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A recently survey by IDG Enterprise said that a little over 1 in 5 IT Executives listed operating costs as one of their top concern for 2012. This isn’t that surprising until you consider a study from Lee Technologies which stated that 30% of all preventative maintenance (PM) activities go unperformed.* This is baffling because we all know what would happen if we decided to forgo 30% of every oil change our car needed – we would more than pay for it later with new head gaskets! The same principle is compounded in your data center environment, which is why you need to know the benefits of doing regular preventative maintenance and some strategies to do it. By taking advantage of these simple suggestions you can lower your operating expenses and at the same time, actually improve reliability.
A major hurtle to accomplishing preventative maintenance might be the sheer amount of organization and time it takes to get it done and get it done properly. Anyone who’s ever worked in a data center knows that organizing the maintenance documentation alone can be challenging, especially if you’re writing and filing it manually. Add to that the number of maintenance activities that take place in a month and it’s no wonder so much preventative work slips through the cracks. One of the best places to look for a solution to this is the Navy’s Nuclear Submarine program. Crew members have been given the skill sets to make document management easier – as you can imagine, when you’re working with nuclear weapons there isn’t much room for error. But even if you’re not ex-Navy, there are great workflow software packages out there that can assist with document organization and workflow management. Considering that a 50,000 ft2 data center will typically need 800 preventative activities per quarter, there are more than a handful of procedures to schedule and map out. A solid workflow management system can make the entire maintenance process organized, simple and, most importantly, automated!
In the preventative maintenance process, documentation is the last step and it is one of the many reasons you should not wait to start your PM program. Leveraging preventative maintenance data (aka. predictive data) can help lower operating cost in the long run by identifying weak points, allowing you to improve processes and procedures to address these issues. Predictive data naturally flows from the documentation in a preventative maintenance program. When analyzed, this documented data can be used to curb reoccurring problems before they start. This topic was mentioned in a past blog by Schneider Electric’s VP of Mission Critical Services and Software Domenic Alcaro. Sharing knowledge/lessons learned from incidents can prevent much future downtime and it can prevent costs. Simply by documenting the preventative maintenance can lead to a ‘Lessons Learned’ section for your PM program, increasing reliability and the quality of work.
In closing, it is extremely important to note that PM is not only about your IT equipment, but also the infrastructure that supports it. Since these systems are so closely coupled in an environment like the data center, a holistic approach will always be the best way to make sure you are getting the most from your facility. Best of luck starting your PM program and if you are interested in learning more about this topic, please take some time looking at Schneider Electric’s White Paper #124, Preventive Maintenance Strategy for Data Centers.