairs after breakdowns or failures.
  • Predictive Maintenance (PdM) undertakes to anticipate potential problems by measuring real-time conditions, and taking corrective action early, before failure.

With that in mind, it is then essential to determine the frequency of inspection and maintenance, and the specific tasks right for a specific project.

What special provisions need to be made to accommodate maintenance?

  • Easy access to components: locate at floor level, or provide ladders, access doors, and platforms. The components to consider include pumps, valves, compressors, fans, motors, gauges and meters, drives and gear boxes, electrical controls, etc.;
  • Safe roof access to roof-mounted units and components;
  • Space for access, to work, remove, and replace components;
  • Include space around the pumps, compressors, and other typical components, as noted above;
  • Space to inspect, work on, and pull components, including items such as boiler tubes or issues like doorways;
  • Selection of high-quality, reliable, low-maintenance materials and components. Among these are: stainless steel and other similar materials in wet or corrosive locations; sealed bearings and seal units; watertight units, oversized components for overload or difficult situations (i.e., shafts, bearings, motors and drives). Other possible materials are certain plastics, ceramics, and coated materials.
  • Ability to isolate certain components for testing, inspection, repair, removal, and replacement. Typically, these may be piping systems with valves and pumps, for such items as water, compressed air, and hydraulic fluids; or electrical distribution systems; shunting may be required. The isolation systems would require valves, disconnects, etc.;
  • Identification of safety issues, safety-related equipment and components;
  • Safe designs and protection for users;
  • Safety clothing and equipment;
  • Safety procedures and access permits;
  • Identification of special training and safety requirements;
  • Consideration of possible future expansion and changes;
  • The building structural system, including floor loadings;
  • Piping systems for water, gas, air, hydraulics, etc.;
  • Electrical power and distribution systems;
  • Heating and air conditioning systems;
  • Building access with removable panels; and
  • The ability to move or hoist in large equipment at a later date.

Owning Up To Maintenance

For this approach to work, the owner must take maintenance seriously, and implement proactive maintenance as part of the design requirements and startup program. Multiple benefits have been listed above. One suggestion is to retain a maintenance specialist to review the plans and specifications in regard to maintenance aspects, before final acceptance. One should also establish upfront what is to be included in the maintenance program, including:

  • Facility structure, all aspects;
  • Grounds and parking areas, roadways, lighting, and drainage;
  • Facility interiors;
  • Building operating systems and equipment;
  • Utilities for the facility; and
  • Production machinery and equipment, noting that that maintenance for user machinery and equipment is usually handled by the user directly.

Understanding the importance of inspections vs. maintenance can make a significant difference in effectiveness. In short, inspections must be conducted at regular internals as part of a PM program; these include cleanings, measurements, and minor adjustments actually assessing the condition of the items and determining if further action or maintenance is required. On the other hand, maintenance involves actual work on an item to bring it up to the necessary level of acceptable use or performance; these tasks can range from very simple to extensive in nature.

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a good tool for managing the maintenance of the facility and related components. Such a program can help manage:

  • The use and condition of the facility and its components;
  • The maintenance program and work required;
  • The maintenance staff, its performance, and effectiveness;
  • The inventory of parts, materials, supplies;
  • The inventory of tools and equipment for maintenance;
  • Cost control and analysis; and
  • Provide analyses and reports on maintenance performance and effectiveness.

The types of maintenance to be considered for the facility can be based on the specific usage and requirements. Often, some will be time-based, while others may be usage-based and performed after a predetermined number of cycles.

Current maintenance techniques and technologies range from the traditional to the highly sophisticated. PM is the traditional inspection and check of the items using eyes, ears, touch, and smell as the primary tools seeking clues to problems, hopefully before failure. This can be supplemented and extended by applying PdM techniques, where more sophisticated tools for measuring are used to read actual condition and anticipated potential problems before they become failures. These tools include temperature sensors, vibration monitors, electrical characteristics monitors, oil condition devices, sonic sensors, and others.

Newer techniques bring philosophy, policies, technologies, training, and measurable criteria together into functioning maintenance systems:

  • Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) emphasizes the broad aspects and addresses items and actions that cause losses;
  • Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) addresses reliability of the machinery/equipment as the key element;
  • Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM) examines the condition of each item against a norm; and
  • Operational Assurance (OA) combines operations and maintenance as a cooperative effort, stressing team responsibilities and actions to achieve goals. Probably the most sophisticated of all these is the real-time/condition monitoring/diagnostic system (RT/CM/DS) technique which assumes that nothing fails without giving a signal or warning; it attempts to read and diagnose those signals early, measuring against a known base.

    The owner/user (O/U) must also develop maintenance policies and programs for the facility. These will guide the maintenance effort and have a direct bearing on performance and effectiveness, and in turn on costs. Policies for maintenance usually include such items as:

    • Asset management policies;
    • Service and reliability levels;
    • Type of maintenance program;
    • Inspections based on time or usage;
    • Use of CMMS as a management tool;
    • Who will do the inspections, and who will do the maintenance;
    • Size and staffing of maintenance team;
    • Supervision and responsibilities;
    • Use of work orders (WO) for all maintenance work;
    • Issues of repairing, rebuilding, replacing;
    • Inventory of parts, materials, supplies, as well as purchasing; and
    • Costs and cost benefits expectations.

    The ROI Still Rules

    The importance of a realistic and effective maintenance program cannot be ignored or underestimated, especially in today's highly competitive environment. Effective maintenance can make the difference between a successful, profitable operation and a marginal or unsuccessful operation.

    All the elements described above and summarized below are convertible into dollar costs, which is the true basis for most decisions and actions. Maximizing the use of the assets, either static or dynamic, can be measured in terms of performance and effectiveness, and extended to return on investment (ROI).

    There are numerous sources of information and advice for the maintenance program and its development. Among these are various trade and technical publications, books, technical societies, training courses and seminars; also there are consultants specializing in maintenance and its management. These sources can guide the A/E and the O/U in the development of the maintenance program. Some consultants even undertake the development of the program and assist in its implementation.

    The maintenance program should include more than merely the procedures for inspection and repair. The program, to be truly effective, must have specific and measurable goals and expectations. A few examples of such goals:

    • Statement of goals and objectives for the facility;
    • Clear statement of goals and expectations of the maintenance program;
    • Clear definition of asset management goals and expectations;
    • Utilization and operating levels of the facility;
    • Performance and output levels;
    • Cost value of uptime or productive time; and
    • Cost value of downtime and impact on output.

    Marketing the maintenance program takes a bit of style and finesse. Every facility has a purpose, both technical and economic. As technical people, A/E professionals can easily discuss the technical aspects and make a case for maintenance. However, other skills may need honing when presenting the economic or financial side.

    Developing the financial presentation requires obtaining adequate operating and historical data, from experience or from one of the sources noted above. Then it will need to be analyzed to demonstrate the cost advantages and benefits. Almost invariably, an effective positive/proactive maintenance program will show substantial cost advantages over no maintenance or reactive maintenance. Alert management will recognize the benefits.

    Certain logical steps are appropriate in developing and presenting the maintenance package. Among these are:

    • List the goals and expectations of the maintenance program;
    • Enumerate and present the cost benefits and cost advantages;
    • Demonstrate what is included in the maintenance package;
    • Provide a typical checklist of items included in the asset list;
    • Acknowledge the short-term costs in de- veloping and implementing the program;
    • Compare the short-term costs with the long-term advantages, in dollors;
    • Demonstrate the impact of maintenance and conversely the lack of maintenance on the facility; and
    • Summarize the benefits and total the dollar values;

    Finally, review the (ROI):

    Typical ROI equals investment x 100 divided by benefits per year equals 50%

    Typical Payback period equals program benefits divided by investment x year Equals 2 years, or better

    With that kind of ROI, a planned maintenance program included in the design package, and then seriously implemented, is highly desirable and a good investment! ES