Maintenance activities have a direct effect on the environment that surrounds the facility where they are executed.
There are three aspects in which maintenance strategies contribute to a facility footprint in the environment: resources needed, efficiency of the equipment, and waste introduced into the environment as part of maintenance activities.
In order to be a sustainable maintenance department, resources and waste aspects must be reduced or closely controlled and efficiency should be optimized.
There are a number of techniques and actions available to achieve asset efficiency and reliability but the real question is: are we willing to commit being environmentally responsible in our maintenance activities? Do we understand the environmental impact of keeping our assets reliable?
The Impact of Maintenance Practices
Using the fundamentals of the Life Cycle Assessment we can identify three main aspects where maintenance practices can impact the environment:
- Resources needed to perform maintenance: Water, energy (lights, power tools), combustible, paper from work orders, etc.
- Asset efficiency: More energy consumption by equipment that is not tuned up, also we can refer to critical equipment which functionality affects directly the environment by discharging contaminants to the water, ground or atmosphere.
- Waste from Maintenance Activities: Consumable parts, filters, oil, and grease, all these have their own ecological footprint that will be transfer or added to the maintenance footprint. Released byproducts from maintenance activities, could also represent an environmental hazard.
These three main aspects could also be influenced negatively by some other factors contributing to the environmental footprint from a maintenance stand point:
- Human Capital: People will drive everyday decisions in all the above mentioned aspects, from the plant floor to the high management. Reducing the ecological foot print is all about making informed decisions. Mistakes and human error are also a big factor that could contribute to the problem.
- Environmental Folklore: We have all been influenced on what we think is good for the environment, this sometimes is a paradigm based on a stretch part of the truth, to consider something is good for the environment we need to see beyond the direct effects and take into consideration indirect effects that are a product of a chain of events required to produce, distribute, maintain and disposed something.
- Maintenance strategies: Some strategies are more ‘eco-friendly’ than others but usually these practices require a bigger commitment, planning and even some times a bigger initial investment, causing that some great initiatives get under looked and hard to ‘sell’ to top management.
- Uncontrolled maintenance practices and frequencies; When maintenance activities are unplanned, they could end with: more waste of resources, unnecessary maintenance interventions, failures or moreover they do not comply with norms and regulations for waste disposal.
How to reduce your Maintenance Environmental Footprint using reliability strategies aligned with sustainability
One of the greatest outcomes of knowing that we have environmental issues is the creativity that had been generated in order to develop innovative solutions, from the design to the operations and maintenance of each asset.
Ideally, we should consider all our maintenance activities as possible environmental risks or as opportunities to reduce our environmental impact. In real-world scenarios, the best course would be to identify and prioritize based on:
–Critical Assets: Equipment that contained processed or produced toxic substances for the environment.
-Critical Failure Modes: Specific failure modes on the Critical Asset with environmental impact.
-Critical Maintenance Activities: Maintenance actions required where toxic substances are used or contaminants are released.
Using an environmental risk assessment we could identify the maintenance activities that: require high use of energy, generate large amount of waste, use hazardous materials, produce hazardous byproducts, and have a high frequency of occurrence.
Then implement: use of high efficiency technology tools, waste management programs, substitution of hazardous materials, contingency plans, and PM optimization and continuous improvement.
Once critical assets and activities have been prioritized, then our focus shifts to implementing actions that will prevent or mitigate the identified environmental impacts. These strategies should be angled to the personnel, the assets, the process and the interaction between them. The strategies most consider the whole asset life cycle but we will focus on the operation and maintenance stage of it.
Moreover, we also could use well known reliability and maintenance strategies that clearly list major elements to achieve higher levels of excellence, for example: the Uptime Pyramid of Excellence or the Uptime Elements Table, both great visual aids, and from them choose some actions we could implement at each aspect were maintenance activities are capable of impact the environment (resources, efficiency and waste) aiming to mitigate the maintenance department ecological footprint and by extension the overall organization.
Reduce Resources Needed to Execute Maintenance Activities
To manage and/or reduce this factor we could apply several elements, especially from the work execution management and leadership for reliability. When accurately planning the task to be executed and the quantities of material required, we reduce waste. One key element to reduce this environmental impact of our maintenance practices rely on a culture of sustainability or green thinking; if the idea to save as much as possible and recycle is embedded on each worker; this will be translated in a leaner way of work execution in everyday activities. Some simple examples are:
–Human Capital Management: Contribute to focus on cultural habits
–Executive Sponsorship: The success of an environmental management system depends on the commitments from all levels and function of the organization, led by top management. They can leverage opportunities to reduce or eliminate environmental impacts.
–Competency Based Learning: Reinforce specific skills required to execute the job in the most efficient, safe and green way.
–Computerized Maintenance Management System: From listing exact quantities of resources needed all the way to implementing a paperless system of work orders.
-MRO Spare Management: Manage an ideal stock of spare parts to reduce a collateral footprint from the delivery of the parts.
Keeping people and strategies at the base of the pyramid will ensure changes towards a greener way of executing the maintenance activities in the next level of the pyramid and therefore reduce the overall ecological footprint of the organization.
Maximize Asset Efficiency
The longer period of time on most assets life cycle is during the operation and maintenance, the useful life of our assets and of how efficient they are depends in so many ways on how well maintain we keep them. Monitoring asset performance is key to help reducing environmental impacts in this aspect. Clear asset LOS can help significantly when understanding the possible environmental impacts from a neglected piece of equipment.
Regular tune-ups and adjustments could be translated into less power usage, less heat generation or even a lower carbon foot print. For environmental critical assets; the lack of maintenance will increase the probability of not meeting its LOS or even the event of a catastrophic failure where the ecological impact will be a direct responsibility of the maintenance department. Some great elements to act upon are from the essentials level of the Uptime Pyramid of Excellence and the asset condition management section of the Uptime Elements Table. They are: motor testing, alignment, precision lubrication, RCM, and performance management.
The above strategies have their base on regular inspections and data acquisition; these are low environmental impact maintenance activities that can result in significant energy savings and prevention of unnecessary major maintenance intervention with higher ecological footprint by extension.
Control of Waste or Byproducts from Maintenance Activities
Not all maintenance task will represent an environmental hazard but some, may be hidden, therefore is important to identify them and their byproducts and ensure that disposal regulations are met and any spill or accidental release of hazardous substances are minimized. Material SDS will spell out their environmental impact, safe disposal actions and environmental emergency actions. This is a great source of information when making decision on which substance we could use/order as well as the precautions on working with it. Control is key on reducing this Maintenance ecological impact. Using the Uptime Elements to identify some helpful actions to reduce the maintenance byproducts impact, we could list a few like:
-Criticality Analysis – of the maintenance task itself
-Failure Mode Effects Analysis – emphasized on environmental effects
-Oil Analysis – prevent the unnecessary disposal of oil
-Asset Condition Information – prevent unnecessary disposal of consumable parts, therefore less waste.
In conclusion, sometimes the littlest actions done right many times will add up to become a significant factor on our sustainability journey. Let’s start, no matter how insignificant the action might look, as individuals and as part of humanity we all could add our little grain of sand to reduce our ecological footprint.
Erika Mazza is CMMS Specialist at Region Municipality of Durham. For the past nine years Erika has been capturing and interpreting asset data for Duffin Creek WPCP. Her background in industrial maintenance engineering helps her to understand business needs of CMMS beyond the requirements, identifying opportunities for improvement and optimization of the maintenance strategies on her site.
Currently enrolled in the Asset Management Professional program at Humber College, refining her skills to support asset management with asset data knowledge. She is an active member of Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada, and had presented on national and international conferences and multiple webinars in Spanish and English. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.