Optimizing hydropower maintenance19 May 2022
Salman Rashid highlights five strategies to help optimize maintenance management at hydroelectric facilities
Hydropower companies utilize several expensive and complex machinery, most notably different types of turbines, alternators, circuit breakers, and more. These pieces of equipment, when maintained properly and used effectively, can last for an extended amount of time, reducing several costs, ensuring efficiency, and improving profits for the company - something that can be ensured with effective hydropower maintenance management. Not only does effective maintenance management ensure better productivity, but it also lowers workplace safety incidents, minimizes unexpected downtime and disruptions, and extends equipment life. That being said, let’s take a closer look at a few strategies that many are using to optimize hydropower maintenance management at their power stations.
Optimizing hydropower maintenance management with five strategies
Ensure all aspects of preventive maintenance
While there are various maintenance management approaches, the most suitable one for hydropower companies is preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance focuses on “preventing” issues right from the start. While most of them are already implementing some form of preventive maintenance, not all hydropower companies are using it to its full potential. Preventive maintenance consists of several activities - starting from planning maintenance, having a team that’s large enough to work on scheduled maintenance as well as emergency work orders, to ensuring ample spare parts are available at all times. Hydropower companies need to ensure that all aspects of preventive maintenance are used for maximum effectiveness.
Encourage equipment operators to provide feedback
One of the best ways to optimize hydropower maintenance management efforts is by incorporating feedback from machine operators. These individuals work with the machinery all the time and know what specific problems the machinery has, exactly when they occur, and so on. Therefore, the maintenance team needs to identify when these particular issues arise to optimize maintenance tasks. For instance, a machine requires lubrication each week, but based on its usage, it might require lubrication before or after that. Typically, the machine operator can identify when the equipment needs lubrication as they know how it will react without it. Moreover, maintenance teams must encourage machine operators to report equipment failures as soon as they happen - something that can be done with tools like maintenance management software solutions. Doing so will help notify the maintenance team about abrupt disruptions and they can work on it swiftly - reducing unplanned downtime in the process.
Speaking of sudden disruptions, effective hydropower maintenance management requires an emergency response team, which brings us to the next point.
Have a dedicated team for emergency maintenance
Hydroelectric power stations have several pieces of machinery that are expensive, complex, and need to work in tandem. If one machine fails, then there’s a very high chance it will become a bottleneck in the entire process. Thus, hydropower companies need to ensure that unexpected and crucial failures are dealt with swiftly to minimize disruptions.
Having a part of your maintenance team dedicated to emergency maintenance tasks effectively tackles these problems and reduces disruptions. Maintenance teams are regularly busy with routine maintenance, lubrication, cleaning, and other work orders; thus, it makes sense to have a few of the technicians work dedicatedly on emergency work orders. This ensures that all emergency work requests are handled on time, minimizing unplanned downtime and improving efficiency across the organization.
Ensure high-quality spare parts and components
There’s no alternative to high-quality spare parts and components, especially when it comes to hydropower companies. Using cheaper components like bearings, drive couplings, belts, etc., to save costs might seem like an appealing option on paper, but down the line, these components can hamper the machinery, leading to unexpected breakdowns or even premature death. In addition, these machines are pretty expensive and can cost a fortune to replace!
The equipment manufacturers provide a comprehensive list of tried and tested compatible spare parts and components, which helps the equipment run smoothly, reliably, and without causing any issues (as long as it receives regular maintenance). While using high-quality parts might seem costlier, they are the most feasible way to ensure that the machinery lasts longer and works as expected.
Conduct frequent inspections to identify problems
Frequent equipment inspections can help identify any underlying issues, such as turbines and gearboxes. Electrical inspections, equipment testing, pipeline inspections, and hydraulic accumulator testing are just some of the many inspections that maintenance management teams must conduct to ensure no significant problems with the machinery. When maintenance teams witness that inspections show problems, something is wrong and needs to be worked on to detect precisely what. However, these inspections often don’t show significant issues, which means maintenance management efforts are effective - reducing downtime and improving asset reliability in the process.