Overcoming the Challenges of Routine Maintenance

What is routine maintenance?

Routine maintenance, also known as scheduled maintenance or periodic maintenance, is a maintenance approach to keeping machinery, systems, and equipment in good working condition by carrying out routine cleaning, inspection, and repairs at arranged times.

Routine maintenance is a preventive maintenance approach that is implemented to prolong equipment lifespan, ensure it operates at peak performance, and safeguard against unplanned malfunctions and downtime. Equipment maintenance schedules can be set by timed cycle (e.g., monthly, quarterly, or yearly) or consumption (e.g., after 10,000 hours of operation).

The main objective of routine maintenance on electrical assets is to identify and fix problems before they escalate to something that could cause equipment failure, costly repairs, and downtime. Organizations can benefit from this approach by following a regular maintenance schedule. These benefits include better safety conditions, increased equipment performance, resource optimization, and reduced long-term costs.

Examples of routine maintenance:

  1. Periodic inspection: Looking for indications of deterioration, damage, or other possible problems.
  2. Cleaning: Eliminating impurities such as dirt and debris that may hinder performance.
  3. Lubrication: Putting lubricants on moving parts to lessen friction.
  4. Adjustments: Making the required changes to guarantee the best possible performance.
  5. Parts replacement: Replacing worn-out or damaged parts in advance of their failure.

Differences between preventive maintenance and routine maintenance

Periodic and preventive maintenance are sometimes used synonymously, but they are different methods and, as such, offer different outcomes.

Preventive maintenance typically depends on data and usage events and is intended to stop equipment faults before they occur.

Periodic or routine maintenance, is planned at regular intervals and concentrates on standard inspections and simple maintenance duties, regardless of the state of the equipment.

The primary distinction between the two types of maintenance is how they approach maintenance tasks. Periodic maintenance follows a set schedule and is calendar-based, whereas preventive maintenance can be condition-based and frequently uses data and predictive analytics to help anticipate issues.

Challenges of routine maintenance and how to overcome them

Electrical engineers frequently encounter difficulties when implementing efficient periodic or routine maintenance programs, notwithstanding their benefits. Some of the challenges and how to overcome them include:

  1. Scheduling and time management: One of the biggest obstacles to routine maintenance is finding an optimal time to perform maintenance activities, especially in industries where the operation depends on equipment uptime. Accurate scheduling and time management are essential to guaranteeing that preventive maintenance chores are carried out effectively and do not disrupt a business's everyday operations. It takes a calculated approach to manage these obstacles and strike a balance between operating and maintenance demands.

    Solution: The scheduling process can be streamlined with maintenance management software, which offers automated reminders, real-time updates, and equipment status information that reduces disruption to operational uptime. Using these methods, maintenance tasks can be ranked in the order of operational impact, failure history, and criticality.

  2. Data management and analysis: It can be challenging to manage and analyze data and make informed decisions, primarily due to the increasing reliance of organizations on complex systems and sophisticated equipment data. This data includes maintenance logs, equipment performance records, and failure reports, which are critical for informed maintenance decisions.

    Traditional maintenance procedures may be affected by the vast amount of data needed for standard scheduled maintenance procedures and the requirement for accurate analysis to guide maintenance decisions.

    Solution: It is important to navigate these obstacles to maximize maintenance efforts and guarantee the dependability and effectiveness of equipment. This can be overcome by adopting computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) to enhance efficient scheduling with its enabled analytics and data-driven decision-making ability.

  3. Access to complex systems and components: Electrical components are often located in challenging areas, such as at elevated heights or in confined spaces, making them difficult to access for periodic inspection. Gaining sufficient access to monitor the health of these hard-to-reach components can be difficult and time-consuming.

    Solution: Advanced technologies such as continuous thermal monitoring (CTM) sensors, or diagnostic equipment, including ultrasonic detectors and thermal imaging cameras, can identify potential issues from temperature anomalies without requiring direct physical contact with the component. From the manufacturing perspective, designing electrical assets with maintenance in mind, factors in accessibility, and reducing maintenance challenges.

  4. Safety issues: There is always a risk of electric shock and arc flashes or blasts while working with electrical equipment. Organizations often proceed with a routine inspection while the electrical equipment is still energized to minimize downtime while the inspection takes place. As the maintenance is carried out, personnel are typically close to electrical equipment that is potentially dangerous, exposing them to the risks and hazards.

    Solution: To protect maintenance staff from these hazards, strict attention to safety procedures, thorough training, and the use of the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) are necessary. Safety risks can also be reduced by adopting a condition-based technology, such as a Continuous Thermal Monitoring (CTM) solution, that reduces human interaction with energized equipment. Other solutions that can reduce personnel interaction with energized equipment include isolation technology and safer, low-voltage equipment.

  5. Unavoidable operation downtime: In some cases, electrical systems must be turned off to reduce risks to personnel and for effective maintenance procedures to take place. Organizations find it a challenging dichotomy to balance the necessity for maintenance against operational continuity; careful planning and coordination are necessary to minimize disruption.

    Solution: Minimizing the impact of routine maintenance on operations can be achieved by scheduling maintenance out of peak hours. Predictive maintenance approaches and technologies can also be used to schedule maintenance based on the equipment's actual condition rather than a predetermined schedule, further reducing unnecessary downtime.

  6. Resource constraint and maintenance costs: Maintenance tasks can be costly due to the range of requirements needed, such as human resources and specialist services, new or replacement parts, plus the cost associated with the downtime needed for maintenance to be carried out. It can be challenging to achieve reliable and safe operation in conjunction with cost-effective maintenance.

    Solution: Maintenance expenses can be minimized by implementing a thorough maintenance plan that combines preventive, predictive, and corrective maintenance. Real-time data on equipment health can change the whole narrative around maintenance cost and resource allocation because it helps personnel monitor the electrical equipment's condition, identifying potential issues. This eradicates the need for unnecessary maintenance scheduled into the periodic maintenance sequence. More effective cost management and optimized resource allocation can also be implemented by making better maintenance decisions and prioritizing approaches using data analytics.

  7. Aging infrastructure: Maintaining older equipment can be an operational obstacle for organizations because it makes them more vulnerable to deterioration and malfunction. More time and resource-intensive approaches are necessary to manage aging infrastructure maintenance, including condition evaluation, prioritizing essential components, and putting preventive measures in place.

    Solution: Creating a detailed replacement plan for outdated equipment is crucial. If equipment replacement is not feasible right away, finding sources for substitute parts or considering component refurbishment can be an option. Creating a network of experts or consultants with knowledge of legacy systems might also be required to support the use of older electrical equipment.

Routine maintenance has benefits but also presents several challenges, including the need for personnel to gain access to hard-to-reach systems, unnecessary maintenance that increases maintenance costs, and guaranteeing safety.

These difficulties can be more effectively tackled by utilizing predictive maintenance technology, prioritizing training, and strategically approaching maintenance planning. Organizations may increase system dependability, efficiency, and safety to ensure long-term operational success by adopting predictive maintenance, investing in safety, and embracing technological developments.

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