A lack of regular maintenance poses significant risks for power plants, such as safety risks and unexpected breakdowns requiring costly repairs. Equipment breakdowns can also result in interruptions in power production, which impacts the bottom line. Equipment maintenance in the power sector is complex, given the many variables that can impact equipment performance. Faults in control systems, leaky valves, improper operation, excessive exposure to thermal loads, and even faulty design can have costly consequences if not detected and remedied early.
As a result, maintenance management is equally complex, requiring robust management processes that are customized to the unique needs of the plant. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, a comprehensive power plant maintenance management program offers substantial savings in equipment manufacturing overhead costs. Here’s a look at a few of the ways power plants can reduce equipment manufacturing overhead with effective maintenance management.
Enhancing Plant Safety
Malfunctioning power plant equipment can pose serious safety concerns. While working at a power plant is inherently dangerous, most plants make safety a priority – but despite taking recommended safety precautions, malfunctioning equipment has been linked to explosions, electrocution, fires, and other hazards. In many cases, these incidents are attributed to factors such as boiler pressure vastly exceeding its operating pressure, failed emergency shutoff mechanisms, or improper operation, such as workers neglecting to take a unit offline prior to performing certain maintenance activities.
While maintenance management can’t prevent all power plant accidents and injuries, it can reduce the likelihood of incidents resulting from operating pressure issues and other variables by detecting those problems before they reach a breaking point.
The value of power plant safety far exceeds a dollar value, but there’s a financial benefit to safety, as well. The cost of damages and cleanup can be significant, and accidents can lead to higher insurance costs, as well. That’s not to mention the reputation damage the company will suffer following a major incident.
Leveraging Equipment Tracking to Stay on Top of Maintenance Activities
Implementing equipment tracking solutions, such as barcode labels, paired with a CMMS solution is the best way to ensure that regular preventive maintenance schedules and procedures are strictly adhered to. Equipment assets are easily identified by scanning a CMMS barcode label, enabling workers to initiate work orders easily.
Barcode tags are also used for identifying measurement points and time and date stamping measurement activities for conditions monitoring, aiding power plant operations to create an accurate audit trail of equipment conditions and identify performance fluctuations that may indicate an impending problem. LDAR tags and steam trap tags can be used for leak detection and repair in harsh manufacturing environments, streamlining the management of required leak detection tests and recording additional information on leak repairs. By leveraging effective equipment tracking solutions, power plants can eliminate errors in identifying, tagging, and monitoring potential leak points throughout the facility, avoiding non-compliance and costly fines.
Keeping Equipment at Peak Operational Performance
The goal of maintenance management is to find the balance that provides the maximum benefit, or output, from equipment, at the least possible cost. That requires identifying the acceptable level of risk (the lowest possible risk) to achieve certain operational or production goals.
Equipment that’s not operating at peak performance doesn’t mean less overhead; in fact, it usually means more overhead costs in terms of the inevitable maintenance and repairs that will be required as a result of stressing the equipment. Even if your equipment is slugging along, the overhead costs to keep it running are the same as they would be if it were operating at peak performance. The difference is that you’re not getting as much out of it, production-wise, which means less revenue.
Maintenance management helps power plant operators stay on top of preventive maintenance activities, which keeps equipment operating at peak operational performance longer. Equipment that’s functioning at optimal levels means power plants are better able to meet production goals, which has a direct impact on the company’s bottom line.
Reducing Breakdowns and Production Interruptions
Preventive maintenance and equipment condition monitoring enables operators to identify performance issues and take action to remedy them before they become major safety hazards or interrupt production with a total equipment breakdown.
Preventive maintenance typically involves planned maintenance procedures at defined intervals, regardless of the equipment’s condition. Parts are replaced as they near the end of their usable lifespan, before they reach a wear point that hinders operational performance. The downside to this approach to maintenance management is that it may lead to unnecessary maintenance, which can add to total equipment overhead costs. That said, preventive maintenance does enhance plant safety.
Condition-based maintenance, on the other hand, requires careful, ongoing monitoring of equipment assets to identify defects before they become detrimental to performance or safety. CMMS solutions and barcode labels for conditions monitoring make the rigorous monitoring requirements more manageable for power plants of all sizes.
Extending the Useful Life of Equipment
Equipment that’s operating under less-than-optimal conditions results in added wear and tear on parts and components, as well as the equipment asset as a whole. By allowing equipment to operate in risky conditions for extended periods of time – a boiler operating at excessive pressure for several weeks, for instance – these conditions can stress the equipment and shorten its lifespan. That could mean replacing a costly piece of equipment years before it should have been due for replacement under ordinary circumstances.
Maintenance management can also aid in making replacement vs. repairs determinations. If an equipment asset is nearing the end of its expected lifespan, costly repairs, replacement parts or components don’t always make financial sense. By having a complete record of an asset’s maintenance history, performance over time, breakdowns, power plants can estimate the anticipated remaining lifespan of the asset and make smarter decisions when it comes to repairing or replacing equipment.
When you leverage barcode labels and a CMMS solution for equipment tracking, you’ll get more from your maintenance management program. As a result, you’ll benefit from lower equipment manufacturing overhead costs by getting the maximum performance from every asset, reducing costly breakdowns and repairs, and extending the usable lifespan of your assets – all while improving the safety of your plant.