Know the Four Key Maintenance Strategies


What is your strategy for addressing the inevitable deterioration of your electrical equipment? Having a plan in place is essential to keeping your equipment running reliably and safely. Here are Four Key Maintenance Strategies to consider.

Deterioration Is a Fact of Life

The fact is: electrical equipment is susceptible to deterioration or degradation practically the instant that it is installed, and even before. Factors such as manufacturer quality assurance testing, shipping and freight transportation, contractor installation, testing, and commissioning all greatly impact the condition of electrical devices even before the end user has put them into production. As Paul Gill notes in Electrical Power Equipment Maintenance and Testing, “The deterioration or degradation of the electrical equipment is a normal process.” This normal, inevitable process, if not checked, can cause electrical failures and interruptions.

You Need a Plan to Deal with Deterioration

Electrical Maintenance Plans (EMPs) should be utilized in both critical and non-critical loads in order to achieve added reliability, minimize undesired interruptions and enforce personnel safety goals. Not all EMP’s are alike, of course. Extensive strategies, theories, failure analysis and impact on personnel safety goals will need to be evaluated for each load, both critical and non-critical. The principles of electrical maintenance and testing are: electrical failure prevention, retardation and mitigation.

4 Key Maintenance Strategies


Reactive Maintenance/Run-to-Failure

Run-to-Failure (RTF) is the process of only repairing or replacing deteriorated electrical equipment upon failure. This maintenance strategy can, for the sake of discussion, provide satisfactory results in non-critical loads. It’s a strategy commonly found in companies or organizations that have little-to-no maintenance staff, a non-existent or diminishing maintenance budget, and/or an ability to disregard service interruptions. RTF is also known as reactive maintenance. Reactive maintenance is accepted where loads are non-critical, replacement parts are widely available, and service interruptions do not largely impact employees and their duties. This method is not recommended for systems where safety to personnel and equipment could be greatly affected by failure.

Time-Based Maintenance/Preventative Maintenance

Time-Based Maintenance (TBM) is the process of performing routine tasks on electrical equipment on a periodic schedule. This method, also known as Preventative Maintenance, is typically scheduled at the same time of the calendar year, operating hours or cycles. The tasks performed are based on the manufacturer’s recommendations per device or industrial consensus recommendations. This strategy is common for plant staff with a focus on reliability and safety. TBM, however, does not plan for priorities in plant processes, nor does it efficiently utilize resources. This method is recommended to create a baseline for equipment that doesn’t have a maintenance past and to address periodic inspections required by federal, state and local regulating agencies. A plant must keep in mind that TBM does, in almost all situations, require a planned outage in order to complete maintenance tasks.

Condition-Based Maintenance/Predictive Maintenance

Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM) is a non-intrusive process where electrical equipment is evaluated using technology and methods to determine the status of equipment in normal energized conditions. When applied, this strategy provides real-time indications of the equipment’s health. CBM, also known as Predictive Maintenance, focuses on monitoring operating cycles, insulation properties, resistive heat build-up and common failure modes. CBM is beneficial to plant personnel who must maintain high reliability in processes, but it does not apply to all electrical equipment.

Reliability-Centered Maintenance

Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) is a combination of the three previous maintenance methods. With RCM, plant maintenance staff can effectively manage their electrical system by assigning priorities and common work practices for each of the plant’s processes. RCM does require subject matter experts to make efficient use of downtime and repairs. The plant must ensure that work is performed by qualified workers and in accordance with federal, state, local and company procedures.

Budgeting for the Right Plan

The recommended maintenance and the frequency with which it is performed are dependent on budgetary costs, regulations and maintenance strategies used. When selecting a maintenance strategy, both risk and economic factors must be considered as part of allocating a budget for your EMP. Of course, the safety of your people is paramount. An effective maintenance plan carefully utilizes maintenance strategies and frequencies and is informed by industry consensus standards and specifications.

National Field Services typically recommends a Reliability-Centered Maintenance approach, and we are here to help you design and implement the EMP that best fits your needs and your budget.

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