Savings are in the Pipeline

July 1, 2007
Leading pipe manufacturer implements a nationwide infrared predictive maintenance program to keep reliability and energy savings a priority

With manufacturing facilities around the country running three shifts around the clock, reactive maintenance is not an option. That's why predictive maintenance has become an important tool for a leading manufacturer of polyethylene pipe. The manufacturer has billions of feet of pipe in service in infrastructure projects around the world. Its pipe is used for subsurface drainage, storm sewers, water retention, and waste management systems.

The company employs two full time maintenance managers who oversee maintenance at all facilities. Over the past couple of years, they have been working to institute a standardized maintenance program for all plants, centralizing key maintenance information and data, and putting it online for easy access at all facilities. Prior to this initiative, all plants performed maintenance independently. There were some plants performing random predictive maintenance, but most did not. "We lacked consistency from plant to plant," admits the company's maintenance manager. "Typically issues were addressed when they became a problem."

Introducing a standardized maintenance program has involved a number of components, including implementing an infrared predictive maintenance inspection program for all electrical components on each of its production lines.

The maintenance manager knew implementing such a program at all facilities around the country would be challenging, which was why he searched for a single infrared services provider with the capabilities to implement a nationwide program. After attending workshops and doing research on infrared technology, the company chose Cleveland-based Predictive Service.

"We needed consistent testing and reporting for the electrical components at all of our facilities. With the right predictive maintenance program, we knew we could reduce energy and repair costs, and improve the safety and reliability of our equipment," says the maintenance manager.

The Predictive Maintenance Process
Predictive Service (PSC) inspected nearly 2,800 pieces of electrical equipment at more than 20 facilities in the initial year. The inspection revealed 447 issues - or 16% of all electrical equipment. The average temperature rise for all issues was 806°F per site. The issues involved mostly loose connections, burnt wires and compliance issues.

Traditional and infrared photos of each piece of equipment along with corresponding data from each inspection were captured and stored in PSC's patented field software as each location was completed. The maintenance manager and others could then access the results online through ViewPoint®, PSC's Web-enabled, interactive software. Once all inspections were complete, the reporting software also provided search, sort and aggregating features for all facilities.

The ViewPoint software also allowed each facility to close out repairs online so the maintenance manager could oversee repair progress and send individual maintenance personnel reminders if repairs weren't being made. Online access to data has made his job easier. "Through one website, I can oversee repairs at one plant or the company as a whole, plus get a complete history for comparing year-to-year progress," he says.

The Results
The subsequent year of inspection services of the same electrical equipment on each of the production lines revealed problems had been cut in half. In the initial year, 479 issues had been identified; while in the subsequent year, that number dropped to 281. "They were aggressive in implementing our repair recommendations, which lead to a dramatic decrease in the number and severity of issues the following year," says Mike Novotny, contract manager, Predictive Service.

The online software also provided the pipe manufacturer with a cost benefit analysis tool to track savings, which showed that it saved more than $400,000 over two years:

  • $185,600 in energy savings during the initial year (or $9,280 per site)
  • $42,600 in repair cost savings during the initial year
  • $169,900 in energy savings during the second year
  • $26,000 in repair cost savings during the second year

Based on the success of its annual infrared predictive maintenance program with Predictive Service, the manufacturer is expanding the program to include 15 additional plants that are coming online following an acquisition. "We now have a standardized, consistent program that's easy to oversee from a central location. The results we've seen in terms of cost avoidance, efficiency and reliability have been good," says the maintenance manager. "We're very pleased with the performance of Predictive Service, which is why we continue to use them for our annual infrared electrical inspection program."

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