Maintenance Practices Enable Sustainability

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

People are thinking green. Companies that integrate sustainability into their products, services and operations are well-positioned to shine.

No matter how sustainable a group of assets may have been in the original design and construction, they must be operated responsibly and maintained properly to continue to function as designed. Therefore, the core ideology of sustainability and maintenance are directly linked.


Since sustain and maintain are very similar from a definition point of view, it only makes sense that Sustainability and Maintenance should be closely linked. A company that strives toward World Class Sustainability needs to have World Class Maintenance practices and technology.

Organizations that established enterprise preventive and predictive maintenance programs find that maintenance costs can be reduced by >40% and energy consumption by >10%. Properly maintained equipment also produces less waste and environmental impact. Safety is dramatically increased when equipment is properly maintained because it improves employee morale and public perception of the organization.

Companies that are good corporate citizens are sustainable for the benefits achieved in all three circles of the Triple Bottom Line. Energy conservation is critical to sustainability because it heavily impacts all three areas of the Triple Bottom Line. Many people outside of the maintenance function fail to recognize that performing world-class preventive maintenance (PM) and predictive maintenance (PdM) provides more than just equipment reliability; it also helps to save energy, extend equipment life, reduce system downtime and increase the overall safety of the facility.

There are many characteristics of World Class Maintenance practices, but effective planning is the most influential. A well-defined equipment hierarchy is the starting point followed by work order task lists that are consistent and developed on the basis of input and suggestions from technicians. Planning is best with the detailed tasks and well defined equipment hierarchy; AND sufficient notice. This is where Condition Based Maintenance is the ultimate driver of effectiveness.

Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) is not meant to make reactive maintenance faster, but rather to provide sufficient time and information to plan thoroughly. CBM can best be described with an analogy to a doctor visit. If you are not feeling well or you have obvious symptoms, you make an appointment for the doctor to check it out. This is reactive maintenance. You can visit the doctor because it’s time for your yearly check-up. But does it make sense to visit the doctor again, if you had an unexpected visit a month ago? This is analogous to preventive maintenance. But CBM is like having a monitor on all of your vital signs constantly looking for changes that could negatively impact your health. Then based on the type of anomaly, notifying the doctor with vital signs attached; telling him the right tools to heal the patient; and ordering the tools if the office is short of inventory.

It is really easy to make the correlation between CBM and sustainability because the best way to determine the timing of a maintenance action or replacement would be based on real-time information like energy consumption. Here is an example:

In an integral compressor for gas transmission, the Specific Fuel Consumption (SFC) is the energy required to generate horsepower to compress the gas for delivery to the pipeline. When the SFC goes up, it indicates increased energy consumption that could be an equipment issue. With CBM, a maintenance task would use SFC with component measures to indicate the area to inspect or repair. If the degradation is in the second stage cylinder, a maintenance action for that cylinder would include safety information, tools and parts required, available properly trained technicians, and permit/tag out instructions that are generated directly between the equipment and the Maintenance Management Software to be sent to the responsible person.  

A Condition Based Maintenance program will have varying levels of data availability and failure modes depending upon the monitoring technology and the equipment specifics. CBM must be treated as part of a Continuous Improvement program that works with a cross-functional group comprised of personnel from operations, maintenance and engineering, charged with identifying opportunities in energy conservation and maintenance improvement. Engagement of senior management will be essential to ensure sponsorship of the program.

Any industry with a heavy reliance on equipment to produce commercial products needs to consider Condition Based Maintenance as a foundation for Sustainability. Whether your company rents office buildings, produces natural resources, generates power, or manufactures saleable goods, it is time to use the investment that you have made into control and management systems by utilizing the information to better maintain the assets that drive your Triple Bottom Line for Sustainability.



Curtis Wilson has been with Schneider Electric (previously Invensys) for the last 5 years as a Principal Asset Management  Consultant.  He has been providing reliability/maintenance process and technology improvement consulting for global companies  for more than 25  years. He is a Six Sigma Black Belt and Reliability Centered Maintenance Practitioner providing extensive  background in structured process and continuous improvement analysis as the basis for technology improvements.


Tags: , ,