Electric co-ops need to maintain hundreds of miles of electrical lines, trucks, transformers and supporting equipment to keep their customers connected. Any breakdowns along the power grid could mean a loss of power for customers and the potential for hazardous conditions on roadways. Given that maintenance remains one of the largest costs for these electric operators, having an effective maintenance management program is one of the very best ways to control and reduce operational overhead costs.
As private and independent entities that provide power to over 42 million U.S. residents across 47 states, electric co-ops are an integral part of the United States power grid. Operated as non-profits, the approximately 900 co-ops in operation today face the huge task of providing affordable, at-cost power while keeping costs manageable. In this post, we will explore five ways maintenance management can have a lasting positive impact by reducing costs.
Ensuring Grid Safety
For electric co-op employees, performing constant work in the presence of high-powered electrical lines requires a strong commitment to safety. Recently, in April of 2018, a number of co-ops joined together to support a country-wide Commitment to Zero Contacts Initiative that promotes a proactive approach to worker safety and the sharing of industry best practices. Clearly, safety is a priority, and any failures of equipment can cause hazards such as electrocution, fires, and explosions.
Maintenance management – preventive maintenance, in particular, provides an important avenue for reducing safety hazards and injuries by helping to identify equipment issues early so they can be fixed before developing into larger issues. Among the vast electrical grids that each co-op must maintain, a strong maintenance management program can help to reduce the cost of repairs, cleanups, insurance costs, and damage from incidents.
Utilizing Asset Management
Having a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) connected to components such as barcode scanners and asset tags gives your operation the ability to maintain constant, real-time visibility over your assets. Being able to quickly tag and identify components during equipment installations and repairs makes tracking and scheduling far easier than other manual solutions. Utilizing durable asset tags that can withstand a multitude of environmental conditions is especially important for use among a power grid.
An effective asset management plan involving a digital workflow can also have a number of benefits for field workers. Tasks such as tracking inspections can be much more efficient in a digital format versus manually recording activities on paper. Electric co-ops typically have thousands of pieces of equipment including generators, distribution lines, regulators, and substation breakers. With a software solution, you can tag these assets and categorize them in your CMMS to make scheduling maintenance and repairs a smoother process. Having organized assets can lead to fewer operational errors and reduce the risk of fines and damages for non-compliant equipment.
Reducing Power Outages
Any downtime along a power grid can lead to outages and a loss of service for customers. Maintenance activities must be scheduled carefully and in a very coordinated way. Maintenance management provides a system for scheduling not only planned repairs but also the ability to quickly adjust work orders and activities to accommodate unexpected issues such as sudden outages.
Having power outages is a part of operating an electric co-op and accidents, downed lines, and severe weather can happen at any time. Your maintenance management system keeps you organized and ready to handle these challenges.
Maintaining Peak Operating Performance
The equipment utilized by electric co-ops is built for durability and are often in operation 24/7. Planning for the effective lifetime of each component can be a challenge. With a CMMS you have the ability to track the history of assets in a particular equipment class and monitor the effectiveness of existing maintenance procedures. By integrating sensors and other measurement devices, you can also review real-time data and look for clues to any potential failures or weak points among the grid. Maximizing the useful life of equipment can help to reduce the frequency of needing costly replacements.
Managing Repairs Changeouts
Efficient maintenance management involves good scheduling, and coordinating work is a complex undertaking for the typical electrical co-op. Field workers are constantly performing maintenance and repair activities along miles of electrical lines. By utilizing a central CMMS, the planners and schedulers at electric co-ops are able to have a complete view of all active jobs and the locations of field workers and equipment.
In times of peak activity with a large number of work requests, an effective maintenance management system can mean the difference between quick and efficient work and long delays. Sustaining cost-effective electrical power for its customers continues to be a challenge for electric co-ops. In many cases, operational and external costs for electric co-ops continue to increase faster than sales in some areas. An efficient maintenance management system is one of the best tools which these companies can utilize to control costs while maintaining service and quality.
Electric co-ops are under constant pressure to provide consistent, reliable services at an affordable cost – and that requires keeping the co-op’s operating costs manageable. Maintenance management offers a host of benefits that can help electric co-ops meet these goals and more.