March/April 2013

Excellence at any cost

Reliability for its own sake drives Luminant’s maintenance program

By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco

More than 100 people were involved in this dragline outage. The reinstallation of a walking arm is seen above | Courtesy of Luminant

Four years ago, Luminant, the largest generator of electricity in Texas with a mining division that produces 33 million tonnes of coal per year to fuel its plants, embarked on a complete shift in its maintenance approach.

“As Jim Collins, author of ‘Good to Great’ put it, the enemy of great is good,” says George Boudreau, director of maintenance at Luminant. “Without trying to become too preachy, our goal was to go from where we were – good – to the best we could be, with the goal of being great.”

Luminant focused on processes that maintained equipment at optimal capacity and standardized processes across all of the company’s eight mines. “Our goal was not to reduce maintenance costs but to better maintain our equipment and its capacity, reliability and safety,” says Boudreau. Yet, as a result of its new approach, Luminant has experienced an 18 per cent reduction in maintenance spending.

Core to the improvement was changing the mindset of practically everyone in the organization – from seeing maintenance as the repair of broken machinery to viewing it as an ongoing process of preservation.

Bringing people together

The company sought to put in place standardized, repeatable processes across the board. “If we have something that isn’t working and everyone is doing their own little tweak, we’ll never know it isn’t working,” says Boudreau. “If we ­standardize across all eight mine sites and it isn’t working, we’re going to know pretty quickly.”

Luminant’s Mine Maintenance Support Services (MMS) brought together project management support workers – a group responsible for providing support for railroads, 15 draglines, 10 loading stations and 500 pieces of mining rolling stock. The MMS group is composed of 44 employees from electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, technical design, reliability, predictive services and planning, which support more than 600 mining employees and equipment across the eight mine sites. MMS now unifies each site’s functional departments with the support organization to maintain mining assets and improve reliability, says Keith Lawson, Luminant’s predictive maintenance specialist supervisor.

The right tools for the job

To facilitate standardization, Luminant introduced computerized maintenance management system software used to track everything from equipment inspections to work orders. The MMS toolkit includes its condition based maintenance (CBM) program, which monitors all of its draglines and mobile mining equipment, tracking and evaluating large mining tire performance, amongst other things. The company also uses the data it collects for predictive maintenance (PdM), employing ultrasonic, ultrasound, infrared, vibration analysis, magnetic particle, liquid penetrant, weld inspection and visual inspections to predict and correct possible failures.

“If we see vibration on a bearing increasing, Keith’s group picks it up, identifies whether something is loose or misaligned or if there’s a lubrication problem,” says Boudreau. “At that point, early enough in the failure, we can do something about it. If you wait, then you have to replace the bearing, or the machine, and that leads to delays and more serious problems.”

Each component is initially rated based on its critical importance or safety risk, and then on its cost. “We implemented a reliability centred maintenance (RCM) program about 18 months ago,” says Boudreau. “We have completed RCM analysis on 60 per cent of our assets. Our schedule is to have 100 per cent of our assets complete in the next 12 months. The result of that analysis is an individual criticality prioritization number that ranks all assets in order of importance, a detailed maintenance strategy and proactive maintenance tasks.”

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