How do you convince a facility owner that the HVAC
maintenance you want to perform is truly worthwhile? Paul Wheeler, facilities
management, and Lou Ronsivalli, service development, both with Trane, offered
some advice on this and other topics during their Webinar, Align Facilities
Engineering Objectives with Customer Goals and Plans. It was presented for
members of the Association for Facilities Engineering (AFE).
Facilities engineers who are responsible for comfort systems
“are often trapped in a catch-up loop,” said the Webinar’s planners.
Topics included the use of zero-based maintenance, reliability-centered
maintenance, preventive maintenance (PM) program inadequacy, and
performance-based service (PBS). The overall focus was, “how technology enables
us to manage critical facilities.”
Wheeler discussed how to align facility engineers’ goals
with end users’ goals. The four areas he covered were:
A short-cut method for aligning
facilities objectives with customers.
Zero-based maintenance, which he
described as “similar to zero-based budgeting.” It includes re-examining
programs and processes from scratch, instead of building upon last year’s
Shortcuts for reliability maintenance.
Challenging paradigms for technology.
“Many of the world’s best companies do not have effective
business processes for aligning what has to happen for the businesses,” Wheeler
said. “As a result, some engineers get caught behind … for what they need to do
for capacity and operation.” He proposed a short-cut method for change.
“In the old paradigm, managers didn’t think small
maintenance problems were important,” he said. “When we had a big problem, they
wanted to see facilities engineers out there fixing it instead of in the
conference room. Being a firefighter was what we were recognized for.”
In the new paradigm, there is an increased focus on quality
and improvement, he said. “More companies are focusing on cost containment and
reduction. A lot of goals are put in place, and we’re being managed by some
pretty tough, saber-tooth tigers in business.”
More sophisticated controls and diagnostics can change the
way maintenance is perceived, Wheeler said. “We have to develop the new skills
that will get us into the corporate suite, with a message that aligns with
The first step, he said, is to identify gaps in equipment
care. Point out where maintenance can help, “Get a handshake agreement [with
management], and set up a roadmap for realigning infrastructure and maintenance
processes. Typical things we would look at would include the regulatory
climate, the cost of interruptions, cycle time for capacity tie-ins,
Is the maintenance you are performing, or want to perform,
truly necessary? Or is it being done because somebody else did it a few years
ago? According to Wheeler, re-examining maintenance needs can help you align it
more closely with the customer’s real needs, and therefore make it more
justifiable in the budget.
Zero-based maintenance, he explained, is “a process of
starting at zero. If you could only do one thing, what would that be? If you
could do 1,000 things, what would those be? Maintenance people are entrenched
in what they need to do,” and how they don’t often question it.
Basic maintenance (cleaning, lubricating, changing filters
and oil) is good for equipment, but “we shouldn’t confuse that with reliability
improvement,” Wheeler said. Reliability-centered maintenance looks at the results
of equipment failure and how they can affect business. “Take a macro view of
the building and the impact to the customer, then decide what to go after,” he
said. “Look at the current approach …. Evaluate current maintenance in terms of
cost, necessity, and effectiveness.
“Look at condition-based monitoring technology,” he
continued. “Put those programs in place to ensure the reliability of the
Basic maintenance is a necessity, he repeated; however, most
PM routines don’t detect incipient problems that could lead to failure.
According to research from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), “Fifty
percent of unplanned downtime occurs over a week after equipment has been
serviced,” Wheeler said. “In many cases, the PM has become a pretty basic
process, without people qualified to detect these problems.”
Wheeler presented a challenging thought: “There are no
effective PMs for many different failure modes,” he said. “However, many
budgets are spent on the PM program, and we still have failures and we don’t
“Preventive maintenance is extending the life of the
equipment,” Wheeler said. “We didn’t promise no failures. That was an ‘a-ha’
when we went through the PM process.” During equipment life, “all equipment has
a constant or increasing failure rate,” he said.
Some of the best equipment failure indicators include
vibration, wear, particles in oil, audible noise, and heat generation. “In the
past, annual PMs and shutdowns caught a lot of problems,” Wheeler said. “Now
more customers want to change things on the fly. This changes how we modify the
“Avoid the belt-and-suspenders approach to maintenance” - in
other words, overkill maintenance. “Obviously you don’t want problems to occur,
but we want to solve the root cause issues. You have to reinvent yourself and
reinvent your processes in order to align with your customers, and get your
costs and benefits right. Always focus on cost vs. benefits.”
“We now have technology that tells us what is likely to fail
and when. In early days data was manually collected,” said Ronsivalli in his
discussion of Performance-Based Service: The Future of Service Contracting.
“What an OEM company thinks about all these critical
elements, combined with technology now available, it allows us to look at
things from a different standpoint,” he said. New technology allows service
contractors to see what they need to deliver a little bit better.
PBS, he said, has been in play with the federal government
for 15-plus years. There has been a challenge to apply some of the best parts
of these principles and practices to the commercial sector.
The top-five market pressures for service contractors, Ronsivalli
said, are increased competition, service profitability, customers demanding
performance assurance, contract flexibility, and shared risk.
“Service delivery as we know it has a task-based scope and
activity-based obligations (i.e., four filter changes/year).” A set of standard
universal tasks is developed, and the tasks are usually performed according to
the calendar. “System performance criteria are disconnected from the
In PBS, “When you have a system installed in a facility,
there is an expected outcome based on performance. Services ensure that those
design standards are maintained over time: The air handler will deliver so many
cfm and Btu over time at certain conditions. It doesn’t matter if we perform
the right amount of filter changes; if the equipment fails, it’s not
The service contractor and facility owner need to work together to set up performance objectives, Ronsivalli said. Reliability, efficiency, uptime, output, Btu, quality, capacity, even output (power quality, IAQ, and load factors) need to be considered so the system can be maintained within a certain tolerance.
“The feds and others have specified performance objectives for service delivery and/or usage requirements for equipment,” he said. For instance, the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) offers an O&M best-practices guide to operational efficiency. “We are using it to kind of guide our thinking. They studied federal facilities worldwide; they found that for facilities that did not have a formal service program in place, putting one in place improved energy efficiency 5-20 percent without any other capital investments.”
In addition to performing maintenance, “You want to make sure that compliance [to performance criteria] gets measured and validated over time.”
BEYOND THE CALENDAR
After visible problems are fixed, “what goes on behind the
scenes to maintain a certain level of efficiency? That’s a tough problem,”
Ronsivalli said. FEMP’s performance-based records include “anything and
everything that can affect the performance of the facility. They relate a
metric to a performance objective,” instead of relying on calendar-based
According to a 2007 FEMP report, more than 55 percent of
federal facilities surveyed were working in the run-to-failure mode, he said.
“Less than one-third had preventive maintenance, and 14 percent had predictive
maintenance.” In those run-to-failure facilities, running the systems cost
$18/equivalent hp/year. For facilities with preventive maintenance, the cost
was $13/equivalent hp/year. In predicative facilities, the cost was
$9/equivalent hp/year. “In reliability-based maintenance, that number drops
even more,” Ronsivalli said.
“When you talk about predictive maintenance, you’re looking
at testing, benchmarking, things that project the operational capacity for the
future,” he said. “Is there anything in the oil that indicates a potential
bearing problem in the future?” Predictive methods utilize infrared, digital
thermography, and other tools to predict and prevent potential failures.
Best-in-class maintenance may include guaranteed hours of
uptime. It requires a long-term commitment from both the service provider and
the owner/manager, Ronsivalli said.
“The challenge,” he added, “is to take the principles, take
the lessons and documentation, and determine how to service the customer base.
What can we do with performance-based service that allows us to meet the
objectives of a high-performance building? How can it also provide cost benefit
and/or business advantages to the customer?”
A typical commercial building might have one chillier, air
handlers, pumps, and a boiler. “It would cost so much per year on a run-to-fail
basis,” Ronsivalli said. “That number can be cut, including the cost of the PM
agreement. Everyone wins here.”