Preventative maintenance: the key to sustainability

Eugene Brown
By Eugene Brown, Services Manager at Smith Power Equipment

The significance of preventative maintenance in the capital equipment equation cannot be reiterated enough. Benefits abound and include operator and machine safety, machine efficiency and time savings, among others. All these point towards one direction – optimal total cost of ownership (TCO).

One of the key drivers in the TCO calculation is the frequency and costs associated with unplanned maintenance, or as everyone experiences it, breakdowns. Modern equipment is becoming increasingly complex, and with this increase in complexity, comes increased risks associated with breakdowns.

While breakdowns can often not be planned for, following a regular well documented maintenance schedule will allow the equipment owner to establish best-practice preventative maintenance actions. For example, regular monitoring of the oil condition in a hydraulic system will show a wear trend, and when there is a sudden increase in wear materials, it will allow the equipment maintenance team to remove the relevant component and inspect it to ascertain the reason for this sudden accelerated wear.

This type of intervention and repair has proven to be cost-effective, as opposed to blindly allowing the component to self-destruct, and then having to pay for an expensive component. The “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” approach is still commonplace across many industries, but one thing is for sure – it is not a sustainable approach to equipment ownership.

Meanwhile, a strict preventive maintenance regime means that you are assured your equipment is operated under safe conditions, both for the machine and the operators.  Possible issues can be nipped in the bud before they have a chance to cause harm. Health and safety of employees is also a business priority across industries – but it perhaps takes greater precedence in mining and construction, where the risk of serious accidents and injuries is significantly higher.

In terms of machine efficiency, normal wear and tear can result in lower machine efficiency. Preventive maintenance assures optimal working conditions and conserves the lifespan of the equipment.

The old adage, “time is money” still holds true. Planned preventive maintenance may cause small hindrance in terms of production, but that is nothing compared to actual downtime caused by a breakdown. Because it is planned, production can propose the optimal time and can factor in the nuisance. Preventative maintenance procedures take less time than emergency repairs and replacements.

At Smith Power, our products are all world leaders in innovation, quality and value. The maintenance of the equipment is what ultimately will allow our customers to benefit fully from the pedigree of our products, so it is obviously a very big focus of ours.

We follow the regular prescribed maintenance intervals as prescribed by our OEMs, and in addition to this, as an example, we use regular tribological sampling, both during and after the warranty period. This needs to get to the end-users of our equipment, so we instil this culture into our dealer network as well.

From a trends perspective, telematics, easy access to affordable tribology and smarter equipment are just few of the many advances that have come about in the monitoring of condition of machinery in the marketplace. We embrace all of the available technologies, and are currently investigating ways to implement these technological advances on older generation equipment, of which there is obviously a large active population present in our market. We believe this existing population can also benefit greatly from the advances in machine monitoring and maintenance

Our customers hold the details of their preventative maintenance programmes close to their chests, because of the significant cost savings that they achieve. Any advantage in the competitive marketplace of today is vital, and rest assured, anyone really interested in reducing their total cost of ownership over the lifetime of a piece of equipment is fully aware of the massive benefits associated with a sound preventative maintenance plan.