Don’t let the vortex freeze your maintenance operations

The freezing conditions across the U.S. should spark your maintenance personnel to prepare for possible outages and reinforce plant safety measures.

02/03/2014


The punishing Arctic freeze may have loosened its grip on the states east of the Mississippi River as temperatures return to seasonal norms (for now), but power outages from damaged electric transmission lines and hospitals crammed with patients suffering from hypothermia have had maintenance teams scrambling to make repairs and restore safety to public infrastructures.

As these weather events become the new normal and breaks between natural disasters are inching closer together, how should maintenance teams prepare for threats to daily services and disruptions to business? This simple fact is that even back-up generators can fail, leaving residents without power and businesses without customers.

What can maintenance organizations do to “weatherproof” asset maintenance before the next storm strikes? Perhaps your team could take a page from the maintenance department at a state prison in Alaska, where extreme winters approach -50 to -100 F and 30-ft-high snow banks bury houses and cars, and make roads impassable. Surprises from a 1,000-lb moose to oncoming vehicles can be a regular occurrence in this area—a surprise in which most of the U.S. will probably never have to face.

Goose Creek Correctional Center, in South Central Alaska, has a robust maintenance crew of 11 and a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to schedule 7,638 in 2013, not counting snow removal, construction projects, or site and grounds preventive maintenance (PM). Much of Goose Creek’s PM list covers long-term prevention, as well as multiple emergency and contingency plans and task assignments. A well-stocked inventory of spare parts is also top priority for the facility. The correctional center is as ready as a medical trauma team responding to a 12-car pile-up.

Are these PM items on your weather list?

 - As soon as winter advisories hit, test generators, snow equipment, and fuel levels.
 - Schedule building inspections twice daily.
 - Review all emergency preparedness plans annually, or more often, if needed.
 - Pre-arrange emergency responder schedules for 24-hr coverage during extreme periods.
 - Brief non-essential and emergency staff on their responsibilities during emergencies.
 - Develop contingency plans for frozen water pipes; have extra plumbing supplies on hand.
 - Review fire alarm operations and controls with staff prior to weather events.
 - Train staff to turn off water or sprinkler systems in the event of broken or frozen pipes.
 - Train staff to do fire watches if a fire suppression system isn’t available or functioning properly.
 - Switch to light-weight lubricants when temperatures fall dramatically.
 - Regularly inspect, test, and repair emergency lighting fixtures and systems.
 - Invite fire departments, emergency service responders, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to tour facilities. Incorporate their expertise to develop sound emergency plans.
 - Provide triage medical training for frost bite and hypothermia.

Just as important as PM is a well-stocked inventory of spare parts, from gloves, hats, and facemasks to plywood and visqueen. Goose Creek stocks up on belts, hoses, ice melters, snow shovels, sand for snow storms, and plumbing fittings for frozen pipes. Same goes for duct tape for emergency insulation or window coverings when high winds damage window seals or misalign doors. Extra glycol, gasoline, drinking water, and flashlights are also in place and in sufficient supply prior to emergencies.

In addition to assisting your team in handling weather-related precautions, a good CMMS can also help justify new hires or new equipment impacted by severe weather. It can show the time involved in repairing a snow plow, as well as driving time. A CMMS can provide the documentation necessary to convince management that it’s time to replace equipment.

Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group, producer of Bigfoot CMMS.



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
Detecting security breaches: Forensic invenstigations depend on knowing your networks inside and out; Wireless workers; Opening robotic control; Product exclusive: Robust encoders
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide
 

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.