Kevin Ockwell: Ofwat’s Resilience in the Round report brought the issue of resilience firmly to the fore in the run up to AMP7 as the water companies were developing their business plans.
Introducing the report at the time, John Russell, Ofwat’s Senior Director, Strategy and Planning said:
“Water and wastewater companies have clear legal duties to maintain and manage their water supply and public sewer system assets, as well as to improve and extend them, in order to provide a good level of service to customers on a sustainable basis.”
An accompanying paper published by Ofwat - Targeted Review of Asset Health and Resilience in the Water Industry referred to the major opportunities available to water companies to optimise their maintenance strategies and improve efficiency via a better understanding of the underlying systems.
The paper urged them to make use of a window of opportunity to improve their understanding of the relationship between asset health, service impact and underlying levels of expenditure on capital maintenance, and “avoid any cliff edges emerging in future.”
So what does this mean in practice and in operational terms for the water companies who have to maintain a large number of assets – many of which of necessity function as part of complex operational systems – and how they maintain them?
Proactive maintenance - more effective than reactive maintenance
At HUBER Technology, we take a straightforward view on the issue - proactive maintenance is without question more effective than reactive maintenance.
With over 45,000 HUBER plants installed world-wide, our opinion is firmly evidence-based – proactive maintenance enables the water companies to optimise their performance in terms of operational reliability and minimise costs.
We understand that the equipment we supply does not operate in isolation - understanding the processes and equipment that sit upstream and downstream of the solutions we provide to our customers is part of our DNA.
Ofwat set out clear expectations for what the water companies need to deliver for asset health in the run-up to PR19. It might seem like a no-brainer to say that having a planned proactive maintenance regime in place is the best way of meeting these expectations. However, for companies faced with a daily need to assess the risk of failures on many complex assets and processes combined with operating under tight budgets it’s not always a straightforward decision.
The companies now have an increasing array of data and analysis at their disposal enabling them to make more decisions, but operating on the acceptable level of a risk is a fine judgement.
Ofwat’s Targeted Review says:
“It is important that effective maintenance regimes are in place. It is likely that there are
major opportunities for optimising maintenance strategies and improving efficiency through a better understanding of asset health and resilience.”
Resilience is a core concept for Ofwat in AMP7 –so having a proactive maintenance programme in place is one of the key routes available to the water companies to deliver the level of assurance the regulator clearly expects to see.
Key benefits planned maintenance delivers include:
- Reduced operational costs
- Extended asset life
- Minimised risk from asset failures of which result in harm to the environment and/or impact on services to customers – and consequential reputational damage
- Outcome delivery penalties
Most companies have a condition grade for their civil, mechanical and electrical non-infrastructure
assets, and the use of a computerized maintenance management system to compare planned
maintenance against reactive maintenance is common.
Recent years have seen the water companies make increasing use of asset registers and maintenance databases to enable maintenance activity and failure information to be resolved at asset and component levels.For complex assets like water and wastewater treatment works, key issues for consideration typically include:
- criticality of specific components
- financial cost of asset failure and potential costs of repair
- MTTR (mean time to repair)
- component availability
- how failure of a component in a complex system could affect overall system performance
- simultaneous failure of several assets
Predictive maintenance planning approaches include:
- reliability centred maintenance - RCM
- failure modes and effects analysis - FMEA
- root cause analysis - RCA
- reduced operational cost
- efficient use of resources and environmental impacts of travel
Asset health, service and investment
Within the AMP cycle, planned proactive maintenance is part of the analysis of asset health data, trends and information used by the water companies to plan and prioritise their investment medium-term.
In our experience, planned proactive maintenance regimes enable more efficient asset operation and assurance of the ability to deliver a satisfactory service to customers.
To take one example, the potential costs associated with the failure of equipment in the harsh operating environment of a wastewater treatment works – an area where HUBER has plenty of experience.
Whether it’s screens, screenings handling units or sludge equipment, it is never confined to the cost of the equipment itself – the potential upstream and downstream costs either side of the kit need to be taken into consideration.
Proactive maintenance solutions tailored to the customer’s installed asset base
At HUBER, working with our customers via Service Level Agreements or planned proactive maintenance programmes, we’re focussed on helping them to extend and optimise their equipment’s operational performance and lifespan.
This enables us to provide tailored maintenance solutions which are integrated into the customer’s own organisation in line with the customer’s installed asset base – importantly, with costs known in advance inclusive of all routine parts and labour.
Clients also benefit from:
- maximised availability of equipment
- guaranteed asset availability
- access to a rapid response service ‘replacement in advance’ for critical kit
- exceptional service support
As an OEM providing a planned maintenance solution, one of our USPs is that effectively, we’re recommissioning assets every year - which goes well beyond greasing bearings, changing oil levels and so forth.
To mention just two, firstly, we’ll take into account any changes in the operating environment which may have occurred over time e.g. changes in population served by a treatment works from when the equipment was first commissioned. Over the course of time, the operating conditions of plants can change significantly without being noticed.
Secondly, we also have the capability to update control philosophies to optimise start-stop levels to reflect any new technology developments. While our equipment evolves, it generally operates in the same way - we can simply change the PLC programmes e.g. so a piece of kit uses less water or delivers carbon optimisation by running in a different way so it uses less power.
Having a proactive maintenance programme in place which can look at the analysis of operating hours, cycle times, consumption of energy and consumables, degree of wear, etc. is often the key to achieving significantly improved plant efficiency via equipment optimisation, accompanied by potentially lower operating costs.
Unexpected equipment failures are of course always a risk. It goes without saying that we’re always on hand to deliver an immediate reactive repair/maintenance response to an unexpected breakdown.
However, having a scheduled maintenance programme is really the key to minimising unexpected problems from happening in the first place. You want to extend and optimise the operational life of your assets and equipment – we are focussed on doing that.
The knock-on effect is that it can also help to optimise other equipment at key points in the process. Highlighting the gaps and areas of potential difficulty can help to identify and deal with potential problems from either occurring in the first place or escalating from a minor glitch to a major and immediate emergency.
To sum up, the key benefit of a proactive maintenance programme means we don’t look at things in isolation – we want to help our customers achieve optimum performance and via a holistic whole life approach to maintenance they undoubtedly stand to gain clear and lasting benefits.
To find out more about what HUBER Technology Aftersales Service Division can help you, email Kevin Ockwell at Kevin.Ockwellhuber.couk or by phone on 01249 765000 for an informal talk.