Make sure we’re doing the right maintenance on the right equipment at the right time. And make sure we don’t violate any mandates or take unreasonable risk.” Sound familiar? Striking a balance between maintenance costs, optimum reliability, and maximum availability can be difficult, to say the least.

Power companies have learnt a lot since the emergence of the first mainframe and mini-computer systems in the mid 1970s.

Graphical interface

Although the earlier systems did achieve real results, their very technical nature meant that they remained very detached from the workforce and end-users. This was an era of experts, with people often classified as computer specialists within their specific job area. Many problems with these systems were of an in-house origin. Facilities would install mainframes and implement internally. Unfortunately, power engineers and facility managers were not usually good implementers. Often, too many people were involved in the decision making process. Discussions and actions would centre on structure rather than data. Clearly, both were important.

In the drive to gain better performance, the power plant of the 1990s has become a leaner organization. Computer systems have greatly aided this process by helping to automate the key functions of finance, maintenance management and plant control. The latest systems have been designed from the bottom up, making them accessible to all, but without sacrificing any functionality.

With minimal administration support and pressure to action an increasing variety of jobs, the whole organizational structure from work crew to management needs to be able to use these systems. Users are empowered by the latest maintenance solutions which guide them towards the information or input screens they need by intuitive Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs).

According to Steve Clouther, VP, Automation Research Corp, who recognises that much of industry still uses the older types of systems: “By giving them a graphical user interface, users will have easier access to data. It gives them the opportunity to change the way they do the maintenance process. It lets them see the bigger picture.”

With the seemingly annual release of new graphical operating systems, logo and icon-based products are now the norm. Systems developed using three-tier component-based architectures are producing maintenance management solutions that can satisfy equally the needs of management, end-users and the IT function. Easily accessible Application Programming Interfaces (API’s) are the key as these give system developers new opportunities to efficiently manage the primary issues of integration, customization and Internet connectivity.

Era of the IPP

In the era of the IPP, plant owners are demanding that individual generating units remain as commercially self-contained as possible. The integration of plant systems is a key goal in helping facilities respond more effectively to changing market conditions.

From a maintenance viewpoint, control system information such as start-stops, load factors and vibration are vital inputs. Likewise, operations will be keen to track the overall effect of planned and defect maintenance upon productivity, while the financial team needs to be able to monitor spares and manpower costs. The term Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), the management of maintenance from a business perspective, as originally quoted by the Gartner Group of the USA, largely sums up this approach.

Increasingly, facilities are looking for EAM suppliers with specialist power industry expertise that can provide an integrated suite of maintenance management software as well as interfaces to their other business systems. One example of such an integrated suite is Engica’s Q4 range of computerized maintenance management systems. The core of the system is a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) package called Q4 Power, which covers engineering, procurement and stock control. The main menu, giving access to all modules of Q4 Power is shown in Figure 2. Other elements of the Q4 suite include equipment calibration (Q4 Calib), tools management (Q4 Tools), safety and permit control (Q4 Safety), finance integration (Q4 Finance Link) and reliability centred maintenance (Q4 RCM).

Case study – Saltend

Saltend Cogeneration Company is 100 per cent owned by Entergy, the US-based power company. The Saltend plant itself was developed with the backing of a $1.2 billion loan secured from the Union Bank of Switzerland in December 1997. It is the largest merchant plant to be built in the UK. Planned to be commercially operable from early 2000, the plant comprises three 400 MWe combined cycle gas turbine modules in a single shaft configuration, giving a total output of 1200 MWe, including 100 MWe supplied to BP Amoco Chemicals. In addition, the facility provides 120 tonne/h of process steam to BP Amoco Chemicals.

Entergy is working on a programme called ‘Beyond World Class’ in developing strategies for operation and maintenance. The philosophy takes current known best practice from all industries, and develops these into a model. The solution forms a key part of the company’s Computerized Integrated Business System (CIBS). It was therefore important to select a CMMS that could provide added value.

Another key requirement for Saltend was to specify a supplier which could conform to the inclusive approach to site projects. Entergy was specific in its project aims:

  • Implement a CMMS;

  • Aid cost effective maintenance and operation;

  • Be part of an integrated business solution;

  • Simplify future roll out to other sites.

    Entergy selected Engica’s Q4. Following the selection process, initial discussions revolved around detailed process mapping exercises, paving the way for the transfer of the business model to the Q4 environment.

    A key milestone will be integration with the Sun Financials accounts system and Q4 Safety module in July 1999. The final phase will see completion of additional linkages and processes towards the overall goal of business and maintenance system integration.

    Integration was a key theme throughout the project. Q4, based on an open architecture design, provides a seamless interface to other business software systems. Other Q4 components selected for the Saltend system, in addition to Q4 Power, include: Q4 Calib; Q4 Safety; Q4 Tools; and Q4 RCM. As well as the Sun Financials, it will also integrate with the Apacs Distributed Control Systems (DCS).

    Entergy recognises that personnel demand different types of information from a maintenance management system. The integration elements allow them to use their own computer systems for access and manipulation of data, thereby enhancing their job function.

    Completion of the system prior to commercial operation has enabled Saltend to test and optimize its maintenance routines from the very start.

    Key impacts and benefits of computerized maintenance management


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