Electrical control and distribution systems are generally complex and
expensive assets that need to be effectively maintained so they operate at
optimum performance over their serviceable life. It is common to find that there
has been significant effort applied to managing mechanical assets, with less
focus on electrical equipment. There are many reasons as to why this is the
case, but the reality is that the way asset management programs are developed
should be applied equally to electrical and mechanical components of the asset.
How many of you can associate with the following situations?
Down days and shutdowns are not included as part of the production
There are few electrical tasks documented, and often the ones that are often
were a “kneejerk” reaction to a one-off event.
Electrical maintenance spares are not kept in the store. Often, they are kept
locked in cupboards and draws of individuals.
There are many mechanical maintenance planners, and few or no electrical
There was no standard followed for electrical drawings and, hence, most
modifications occurred with hand-drawn sketches at best.
Important technical information is not centrally located or managed.
There are few or no bills-of-material (BOMs) for electrical equipment.
Run-to-failure was the primary strategy for all electrical equipment.
There was no forward plan related to operational security of the
The CMMS is not effectively utilized to record failure history.
Many of the electricians are falling behind in their understanding of
If you agreed with most of these comments, then you are working nearly 100
percent reactively and you have a lot of room for improvement. But, where do you
start? You can develop your own plan, tell people what they are now going to do
and watch it all happen. Wrong! If you don’t manage the people side of the
improvement, there is little hope of sustained improvement.
The People Issues
- Acknowledge your current situation.
You have to believe
that there is a better way of doing things. If many of the above points apply to
you, then you need to know that your situation requires improvement.
- Develop a vision for your electrical maintenance program.
The vision is where you want to be in the future. An example of such a
- An electrical planner will be employed within the next three months.
- All critical equipment will have maintenance strategies developed within 12
- Strategies for less-critical equipment will be developed within 24 months.
- A system for the upgrade and management of electrical drawings will be
developed and implemented in the next 12 months.
- All strategies will maximize the use of condition-based maintenance.
- Tradesmen and other relevant personnel will be trained so they can
effectively apply strategies.
- Implement down days for electrical equipment.
- Get the support from the electrical work group. Discuss
your plans for the future with your work group. After all, they know the plant
the best. Ask them for ideas to be included in the vision. It’s far better for
the group to support the vision and have a feeling of ownership.
- Gain support from your management. If management is not
willing to support your vision, then there is little chance of success. Document
your vision, highlighting the benefits and prospective gains, and your ideas! Be
prepared for some hard questions and be confident to back your judgment.
The Practical Issues
- Resources will be required to effectively implement changes.
As part of your vision presented to management, it should have been
made clear that resources are required to make significant improvements to your
electrical maintenance program. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need more
people. Redeploying internal labor or hiring contractors on a part-time basis
usually makes more sense. As your program starts taking effect, the efficiency
gains will offset the loss of labor on the floor.
- Understand the criticality of your electrical assets. You
could use a criticality-ranking
tool for this, but if your assets have been around for some time, usually
your employees will have a fairly clear understanding of this. The most critical
assets will be your starting point.
- Gather history of failures. In established businesses,
there are two areas to search for this data: from the CMMS and from experienced
operators and tradesmen. What you are trying to do is understand what failures
you have to mitigate by applying a maintenance strategy.
- Understand other potential causes of failure. For new or
very critical assets, it is often worthwhile to perform a failure modes and effects analysis or Reliability-Centered
Maintenance process. These tools will determine “what could fail and what the
effects would be”. This allows sound decisions to be made based on the
criticality of the effect.
- Develop preventive maintenance inspections and task lists that
minimize known and hypothetical failure modes. Before generating any
new PMs, a review of current documents must be completed. You will find that
some PMs are adequate for the outcome required. But if they have not been
reviewed for some time, they will have shortcomings. The example in the table
below shows that for the 10 actions required, only four were deemed to have PMs
that adequately address identified failure modes. Three were average and
required work, while PMs did not exist for three critical actions. Your starting
point in this instance is to develop the new PMs for the three that are missing.
Actions developed in new PMs should be quantitative if possible – e.g,
measure brush length and replace if less than 40 millimeters long. Thermography
(where it can be safety applied) is always the best option for detecting hot
joints in control and distribution equipment.
For electrical components,
remember the basics of CLEAN, COOL and DRY.
Hot joints are the cause of significant
- Ensure all strategy documents are captured in the CMMS and scheduled
to occur during planned downtime. The development of strategies,
including entering them into a CMMS, is a very time-consuming process. Resources
must be made available for this to be done in a timely manner. Not implementing
strategy improvements in a timely manner will be viewed as a negative by your
customer (production, management, etc.).
- Start on the BOM process. For planned work to run smoothly,
materials must be listed against the equipment hierarchy so they can be easily
identified and ordered. Critical equipment may need to be kept in stock
dependent on lead time and the consequence of not having the spare. With
electrical equipment, there has always been the dilemma of equipment being made
redundant within very short timeframes, and this is often used as a reason to
not start. BOMing should be part of an overall strategy review process. If new
equipment is being installed, demand a parts list from the engineering team
running the install before the project is completed. Ideally, the cataloguing
and BOMing of equipment should be part of the overall project.
- Manage your electrical schematics and documentation.
How often has a machine not been repaired in an adequate timeframe
because of the inaccuracies in schematics? Do you have schematics hand-drawn
like the one below?
Accurate schematics are a critical part of your electrical
maintenance program. A schematic accuracy review should begin based on your
plant criticality assessment. (The most critical assets first.) The best place
to start is to gather all paper copies of schematics for a single piece of
equipment and have your most experienced electrical personnel check what is
correct. From this, develop one marked-up copy of the schematic and have it
stored electronically as either a CAD or picture file (.jpg,. tif, .pgn, etc.).
You now have one updated schematic that can be accessed easily. For most
businesses, this will be a huge body of work initially, but the payoff is worth
it. And once your system is in order, it is much easier to
manage. Ultimately, the process of modification of schematics needs to be
proceduralized and controlled.
- Train your electrical personnel. Develop a training matrix
for your electricians. The matrix should include an overview of specific and
generic technologies and skills required of your people. An example of a
specific skill would be: Access and monitor Allen-Bradley PLCs. A generic skill
would be: Servicing of DC motors. You could also include the need for
understanding of production processes or just being familiar with a specific
area of plant.
- Ensure you have a documented process to effectively manage the
workload. Most electrical maintenance departments, whether they are one
man or dozens, have to prioritize their work. Prioritization should not be based
on “who shouts the loudest” and should be based on importance and urgency.
Importance equals the value to the business, where urgency equals time
limitations being applied to a task. Ricky Smith, co-author of “Lean
Maintenance” and “Rules of Thumb for Maintenance Practices” says: “The best
companies have developed a proactive workflow model that is understood and is
followed by all levels in the organisation.” The “workflow”
model Ricky refers to needs to include a process for managing breakdowns, a
process for planning, a process for scheduling planned tasks, a process for
managing work that will break a fixed schedule, and a method for capturing
improvements that can be fed into the system.
The Allied Reliability Workflow
- Close the improvement loop. It is worthwhile to read about
the Plan, Do, Check, Act Cycle. There are endless references to it
on the Internet. All of the things discussed up to Point 13 were related to
Planning and Doing. When any preventive maintenance program is developed, it is
not likely to be 100 percent up front. Aiming for 80 percent is a good start.
The fine-tuning will occur from feedback from the guys on the floor. Ensure this
feedback is captured and fed back into your system. There is nothing worse than
a person highlighting where things can be improved and then nothing occurs about
it and no feedback is given. Remember, you can have great systems, but if no one
follows them, you will not succeed in any improvement initiatives.
About the author:
Mark Brunner has a master of
maintenance management degree and a certificate in electrical engineering.
He and Rod O’Connor developed The Asset Reliability Road Map. The aim is to help
simplify the road to asset management excellence. For more information, contact
Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit http://thereliabilityroadmap.com.