Four strategies to move beyond reactive maintenance – and boost sustainability at the same time

Four strategies to move beyond reactive maintenance – and boost sustainability at the same time

One of the first things your business can do to improve circularity and reach its sustainability targets is to implement a preventative, data-driven maintenance and servicing program.

Rising costs and international supply chain issues are putting pressure on many businesses to extend the useful life of their infrastructure, including their electrical assets. But with budgets tightening, how can you ensure that you maintain a balance between expenditure and reliability? And how can all this be achieved in a sustainable way?

A key tenet in a circular approach to operations is the lifetime extension and optimization of material assets, including electrical infrastructure. Focusing on these factors allows us to:

- Reduce the extraction of natural resources

- Avoid carbon emissions by not manufacturing new equipment

- Avoid transportation costs and emissions

It’s vital, then, that we maintain our equipment to ensure optimal performance for as long as possible. But not all maintenance strategies are created equal.

Reactive maintenance – the simplest approach – effectively means waiting for a fault to occur, and repairing the affected machine. It might only clear up the symptoms of an underlying fault, and can lead to unexpected and expensive downtime.

In fact, running a piece of machinery to failure in this way can cost 10x more than a program of planned maintenance.

Thankfully, there are far more effective and efficient ways of maintaining your electrical equipment.

Preventive maintenance

Perhaps the easiest strategy to implement in a team used to reactive maintenance, preventive maintenance helps businesses reduce the impact of unplanned downtime, and helps extend the life of your equipment.

Preventive maintenance uses a scheduled program of inspections, cleaning, lubrication, and periodic testing to prevent equipment failure. It reduces the risk of unexpected failure, and allows you to plan your downtime strategically.

Understanding the importance of planned downtime is particularly important when your plant is remote or difficult to access – the exact challenge that INPEX faced with its Ichthys LNG project off the north coast of Western Australia.

The maintenance of this huge offshore plant required the coordination of external suppliers, ABB technicians, and offshore teams, and the meticulous planning of schedules.

And while all the equipment was running smoothly, the INPEX team understood that preventive maintenance was necessary if it was to reach its expected 30-year lifespan. Downtime for such a facility is extremely expensive, but not as costly as an unexpected failure.

Time-based maintenance

Time-based maintenance, just as you might expect, is a program of maintenance based on a calendar. ABB’s approach folds in information such as the age of the asset and the conditions in which it is operating to produce a bespoke servicing timetable for each piece of electrical infrastructure.

ABB’s time-based maintenance follows a SWAPS model – See, Watch, Act, Perform, Secure. It aims to maximize productivity, protect assets, and optimize investments. The program is reassessed and modified throughout the life of the asset, and also includes schedules for retrofitting, upgrades and ultimately, decommissioning.

You can find out more about the SWAPS model, and how it benefits from condition-monitoring technology, in this case study.

Condition-based maintenance

Condition-based maintenance uses real-time data to monitor the actual condition of electrical infrastructure. Thresholds are defined for each sensor, and as soon as a predefined condition is met, an alert is triggered that maintenance is required.

ABB offers different solutions for low- and medium-voltage systems, but the principle is the same – servicing is only carried out when required, reducing unnecessary maintenance and ensuring smooth and consistent operation.

ABB helped one of Europe’s largest energy suppliers – EnBW – to modernize its aging electrical infrastructure at its German power plant in Altbach. Part of this project involved integrating new digital systems into the existing switchgear that, among other functionality, was able to offer improved condition monitoring.

This retrofit approach means that even older infrastructure, installed before digital systems were commonplace – can be modified to allow condition-based maintenance, without having to replace the entire switchgear system.

Predictive maintenance

Research by the Deloitte Analytics Institute shows that on average, predictive maintenance increases productivity by 25 percent, reduces breakdowns by 70 percent and lowers maintenance costs by 25 percent.

Predictive maintenance is enabled by ABB Ability™ Asset Manager – state-of-the-art, cloud-based technology, all combined on an intuitive dashboard.

Drawing real-time data from the same sensors used for condition-based monitoring, it takes things further by allowing facility managers to control and optimize plant behavior at any time. It lets you make data-driven maintenance decisions, and remediate issues in a proactive way.

One sector where a reliable supply of power is vitally important is in healthcare – especially in hospital settings. The Meilahti Hospital Area in Helsinki, Finland – operated by Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) – understands this deeply, and has installed ABB Ability™ Energy and Asset Manager to provide personnel real-time insights into the state of their equipment.

This solution will help HUS reduce long-term costs, prevent potentially disastrous unplanned downtime, and manage future demands.

Power that is not only reliable, but sustainable too

As well as ensuring the reliable and secure supply of power to your business, preventive and predictive maintenance contributes to your business’s circularity, too.

It extends the lifespan of your electrical assets, reducing the reliance on virgin materials extracted from the earth.

By using real-time data to schedule maintenance, thereby reducing the risk of unplanned downtime, you can reduce material wastage.

And by servicing and maintaining equipment only when necessary, you can reduce skilled labor costs and eliminate unnecessary journeys, which in turn reduces carbon emissions.

Find out more about ABB’s approach to circularity

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