In Part 1 of this series, we explored the importance of investing in cooling tower maintenance, in Part 2 we explored what to expect while planning and executing a cooling tower inspection, in Part 3 we explored the benefit of having inspection data in cooling tower maintenance, and in Part 4 we discussed how to prioritize the repairs. In this final Part 5 of this series, we will focus on taking a proactive approach to cooling tower maintenance.
When it comes to budgets, Maintenance Managers are under constant pressure to do more with less. At times, this pressure results in delaying or cancelling routine evaluations and cooling tower preventative maintenance activities. Over-time, this can become routine, a type of “quick fix” to a short-term issue, but at a significant real-term impact. This is often the case when it comes to cooling tower maintenance, particularly because it is a utility.
Deferred Repairs Become Replacements or Failures
Cooling tower environments are very deleterious and the state of the materials, such as wood and concrete, within the tower can change quickly. Small issues such as hardware corrosion, signs of wood rot, on-set of concrete basin cracking, and other issues are relatively inexpensive to handle when done on a routine basis. When evaluation and cooling tower preventative maintenance is deferred however, the number and severity of the defects will start to grow, demanding ever-more resources to correct. When this continues, maintenance costs can skyrocket and outright failures effecting operability become likely.
When the cycle of deferring routine maintenance in industrial cooling towers is broken by a concerted, disciplined approach, maintenance costs can get back under control and improve operability through greater reliability. If applied over-time throughout the facility, this can have a significant impact on operating costs and on-stream reliability that makes for a more flexible, profitable facility. These routine repair activities can be made even more economical when they are conducted based on a planned scope prepared by an impartial party so only that which requires repair is included.
Cooling Tower Inspections and Predictive Planning
Routine, periodic cooling tower inspections by a neutral party is a key to a successful, proactive industrial cooling tower maintenance program. These inspections not only determine the current state of the cooling tower, but they should be used for detailed work planning, lessening the impact during an outage. When they are done consistently over time, patterns build that can be assessed for more predictive analysis, allowing the facility owner to obtain better life out of an asset before repair or replacement is required. Routine cooling tower inspections also allows for more accurate budgeting and deferred maintenance backlog tracking.
To help overcome budget pressures, an asset manager will have to make a strong case for starting or maintaining routine cooling tower maintenance, cooling tower repair, and cooling tower inspection plans. Some suggestions for making the case include clarifying the impact of failure in terms of safety and lost production capacity or for showing the cost of deferred maintenance, which grows exponentially over time. It is helpful to point out failures in the past within the facility that led to lost production, or to show examples of industrial cooling tower failures, several of which occur annually.
– Tom Brindley, Brindley Engineering Reliability Engineer,
Read Part 1: Industrial Cooling Tower Maintenance
Read Part 2: Industrial Cooling Tower Inspections
Read Part 3: Cooling Tower Structural Analysis
Read Part 4: Cooling Tower Repair Plan