Developing a Preventive Maintenance Program for Water Systems

By Billy Byars

Maintenance of Water System

An important aspect of any effective and efficient water service organization is a preventive maintenance program. The objectives of a maintenance program should be to eliminate the interruption of service caused by equipment failure and to extend the service life of all equipment for as long as practically possible and economically feasible. With this in mind, a good maintenance program will consist of a preventive maintenance plan, a general maintenance plan, an emergency maintenance plan, and a program evaluation. While each of these program topics will be discussed separately below, it is important to remember the effectiveness of the overall maintenance program will be determined by how closely each plan fits together.

Preventive maintenance provides a water system with three basic benefits: (1) better service to all customers, (2) increased equipment service life, and (3) efficient use of resources. A preventive maintenance plan can be established by the use of planned work orders, planned work schedules and an evaluation process for all water system equipment. The use of planned work orders is an integral part of any preventive maintenance plan. Planned works orders should include the complete procedures to be performed, the total manpower (number of personnel, skill type, and total time) needed, and a list of materials required for the each preventive maintenance job. Compiling all planned work orders in an organized work schedule provides an efficient way of using the resources available to the water system, completing the work in a timely manner, and producing a framework for quality maintenance records. Equipment evaluation is one area overlooked when discussing a preventive maintenance plan. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of any preventive maintenance plan, a benchmark of the existing conditions of all equipment is required. When preventive maintenance work is completed, the water system should have the ability to evaluate equipment performance on both a short term and long term basis. Also, the preventive maintenance work itself can be evaluated to better improve the individual components of the plan. Preventative maintenance can be considered a time efficient and cost effective way of maintaining a water system. Scheduled preventative maintenance can lower total maintenance costs by allowing the system to purchase quality materials when time is available to obtain the best price. Scheduled preventative maintenance can be time efficient by the productive use of manpower and work schedules to complete the work while retaining some control over both the maintenance and operation of the equipment.

General maintenance is usually the largest component of any maintenance program. A general maintenance plan can be established by developing planned work orders, prioritizing work within daily, weekly, and monthly schedules, developing a material purchasing system, and evaluating the overall performance of all general maintenance work. As with the preventive maintenance plan, the use of planned work orders is vital to an effective general maintenance plan. Planning work in advance can assure that proper procedures are followed by each staff member, correct materials and supplies are available to complete the work, and a record of the completed work is available for filing in project and equipment files. Reviewing planned work orders will provide the water system with a means of fine tuning their general maintenance plan. Another key is a prioritized work schedule. Prioritizing work on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis creates a productive working environment for personnel. This results in more maintenance being completed at a much lower overall cost. Efficient maintenance requires that adequate materials and supplies be available for use at a moment’s notice. It is important that water systems realize the need for developing a material purchasing system. This system would include a complete material and supply inventory, standardized purchasing procedures, and a tracking method of all materials used by the water system. It is important to have a centralized area designated for the storage of all materials and supplies used by the water system. An evaluation process should be developed to determine the overall performance of all maintenance work along with its effectiveness over the service life of the equipment. Changes in the types of procedures and materials used can be detected and corrected during the evaluation process. Also, the efficiency of a water system’s use of resources and manpower as they pertain to the general maintenance plan can be determined.

An emergency maintenance plan is an invaluable component of most maintenance programs. This specialized plan will save both time and money when utilized properly. The foundation in developing an emergency plan is knowing the capabilities and limitations of the water system’s staff and resources. The next step is to formulate contingencies for all types of emergencies that your water system has encountered in the past or could encounter in the future. It is important to be as specific as possible in identifying the many emergencies that could occur. Finally, a comprehensive list of consulting engineers, contractors, technical sales representatives, and material supply companies should be developed. This list should contain information as to the contact people, phone numbers (business and emergency), and the specific time and reasons each would be contacted. This contact list and a material/supply inventory list should be updated as often as possible and readily available for use at any time. Experience and planning are the keys to assuring the emergency maintenance plan operates properly. When the dust has settled and normal operation has resumed, a comprehensive evaluation of all actions taken as a part of the emergency plan should occur in a timely manner. At this point, evaluating the actions taken will hopefully result in a better emergency plan and, thus, an improved response to the next emergency.

The final component of a comprehensive maintenance program is a program evaluation. The only way to improve a water system’s maintenance program is to periodically evaluate it to ensure the main objectives of eliminating the interruption of service caused by equipment failure and extending the service life of all equipment for as long as practically possible and economically feasible are being met. By applying the knowledge and experience gained from successful and unsuccessful maintenance work along with proper planning and training, the evaluation process will improve the overall maintenance program by strengthening the individual preventive, general, and emergency plans. As more evaluations are conducted, the water system will find itself gaining more experience, performing improved maintenance work, increasing the service life of all equipment, benefiting from more productive work, saving more money, and providing the best possible water service to the customers.