MRO Magazine

Can maintenance strategies have a positive impact on the environment?

How to commit to being environmentally responsible in maintenance activities, and understanding the environmental impact of keeping assets reliable.


Environment

November 15, 2021
By Maryam Farag


Industries

Photo: somchai20162516 / Adobe Stock

Today, maintenance is more than just discipline; it’s a holistic approach to how you manage your assets.

Early on, maintenance was more a task of how to upkeep your equipment, keep things running, and fixing them if/when they break (reactive maintenance). However, as time went on, the discipline has evolved into a more predictive and planned type of activity.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) coming online, and smart devices and equipment, we are moving forward to not just maintaining, but monitoring and predicting what the equipment feels like and how it is performing.

To put it simply, maintenance is becoming more about managing assets than just maintaining them.

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“Maintenance has not just evolved, it has also revolted,” said Erika Mazza, CMMS Specialist, Region Municipality
of Durham.

By knowing how your assets are performing, what kind of risks you are willing to take, and how it affects operations, you can choose between three different strategies of maintenance that are corrective, preventive, and predicative.

Maintenance has gone from anticipating what was simple, repair, fix, or maintain; to now being able to make full analysis of the equipment performance, and deciding based on the organizational strategy, what type of strategy is going to be used to keep this equipment performing as intended.
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One of the benefits is that it helps identify which steps in the maintenance process might be unsustainable. As maintenance evolves, its impact on the environment evolves too, and achieving environmentally sustainable maintenance should be the goal in every facility.

Let’s look at how maintenance can impact the environment, positively and negatively.

The direct effect that maintenance has on the environment that surrounds the facility

“It’s easy to think nowadays that maintenance has positive outcomes in the environment. If you keep your equipment running tight and well, then you have less disposal of the equipment, and the process could be more efficient, and therefore saving energy and so on,” said Mazza.

Nonetheless, the negative outcomes should not be disregarded. For example, some workers can overuse materials and create a lot of waste, if they don’t perform their activities properly. Meaning that they may not be trained properly on how to perform their activities. Another way that maintenance activities can have an impact on the environment is the kinds of products that are used, and the different types of maintenance activities.

“If we use products that are not environmentally friendly or biodegradable, then these products are going down the drain, and they will end up either in the receiving water, in the ambience, like in the air, or could produce a lot of noise as another type of contamination,” said Mazza.

The activities mentioned by Mazza could impact the environment if they are done frequently enough, which could contribute to creating procedural waste, lasting a long time and having a negative impact.

“Sometimes I like to start with how maintenance can impact negatively in the environment to understand how can we change that behaviour, or the ways we do those activities to be less impactful, to be greener, and to be eco-friendlier when we do them.” said Mazza.

Workplace culture is considered another factor that impacts the environment. For instance, some workers may prefer to take a piece of equipment, wash it properly in the sink, using special sink drops, for example, to contain any contaminants and prevent waste going through the sewage. On the other hand, some workers may just flush it right away letting the waste go right into the storm drain.

Both are doing their job properly in terms of washing the piece, but not both of them are doing it the environmentally-friendly way.

“These kinds of behaviours are hard to convey to the workforce, but they could be easily detected based on the different processes and strategies in the workplace,” said Mazza. “If the workers have clear instructions on how to do their job in the most efficient and environmentally friendly way, they will pick up on that kind of behaviour and it becomes a habit.”

Some actions are considered small and therefore get overlooked, such as letting the water run instead of shutting it between rinsing equipment. These types of actions are essential to include in environmental-related policies, as those behaviours will add up to the bigger picture.

Maintenance strategies that contribute to an environmentally-friendly facility

Predictive maintenance and condition-based maintenance; those two strategies are good at moving the numbers in favour of the environment. These two types of maintenance are environmentally friendly, as they avoid interventions to the equipment if unnecessary.

They can help reduce the frequency of maintenance activity, and in turn reduce consumption of supplies, creation of waste, and potential introduction of contaminants to the environment.

That is one of the biggest benefits of using condition monitoring maintenance strategy for the environment. It can help to know how the equipment is performing, and how to work with the core conditions and physical conditions of this equipment. Therefore, if your asset is working properly under the right conditions, it’s going to draw less energy.

“With the Internet of Things, we can also have asset performance management systems that tell us how to start doing anything that requires a twinkle to perform the best way they can. It’s not just for energy usage, but also for chemical usage,” said Mazza. “Always remember that the main point to getting something to be environmentally friendly is to reduce waste, to reduce putting agents of contaminants into the environment, and to be effective. All these three categories are covered through predictive maintenance and condition monitoring maintenance.”

Factors that can affect the environment inside a facility

Firstly, having an environmental policy to create a culture of being eco-friendly is an essential step. The second step is to assess the technologies that you are acquiring, your assets, and consumables, making sure they are eco-friendly.

The third step is to include the process design, which with an environmentally friendly objective will help you understand how your organization is working, and how you can use the resources in the most efficient way to reduce waste.

“We’re talking about reducing redundancy if it’s not required, utilizing variable frequency drive, or VFD, to reduce the amount of time a motor is idling. Make sure you use energy efficient type of motors,” said Mazza. “Review the MSDS, material safety data sheets, for the consumables you use for your maintenance activities. I think that is super important, because in their issue they have a section that tells you what is the impact, and what is the best way to dispose these materials into
the environment.”

Finally, use CMMS, even if it’s something simple, as it can help any organization plan their maintenance activities better and more efficiently to reduce waste. Also, going mobile and reducing the usage of paper means saving a lot
of trees.

The environmental impact of keeping assets reliable

The lifecycle of an asset consists of: design, procure, maintenance operation, and then disposal. The maintenance operation is the longest part of the life cycle of an asset.

If you make sure the equipment is reliable, during that longer part of their life cycle, it is ensured that these assets are going to last longer, and will not need to be replaced. It won’t waste consumables throughout its life cycle because it’s leaking oil, wasting chemicals that it pumps, or any bad malfunction that is avoided by using reliability-
centred strategies.

Are facilities or companies nowadays willing to commit to being environmentally responsible for their maintenance activities?

“Absolutely yes. Workplace organizations are getting more committed to that specific leg of sustainability. Right now, to be a competitive enterprise, you need to be profitable, you need to have great human capital, but you also have to be environmentally responsible,” said Mazza. “In companies today, the understanding to be environmentally responsible goes hand-in-hand with how they optimize their processes to reduce waste and to manage their resources better.” MRO
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Maryam Farag is the Associate Editor of Machinery and Equipment MRO magazine, Food and Beverage magazine, and Plant Magazine, Annex Business Media. Reach her at mfarag@annexbusinessmedia.com