Maintenance across borders

Published:  03 October, 2018

Dave Friar, international operations director at Boulting, international engineering solutions provider, considers what you should do when preparing to hand over maintenance control on an overseas project.

Whether it is safety tests for your electrical switchgear, efficiency tests for your boiler or upkeep for plant parts and equipment, the need for ongoing maintenance is vital. However, when completing international projects, where the management of a facility is transferred to a local team, how can maintenance of the site and its components be preserved?

Planning for the ongoing maintenance of a new facility or plant is important, particularly before it begins operation. According to Efficient Planet, a badly maintained ten-year-old plant can cost more to maintain than a properly maintained 25-year-old facility. So, developing a comprehensive maintenance plan can help save both time and money.

However, when handing over the ongoing management of a new overseas facility, where you won’t have easy access to the plant equipment or data, working closely with your in-country counterparts is vital.

Collaboration across borders

While many international facility managers don’t always realise the importance of implementing maintenance plans, it is essential for the plant’s construction team to ensure it is considered as a significant element of the project from the outset.

Whether that is providing familiarisation training for on-site staff to learn how to use, maintain and install replacement parts, or by simply offering user manuals, the more information on-site teams have the more likely they can keep everything running smoothly.

At my company, we always provide recommendations for ongoing maintenance techniques before we handover a facility. This can keep maintenance needs at the forefront of the plant management team’s attention when they begin work. On-site teams also receive both physical and digital copies of equipment manuals to have on hand should any equipment need emergency upkeep.

Should in-country teams request maintenance assistance, it provides an ideal opportunity to scope out the entire plant and offer suggestions or efficiency ideas for future preservation. Developing your relationship with them from a supplier to a trusted advisor will not only cement your ongoing relationship but may also bring new business opportunities too.

Remote support

Of course, travelling across the globe just to change a switch is not only costly but also wastes a lot of downtime in the facility. Many providers offer wireless transmitters for some of the facility’s key components. These wireless transmitters then connect to both the plant’s own monitoring system as well as the supplier’strackers to remotely supervise the system.

This means key elements like generators and switchgears can be assessed from across the globe for cost and energy saving opportunities. This can be key for some specific parts, which have much shorter lifespans due to climate and the level in which the plant is operating.

For instance, switchgears are tested to EU standards, where typically circuit breakers are designed to able to meet 10,000 operations. As climate and altitude conditions vary from country to country, it is impossible to test equipment for all eventualities. Working in extreme conditions can greatly impact the operational life expectancy of equipment.

Being aware not only from the beginning of the project, but also reminded of the need for regular maintenance and replacement through remote monitoring can help in-country management teams predict maintenance needs before components unexpectedly break.

Offering your support and ongoing services will not only maintain your relationship but the plant too. Having an unexpected vehicle breakdown, or boiler failure can leave you stranded and out in the cold. Be sure to not leave you international customers feeling the same when you transfer the ownership of the facility to them.

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