Are You Maintaining Your Equipment?

April 30, 2007

About the author: Dean Carroll is president of Manning Environmental, Inc. He can be reached at 512/863-9337 or by e-mail at [email protected].

Hey, maintain, man”—a phrase we say when someone is heading from a good state of mind to a less functional state of mind. It’s a phrase with value, and an idea that, when applied, can save you time and money.

Maintenance is the upkeep of property or equipment. If nothing ever broke, our jobs would be easier, but equipment does wear down and eventually will need maintenance.

Should you maintain your equipment? Of course you should, but the harder question is at what level should you maintain it? This article will pose some of the questions that will help you explore this issue.

Saving time and money

Any system or organization for maintenance will need to be dynamic. Situations change and when an aspect isn’t working well, examine what isn’t working and what solutions are available. The organization doesn’t have to be complex. There are some simple and easy solutions that can increase the efficiency and save downtime and money.

There are two types of maintenance: run-until-failure or preventative.

  • Run-until-failure can be used when failure isn’t critical and does not cause collateral damage or problems;
  • Preventative maintenance is used when failure is to be prevented;
  • Run-until-failure is the most economical as it gets maximum use of an item; and
  • Preventative maintenance sacrifices some useful life when equipment is replaced before it actually fails.

If equipment failure would end up costing more than the replacement parts, then preventative maintenance should be the choice.

Questions to consider

There are several important questions to consider: When you purchase equipment, what will the maintenance cost be? And possibly the most important issue on maintenance is, how critical is the function of the equipment?

Ask yourself what the consequences of a failure would be. This will help you determine at what level to maintain the equipment and the value of the maintenance. Consider what level of insurance you want where a failure won’t occur.

It will also help you explore different methods of achieving that maintenance, such as replacement parts.

A replacement part for a piece of equipment, for example, could be kept at the location, which can minimize down time. If a replacement part isn’t available, then down time will include shipping time and any additional time required by the manufacturer.

Another example: when considering a fluid sampler, assess the maintenance on a peristaltic sampler. This typically consists of replacing the peristaltic tube after 1 million pump counts (83,333 revolutions) with one vendor or 24 million pump counts (1,500,000 revolutions) with a peristaltic sampler or a vacuum sampler that has no tube that wears out. This can affect the overall cost of the equipment being purchased and the consumable items associated with it.

Next, consider how critical the function of the unit is. If the tube is run to failure, what are the consequences? In this example, the result would be missed samples. Does this result in collateral problems such as fines? By looking at these you can evaluate what type of maintenance will best serve you and what the real cost would be.

Maintenance is important

These considerations won’t do any good if the maintenance isn’t done. It’s easy to forget, so a simple spreadsheet with some basic data can go a long way to help organize your maintenance.

As you accumulate data, you can adjust the dates based on experience. Typically, manufacturers give conservative dates. If your use isn’t heavy you may be able to increase the use time. The log will quickly prove if that is a mistake. It also provides a history to plan for spares and some idea of what the cost is over time for a particular unit.

Maintenance is something that must be tailored to an application and situation. If it seems overwhelming, don’t worry about putting a complete system in place. Take the steps you can, and it will yield encouraging results and make any further refinements easier to implement.

Like any tool, people can be hesitant to use it until they are more familiar with it.

About the Author

Dean Carroll

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