09 Dec 2019

Daily Maintenance Tips for Your Industrial Plant or Facility

Men and woman wearing PPE and looking at computer screen

Concerned that downtime for vital maintenance is eating into your profits? Trying to figure out how best to keep your operations in tip-top condition without delays, damage to sensitive products, or putting your team at risk?

Every part of your business needs regular checkups to make sure nothing’s on the cusp of breaking down and to tune up your current equipment to make it more efficient. Many companies assume that means they need to close down whole sections of their industrial plant or facility - but they don’t.

With the right approach, you can organize important, money-saving, equipment life-extending daily maintenance tasks without compromising on productivity at all. 

Let’s take a look at how that works. 

What Do You Need to Maintain?

Every part of your facility will need to undergo regular health checks and maintenance tasks. That includes:

Critical Process Trains

The equipment, machinery and systems that support your most important operations must be working at its best all the time. 

These will differ depending on exactly what your facility does, but just make sure that you have complete technical drawings and plans that show exactly how each part of the system connects to the rest. That will help you create a rational maintenance strategy that leaves as much as possible of the system online at any one time. 

Your Electrical System

You must conduct regular OSHA-compliant risk assessments and maintenance on your building’s electrical system to ensure it’s safe and reliable.

That means keeping plans and single-line drawings of your electrical system updates and inspecting every element systematically at regular intervals, using power monitoring and control systems to catch any problems in advance, and weighing the costs and benefits of full upgrades as appropriate.

For a detailed guide to maintaining your building’s electrical system, click here >>

Your HVAC System

Regular audits and preventative maintenance on your building’s full HVAC system is incredibly important. You need to be sure that all parts and units are working as they should and whether any components need to be replaced. 

That includes heating and AC units, but it also means taking a careful look at pipes, pumps, drains and compressors. If these start to wear down you’ll have a serious problem on your hands, as leaks or floods cause serious knock-on damage to all your other equipment and technology.

Learn more about conducting maintenance on your HVAC system here >>

Types of Daily Maintenance

There are four types of maintenance you need to concern yourself with: : run-to-failure, preventative, predictive and reliably-centered (RCM).

Run-to-failure means that something breaks before you replace or fix it, which is the worst possible outcome as it means you’re left with unplanned downtime. If you’re handling maintenance properly this won’t happen very often, but it’s always a risk.

Preventative maintenance is straightforward and makes up the bulk of your maintenance tasks. This means you’re jumping in to take proactive steps like tweaking settings, cleaning rust and residue, replacing crumbling parts and topping up fuel or lubricant so that failures are less likely to occur.

Predictive maintenance takes a little more work. This means looking for non-obvious clues that problems may emerge in the future and tackling them as early as possible.  

RCM is a highly strategic approach to maintenance that involves identifying which components or units would cause the biggest disruptions to your business if they were ever to fail and focusing on smart ways to improve their efficiency or mitigate the risks if they ever were to go down.

The more organized you are, the more time you can dedicate to RCM and Predictive maintenance - and the fewer problems you’ll experience in the long run.

Getting a Plan in Place

Daily maintenance doesn’t mean ad-hoc maintenance. It’s extremely important that you know exactly what you’ll inspect or upgrade and when to ensure that nothing gets left at the bottom of the to-do list for too long. 

Much of your maintenance will probably revolve around seasonal, monthly or annual schedules, since certain tasks will be more important at the beginning of summer or winter. 

Break down your facility by area and system, map each one out and itemize every element to ensure it’s covered in your maintenance plan. Starting with the most critical, work your way through each subsection, checking and performing maintenance tasks on each one. 

It’s also very important that you keep and update information about when each component was installed, when it’s due to be replaced, what serial numbers and specification you need for each replacement and where to get these, as well as information on  when it was last inspected and what condition it was in. 

Keeping the Lights On

As we’ve seen, effective daily maintenance means temporarily taking every piece of equipment, every electrical circuit, every plumbing system and just about everything else offline at some stage to inspect it carefully and tune up or replace parts if needed.

There’s no way around that. You can’t perform maintenance on any cog in the system while it’s still running.

What you can do, though, is minimize the impact this has on your plant by isolating only the areas scheduled for maintenance. If necessary, you can then use rental power units such as generators or even temporary substations to supply electricity to the areas that don’t need maintenance right now. 

You may also be able to use backup units to replace the ones you’re taking offline, ensuring 100% usual productivity while important repairs are underway.

Just make sure that whatever units you use are sized right, providing all the power you need without going overboard and costing you unnecessarily large amount of money to run.  If in doubt, consider stackable units that can be synchronized to scale up or down a reliable electricity supply as and when you need it. 

Also think carefully about the type of generator you use. A deceptively simple choice between natural gas and diesel generators, for example, can have a massive impact on your budget.


Controlling Conditions

Staying Cool

A major challenge for many facilities is how to keep ambient temperatures suitably low while conducting maintenance on air conditioning units, fans, cooling towers and other climate-control equipment. 

It’s important to factor this into your maintenance planning from the outset. Map out the key areas that will be affected and establish target temperatures for these. From here, you can figure out which issues can be dealt with using temporary cooling utilities and ventilation. 

Bear in mind that, if your maintenance team needs to get into a furnace area or any other part of the facility that gets extremely hot, bringing in extra temporary cooling to bring down temperatures rapidly can shave significant time from the process, saving much more money overall.

If you’re working with very sensitive chemicals, medical products, finishings or perishable foods and drink and your chillers or AC are due to go offline, it’s essential that you’re able to switch seamlessly to a backup cooling system. You can’t afford any delays when a degree or two in temperature can damage stock or materials.

As with generators, it’s important to think carefully about your choice of chillers or other cooling systems. Your main choice is between water-cooled and air-cooled chillers, with the water-cooled variety providing a lower-cost, quieter option that’s suitable for setting up inside, while air-cooled chillers having the benefits of being fast and easy to install, but more expensive to run and demanding a large outdoor space.


Keeping Warm

At the other end of the scale, it’s crucial to keep work-spaces and business-critical equipment warm enough while maintenance is underway, especially during extreme winter weather. 

Again, some of these requirements can be dealt with using rental heaters or other targeting heating setups. Tents, insulated areas and specialist clothing may prove useful for dealing with cold work areas, too. 


Air Quality Management

Even the slightest blip in your air quality control can have disastrous effects for manufacturing processes, coatings, delicate equipment or final products. Just as you would for your cooling system, make sure you can move things over to a backup as smoothly as possible. 

Bear in mind, too, that some temporary equipment such as diesel generators could impact your air quality during maintenance tasks. If in any doubt, opt to bring in 100% oil-free air compressors throughout the process.


Protecting Your Team During Maintenance

Safety is paramount - and that doesn’t change just because your plant is undergoing maintenance. Here are some top tips for keeping the whole team from harm while these important tasks are underway.

Run a Risk Assessment

Be sure to conduct a thorough analysis of how maintenance will affect each team or area of the plant, including the potential hazards that this will create for those that work there. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to prevent slips, trips and falls, dangers from electrical sources and wiring, and risks posed by heavy items being carried overhead.

Brief your colleagues thoroughly on these risks, too.

Distribute the Correct PPE (and Make Sure they Wear It!) 

Protective clothing like hard hats and other relevant items such as harnesses are designed to keep your team safe. They may feel like an inconvenience at the time, but accidents happen when people stop being careful. 

Be vigilant about enforcing PPE rules, especially during maintenance, when dangerous equipment and tools may be lying around and wired may be exposed.

Working Safely at Heights, Sensible Driving Rules and Heavy Lifting

If your maintenance tasks involve cranes or any members of your team working at heights or driving vehicles on site, ensure you have the right protocols and safety equipment in place. Ditto if you’ll be moving bulky equipment or asking people to lift heavy items. It’s very important to have rules in place (and followed) to reduce the risk of accidents.

Getting the Working Conditions Right

Be prepared to set up temporary comfort cooling or heating to maintain a safe, comfortable working environment for everyone in your facility. Expecting your team to continue working in very hot or very cold conditions while permanent systems are down for maintenance isn’t just unfair, it’s potentially very dangerous. 

Final Thoughts: Getting More from Your Maintenance

Maintenance isn’t just about fixing things or preventing systems from breaking down. With the right planning, you can use this as an opportunity to take your existing processes up a notch, streamlining systems and improving efficiency right along the chain.

You may find that a few tweaks to the way you do things brings down your energy costs, saving you a small fortune. You may find that it makes more sense to bring in temporary utilities at certain times of year to meet demand than to purchase additional units you only use for a few months. You may find that rationalizing your process trains cuts out the need for whole units, reduces the pressure on your equipment, eases bottlenecks and leads to fewer breakdowns.

The important thing is to be open to changes and improvements. If you’re working with the right temporary utilities provider, they’ll become an invaluable asset here, giving you advice and guidance that adds value long after your maintenance cycle is complete.