MRO Magazine

Cover Feature: CMMS Powers Up maintenance at east-coast utility

Abenchmarking project undertaken by Nova Scotia Power Inc. of Halifax, N.S., a few years ago showed it to be deficient in its maintenance practices compared to other hydro-electric power facilities ar...


November 1, 2001
By Carroll McCormick

Abenchmarking project undertaken by Nova Scotia Power Inc. of Halifax, N.S., a few years ago showed it to be deficient in its maintenance practices compared to other hydro-electric power facilities around the world. The result is that the utility is now plugged into a modern computerized maintenance management system that has put it at the forefront it its peers.

“We really never had a formalized maintenance management program,” says Roger Munroe, superintendent of the power company’s Western Hydro System and head of the maintenance overhaul project. A civil engineer by trade, Munroe started in production 17 years ago, eventually became a maintenance engineer in the Hydro department and then became superintendent of the Western Hydro System in 1993.

“As a person directly responsible for the operations and maintenance of the systems, I definitely saw a need in 1993 for a CMMS. There were no standard maintenance practices, nor well-documented maintenance histories. We did a fair bit of fire-fighting and our existing maintenance methods were not that effective.” That effectiveness varied too, he explains. “We depended a lot on the skills and experience of the maintenance manager and crew at a particular site.”

In 1995, under a new department manager, a decision was made to go to a benchmarking process. That year Hydro benchmarked itself against other hydro-electric power companies around the world. Maintenance management was an area that was red-flagged as needing improvement, so in 1998 a project team was created to implement a new maintenance management process. “We employed Haddon Jackson Consultants of Plymouth, Mass., who owned the benchmarking process Hydro used, to steer us through the process,” says Munroe.

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After a year of work, Munroe’s team wrote a report on how maintenance had been done and defined a new process on how it would be done in the future. The next phase of the project included rewriting a lot of Hydro’s preventive maintenance (PM) procedures and implementing some non-computerized aspects of the new process.

Hydro also identified the need for a computerized maintenance system. Munroe was eventually pulled from his regular duties to work full-time, from 1999-2001, to implement the new maintenance management program.

“We defined the functionality we needed for a CMMS. We defined the process first. We didn’t find the software first and write the process around the limitations of the software,” Munroe explains. After considering nine vendors of CMMS products, Munroe says, “We short-listed four vendors and had them come in and do software demonstrations.”

The program selected was Maximo from MRO Software, Inc. of Bedford, Mass. (The company also has offices in London and Oakville in Ontario, and in Calgary.) “It has a very good user interface, a competitive cost and a wide utility user base,” says Munroe, noting that it “has been refined a lot for utility companies.”

Maximo has given NSPI Hydro tremendous power to organize all aspects of its maintenance: Munroe cites examples such as maintenance management uniformity across all the hydro systems, instant information on parts availability and pre-plans that identify, for example, parts, tools, manpower and the duration of each job. “Maximo doesn’t forget that you have PM to do. That was one of the very big benefits.”

Some customization of the software was required, for example, to integrate Maximo with Nova Scotia Power’s head office systems such Oracle Financials and PeopleSoft. “The PM and job plans were in place, and we had a generic job plan that said what work and recordings we wanted. Fine tuning is still being done to customize the generic PM plan to each specific piece of equipment,” notes Munroe.

The utility also purchases a support package for the software. An annual fee covers software upgrades and on-line support. “We needed the on-line support quite often in the implementation phase. We had a lot of test drivers and had a lot to learn. We used it a lot on the front end [while] populating [Maximo] with our equipment structure, maintenance program, job plans, screen modifications, etc. … we did a lot of work.”

Hydro started deploying Maximo in July 2000 and finished by the end of September 2000. “2001 is the first year of implementing Maximo,” says Monroe. “Our scheduling process, to identify and prioritize the work, is defined and running. The work order process is in place. PM and activities are all in place and working. Integration of the purchasing and inventory in our corporate financial system will be our next major challenge. This will be done after the current financial system (Oracle) is updated from version 10.7 to 11i this year.”

Multiple locations

The CMMS software is required to link to several locations throughout Nova Scotia. NSPI has thermal generating stations (which had already used a CMMS system) as well as hydro stations. The head office functions, such as management, engineering and information technologies, are based in Halifax and their role is to support field operations. Western Hydro, for which Munroe is responsible, is one of several field operations, each of which is further divided into groups of geographical drainage areas and their hydro-electric generating stations. The sum of all the generating stations include 54 generators and 35-40 trades people, plus casual help at peak workload periods.

Field administrators, lead hands and superintendents such as Munroe each have a computer to access Maximo. “We’ve got one application of Maximo which we view through a terminal server. There is just one database. We are all looking at the same windows and recording to the same database.” This decision to have a common database was important because the Hydro system offices are geographically dispersed. There is one database applications administrator. The computers are linked by available services, such as LANs, regular phone lines and wireless links.

The Maximo software offers 12 modules, which are organized subsets of the entire database. They include, for example, Equipment, Job Plans, Labor Reporting and Work Order Tracking. Within each module are sub-categories. The Inventory module, for example, contains subcategories such as Storeroom, Reorder Details, Transactions and Where Used.

Populating the database is an ongoing task; for example, when a corrective maintenance problem comes up, says Munroe, “a person checks out a problem and fills out a Work Request Report Form that identifies the problem. The trades person brings it to the lead hand and the field administrator as a short description of the problem, which I approve. Once the information is entered into the Maximo Work Request screen, it becomes an approved work order.

“After the approval process, planners identify all the tools, materials and other resources required to do the job and status the work order as waiting to be scheduled. Maximo prints it and the job is carried out. Afterward, the completed work order is handed in and pertinent information (measurements, time entry, comments) are entered into Maximo as a history for that job.” Munroe completes the job on-line, its status goes to “complete” and the planner closes the work order.

Because all of the maintenance and PM tasks are being spelled out in Maximo, subsequent workers benefit from the experience those who previously worked on that job. By itemizing what needs to be brought to a job site for a particular task, for example, the right tools and parts will be loaded on the trucks. Also, the work time is entered into Maximo and is linked to PeopleSoft, the NSPI payroll system, so employees can get paid based on their work. NSPI can also use Maximo to track how much time is spent on each job or piece of equipment.

“Hydro has been around forever and three days and there are a lot of structures and equipment that need maintenance. The equipment is old and PM is very important,” says Munroe.

“Our goal is to strive for 80 per cent PM and 20 per cent corrective maintenance. PM has greatly improved,” he says. “For example, our major PM — unit overhauls —
has also greatly benefited from the Maximo implementation due to better-defined job plans, material lists and work schedules.

“We have so much [infrastructure] that we can’t remember it all. We need this system to help us do that. The Maximo CMMS application is very powerful and we will continue to implement other parts of its system functions well into the future.”

Carroll McCormick is a regular contributor to Machinery & Equipment MRO. He is based in Montreal.