Pump systems can be a tall order

By Frank Moszkal, General Manager of AxFlow Windsor Division

Water is a critical resource within buildings; we need it for drinking, washing, heating and sanitation. Then there’s cleaning and cooking. It is therefore essential that all pump systems associated with water services operate at all times because 100% availability is required. It is a tall order, but one that many facilities and building services managers have to deal with.

A pumping infrastructure can be complex and contain many single points of failure, which makes condition monitoring and on-going maintenance an essential function. It is not uncommon for the failure of the pump system to be caused by other factors, such as contaminated water, control failures and operator error through lack of knowledge.

Regular inspection and maintenance of this equipment is not always given the level of priority that it requires. Typical excuses for this are cost and the pressure to allocate resources to higher profile projects. Because building services equipment encompasses several different engineering and consulting disciplines, they all demand the attention of appropriately qualified professionals

Essential maintenance

The many and varied components that form a building services infrastructure do need regular maintenance if they are to perform to the lifetime expectations of the manufacturer and beyond. 

The obvious approach is to call in the appropriate service/contracting company when something goes wrong, or to have each item of equipment on an annual service call out. However, this can prove to be expensive as well as time-consuming. The other approach is to implement a continuous programme of planned, preventative maintenance that brings together all of the relevant technical skills to ensure that system downtime is minimised and budgets optimised.

What should be avoided is having separate service agreements for each component within a system. There are two options which should be considered; one being the OEM that wants to service its own equipment, but also has the technical resources to take over everything else. The other is to outsource to a specialist maintenance provider that offers an integrated service package, so that there is just a single point of contact.

If servicing and maintenance is being contracted out to a specialist maintenance provider, then the provider must be able to advise the client as to their health and safety responsibilities and if requested, ensure that all equipment is fully compliant. Clearly, all new equipment will be compliant, but this should not be seen as an excuse for putting off maintenance. A programme of condition monitoring should be established by the provider at the outset, so the client obtains the best possible life from the equipment. If, however, the client has a form of equipment write-off or renewal policy at the end of a set period, the maintenance provider should establish effective dates for equipment replacement and how it is managed cost effectively.

Many companies are not always aware as to what equipment they have in the building, how old it is and even if it has been regularly serviced. This is where the qualified service contractor can be of great assistance by undertaking a thorough asset audit or site survey and then setting out a planned maintenance regime.

Selecting your service provider

Selecting a maintenance company does not have to be difficult and selection can be straightforward if the following steps are taken. Firstly, run a thorough assessment of potential providers to ensure that they have the qualifications and trained staff to deal with fault finding, fault prediction and component servicing and replacement.

Secondly, undertake a comprehensive audit that compares the capabilities internal to the company with those offered by an outsourcing supplier. Factors that should feature in this audit include cost, quality, delivery, control and the ability to have a ‘good-to-work-with’ mentality. Once a contract has been entered into, the facilities manager should operate a strict set of protocols and checks to ensure that all of the work is being fully implemented and regularly recorded.

Ensuring that the service company has the necessary skills set is all-important. For instance, AxFlow’s policy dictates that under no circumstances is an engineer allocated to a job for which he is not qualified. It is the company’s responsibility to ensure that any engineer cannot be the cause of any litigation on the company or the client.

For maintenance to be successful, it is essential for the outsource provider to wholly understand the needs of the building and its occupier. It may well be that the client does not fully appreciate what is required, so the service provider has a responsibility to detail what regimes are most appropriate for the installation and to explain why these are required in order to maintain business continuity.

Taking short cuts with maintaining pumping systems can prove to be costly in the long run. Investing in a planned programme of maintenance will ensure that the installation meets, and even exceeds its expected life. Planned maintenance should be the first choice of all facilities managers. By following this route, then facilities and premises management will get the most out of their long term investment in buildings and maintenance.

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