There’s No Such Thing as “Maintenance Free”

Executive summary

If you have an interest in keeping a machine operational for an extended period of time, then maintenance is not the place to cut corners. When you're looking at equipment from a life-cycle perspective, there is no such thing as "maintenance-free."

The full article

There’s No Such Thing as “Maintenance Free”

Battery Explosion

Here's an example. Uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) at the Johnson Space Center included "maintenance-free" batteries. Taking the label at its word, workers did what they believed was called for — absolutely no maintenance. Six years later, one of the batteries exploded during normal operations, interrupting the power supply. The battery had, in fact, run dry. A closer examination of the manufacturer's requirements showed that maintenance-free actually meant semi-annual preventive maintenance and testing.

Overlooked the Dirt

In another situation, one of Hartford Steam Boiler's customers spent a lot of money renovating a building. After the construction, new electric meters were installed on each floor for prospective tenants. Once the power was turned back on, however, the system's transformers arced, destroying them. The cause? Plain dirt from years of occupation before the renovation, exacerbated by construction debris and moisture. Maintenance of the existing systems was not part of the plan. Even apparently inert components like switches and wires are still not maintenance-free.

Lessons Learned

There are many similar cases in HSB's claim files. What do these incidents tell us? The more equipment-intensive the industry, the more maintenance-related failures we see. For example, in Primary Metals, more than 50 percent of all HSB claims since 1998 list maintenance as a primary cause. Chemical, Textiles, and Plastics indicate maintenance problems as a cause in about 40 percent of failures. Several large exposure groups like Retail Sales and Buildings and Offices have at least 30 percent of their claims caused by maintenance-related problems.
Reducing or even ignoring maintenance may save money in project planning and reorganization cost cutting efforts, but it is nothing better than an expensive gamble. Again and again we see that a very real risk to equipment often lies in workers' attitudes and management behavior. Neglecting the small and often mundane details, like scheduled maintenance, can be the undoing of any plan.
Disclaimer statement:

All recommendations are general guidelines and are not intended to be exhaustive or complete, nor are they designed to replace information or instructions from the manufacturer of your equipment. Contact your equipment service representative or manufacturer with specific questions.

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