The Benefits of Predictive, Preventative Maintenance
Managing railcar maintenance effectively offers a number of benefits:
- It improves rolling stock reliability
- It increases equipment availability
- It increases operational productivity
- It allows for a lower spare vehicle ratio
- It reduces overall railcar maintenance costs through
- Better allocation of resources
- More efficient and effective processes
- It sustains the useful life of equipment
- It reduces long-term capital cost
Ineffective railcar maintenance can result in an expensive downward spiral into a “find and fix” mentality instead of proactively addressing maintenance issues before impact reliability and operations.
Challenges to Effective Railcar Maintenance
As seasoned maintenance workers leave or retire, there is an ongoing risk of losing critical maintenance knowledge and experience. Successors might not understand why certain procedures are in place, how to use maintenance management IT tools, or how to manage inventory for critical parts.
As railcar technology evolves, maintenance practices have to change accordingly. New railcar procurement has to be planned to ensure that the maintenance team is prepared to properly maintain new equipment upon its arrival.
Stagnant Maintenance Practices
As railcars age and are replaced, maintenance needs to continually evolve. Effective performance improvement programs are needed to respond to new challenges as they arise and ensure railcar maintenance meets its lifecycle management and performance targets.
Deferred maintenance and investment due to demands on capital and operations and maintenance funds lead to deteriorating reliability and a less safe, more stressful environment focused on managing rising levels of corrective maintenance and difficulty in meeting railcar availability requirements.
Optimal railcar maintenance management is about having effective planning, information, and improvement processes in place to elevate railcar reliability, maintainability, availability, and quality of service and reduce railcar lifecycle cost.
There are a variety of strategies for maintaining rail equipment, but most fall into one of these five categories:
No Maintenance / Run-to-Failure
This approach only makes sense when equipment is either highly reliable or it is not critical to operations and its replacement cost is low relative to the cost of maintenance or repair.
Reactive or corrective maintenance that is triggered by a fault or functional failure is only warranted when equipment failure is rare and random, the time and effort to repair are minimal, or the equipment has minimal impact on overall service delivery.
Maintenance occurs at set intervals to reduce the likelihood of an in-service failure, based on time, mileage or the original equipment manufacturers specifications. Taking into account past failures and industry practices, it provides for the regular replacement, overhaul or remanufacture of components to reestablish their performance and reliability.
Applying condition and performance data for prognostics and scheduling, predictive maintenance can result in better timing of preventive maintenance while maintaining reliability. Any additional costs from inspection, testing and ongoing data analysis are more than offset by reductions in unnecessary maintenance and in-service failures resulting in downtime and added costs.
Built around continuous process improvement, proactive maintenance focuses on quality assurance and quality control measures, modifying maintenance and operating procedures to mitigate conditions that lead to wear and failure. A more intensive preventive maintenance approach, it usually focuses on critical assets that consume maintenance resources disproportionately.
Integrating data and technology with proven practices, continuous improvement, ongoing training and a deep reservoir of experience, Road & Rail Services emphasizes a predictive/proactive approach to maintenance that maximizes safety and railcar condition, minimizes downtime and reduces the cost of operations.