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Maintenance

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How a Major Utility Fleet Moved to Predictive Maintenance

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At first, Entergy’s plan was fairly simple.

Chris Morrow, fleet assets superintendent for the New Orleans-based electric utility, said the company knew they wanted to move away from time-based preventive maintenance for their 6,000-unit fleet to a service program that was more usage-based.

What they have since discovered is that the power of telematics and data analysis can unlock a predictive model for fleet maintenance.

Predictive maintenance has helped them flag problems prior to major equipment failures, reduce unplanned downtime and parts spending, and refocus technicians on diagnostic work instead of lengthy repairs. All of these benefits have resulted in significant savings.

Leaving the PMs of the Past
As an electric utility, Entergy’s service footprint covers Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Eastern Texas. The company has five main equipment shop locations and more than 50 fleet maintenance technicians.

Morrow said Entergy’s fleet management department first recognized the potential value of tapping into real-time data back in 2014.

“We calculated that we would achieve savings of approximately 5,000 tech hours by moving from a calendar-based PM program to a usage-based program,” he said.

The company began by installing telematics throughout the 3,600 units in its on-road fleet, though it primarily focused on remote diagnostics and eventually predictive maintenance with its 1,200 medium-duty assets.

“That’s because these units produce a major area of spend when it comes to maintenance and repair dollars,” Morrow said. “This is due to their high idle hours resulting from the use of the aerial buckets and derricks mounted on the chassis.”

How to Get to Predictive Maintenance
Reaching the point of predictive maintenance doesn’t happen overnight, Morrow said. It’s a process. He recommended taking these four key steps to implement a successful program.

1. Use Third-Party Data Management
First, Morrow recommended working with a data management service to help filter the enormous amount of data produced by telematics.

“The volume of data that you get daily from telematics can be overwhelming,” he said. “We found that utilizing a data management service was the only way to turn that firehose of data into actionable information.”

Morrow said Entergy uses Altec’s Maintenance Data Management to identify the data points they are interested in tracking, such as engine temperature, oil pressure and oil level events.

“Now, our maintenance department has an opportunity to take action prior to a major failure,” he said. 

2. Start Small
Morrow said the data management service filters out all the noise that comes in by providing daily reports. These initially focused on a small number of trouble codes to indicate real issues with equipment.

“As we have gotten better at understanding our fleet, this has progressed to now include a large number of codes that are likely precursors or predictors for failures that are coming,” he said.

Daily reports are sent to Entergy’s five fleet maintenance managers, as well as a few additional key members of the fleet maintenance team. 

3. Form a Triage System
The daily critical reports are then used to issue maintenance task work orders for service technicians based on the company’s internal critical code ratings.

“By reviewing the data and trends, we have assigned varying levels of importance to each code,” Morrow said. “We have codes that to us mean ‘we need to get this vehicle shut down and in a safe location immediately’ all the way down to ‘we need to look at this for the next regularly scheduled PM.’”

Morrow said they issue emergency work orders for low coolant levels, high engine temperatures, low engine oil levels, high engine oil temperatures and low transmission fluid levels. 

4. Automate Work Orders
Recently, Entergy began automating their technician work order process through IBM’s Maximo Asset Management System.

The program creates and dispatches work orders based on the nature of each code, including

issuing an emergency work order, an order with a three-day commitment, an order with a 14-day commitment and so on.

Currently, each morning’s reports contain codes from the previous day. Morrow said they are looking at options for real-time notifications on specific critical codes, such as overheating or low oil pressure.

“This could be text or email messages to key maintenance folks or even notifications sent directly to the operator,” he said.

Reaping the Benefits of Predictive Maintenance
Morrow said moving to a predictive maintenance model has provided several benefits for the fleet management department at Entergy, including:

  • Catching problems earlier, such as reducing engine failures related to overheating temperatures caused by low coolant.
  • Extending service intervals to match manufacturer recommendations, which has cut vehicle downtime across the fleet by 7,000 hours annually.
  • Refocusing technicians, which has led to reducing routine preventive maintenance work by over half on most of Entergy’s equipment.
  • Acting on trends to map common failures and better track life expectancy on common wear items.

The company is planning to expand predictive maintenance to its off-road equipment next, along with tapping into more detailed real-time usage, performance and diagnostic information from their aerial units mounted on trucks.

“This will be a great help for techs to give an idea of what they may face when they arrive at the job site,” Morrow said. “They can bring appropriate parts and supplies to make the repair on the first visit.”

If you ask Morrow, there’s a clear winner when it comes to preventive versus predictive maintenance based on Entergy’s experience.

“Adopting a predictive maintenance approach has saved us hard dollars as well as avoided unnecessary fleet downtime,” he said. “We’ve been able to identify specific areas and components in our fleet that need extra attention to help avoid major failures and costly repairs.”

About the Author: Karen Scally is the content director for Gearflow.com, an online marketplace for construction parts, tools and equipment. This article was adapted from its original version, “Preventive vs. Predictive Maintenance? One Fleet’s Clear Winner,” on the Gearflow.com blog.

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