With the recent heat wave that has its grip on the Eastern 2/3 of the United States a large part of our population is learning very quickly what terms reliability and maintenance are all about.  While I would prefer we learn about these terms and the consequences of being unreliable as a result of poor maintenance practices in a proactive way, the last two weeks have been lesson in what it feels like when someone elects to put off performing scheduled maintenance and elects to run their equipment to failure.

When the equipment stops in our manufacturing plants the heat gets turned up in a hurry, and once it becomes hot all kinds of people begin pointing fingers and talking about what could have or should have been done to prevent the failure from occurring.

The same thing happens when a community loses power in the middle of a heat wave.  Once the lights go out thousands of people want to know two things;

  1. What happened?
  2. How long it will before the power is restored?

If the answer to the second question isn’t an acceptable time frame the Monday morning quarterback shows up with all kinds of comments regarding how often the power fails along with comments regarding the condition of power lines, trees, and transformers.  Sales of portable power generators skyrocket and scalpers begin showing up in the area charging sometimes double the price for equipment and services.

The sad thing is better than 95% of all damage to power grid equipment is preventable if we just kept up assessing the condition of these assets and performing necessary PM’s intended to mitigate the consequences of such events.  Simple things like trimming trees away from power lines, replacing power poles based on condition and burying cables when possible.

Yes, just like our manufacturing equipment, the same tasks and the same rules apply to the power grid;

  1. What is intended function of the equipment?
  2. In what way can the asset fail to fulfill this function?
  3. What causes these functional failures?
  4. What happens when each failure occurs?
  5. What are the consequences of each failure?
  6. What should be done to prevent or detect each failure?
  7. What should be done of a suitable proactive task cannot be performed?

By performing a Reliability Centered Maintenance analysis, along with implementing and performing the tasks to address each failure mode those of you who are suffering from the loss of power would likely have never lost your power in the first place.  Reliability is only possible through understanding and addressing failure modes – Leadership, Structure and Discipline is the answer!

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