Plan and Prepare for Busy Season
It’s that time of year – between Thanksgiving and Tax Day. Or as we know it in the asphalt industry, the off-season for paving. As much as we love some downtime with our family and friends over the holidays, the most important thing in our off-season is comprehensive annual maintenance on asphalt plant equipment.
Annual Maintenance is Challenging and Mission Critical
Annual maintenance takes extensive planning and collaboration across departments and with vendors like us, who can help ensure that you get it right and have what you need. The more regular and structured your maintenance process is, and the better your plans are, the more likely you can keep downtime to the bare minimum.
Even under the best circumstances, plan on four to six weeks of downtime. It’s not easy to shut down your plant for any length of time, even in the off-season, but it’s very important to give your system time to cool for annual maintenance. The actual time it takes will depend on what you find. It could take longer if you need to make unexpected repairs or replacements.
The important thing to remember is that the goal is to extend the life of your equipment, keep it safe, and avoid unplanned downtime during the busy season. With that as your motivation, the planned downtime becomes a no-brainer.
5 Steps to Successful Annual Maintenance
There are five major components to annual maintenance and a long checklist. It’s a big process but well worth the effort. The major steps include:
- Lockdown & Tagout
- Comprehensive Maintenance Checks, Repair, & Replacement
- Document & Report
- Ongoing Maintenance
Planning for Annual Maintenance
Planning is a critical step that many miss. It involves customer communications, staffing considerations, records review, and vendor collaboration. Getting it right depends on some of the other steps (outlined below) taken in previous years or over time.
If your records and vendor relationships are good, you should be able to plan to replace major equipment years in advance. Even minor repairs will go more smoothly if you observe and plan them so that your vendors have the necessary parts in stock and capacity to meet your required delivery dates.
When you plan ahead, especially if you collaborate with us, it helps us plan ahead. We have an extensive parts list to manage, and we want to be ready for what our customers need during annual maintenance or at any time. The more planning and the fewer emergencies, the better!
Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) comprises a set of processes and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment to prevent hazardous energy release, required by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) of the US Department of Labor. These are essential practices for any major annual maintenance shutdown. Learn more details and download a fact sheet here.
Comprehensive Maintenance Checks, Repair & Replacement
Once you’ve got your system safely shut down and cooled off, it’s time to get out your comprehensive checklist. You will want to engage all departments in working through the full regular annual maintenance checklist. It addresses every piece of equipment in the asphalt plant, from cold feeds and RAP systems to drums and silos and everything in between.
Most likely, you will have observed problems during production and planned ahead to address them. These include issues like leaky valves, loose chains, seals that are not air-tight, vibration issues, etc. You can get started on fixing those right away or hold off until you’ve gone through the full checklist to determine all of your repair and replacement needs.
AsphaltPro has documented the most comprehensive checklist we’ve seen, and we refer to it all the time. You can download the checklist here.
Documentation & Record-Keeping
There are certain things you can only check during the winter off-season, like wear and tear on the equipment walls. Even so, if you’re regularly testing during annual maintenance and documenting results appropriately, there should be no surprises here.
For example, if you start with ½ inch thickness in your drum wall and record wear of approximately 1/16 inch every year, you can calculate and project when you’ll reach a thickness reduction of 50 percent and need to replace the equipment to avoid an unplanned outage.
“If you don’t document your maintenance readings carefully, it will be like starting from scratch each year, and planning becomes nearly impossible,” explains Sales Manager Wally Olson. “Documentation of maintenance and recording trends is where we see people take a lot of shortcuts, which cost more than they save in the long run.”
Ongoing Maintenance During Operations
As important as annual maintenance is, it doesn’t negate the need for ongoing maintenance. Day-to-day inspections and expectations for elements that can’t wait for a year to go by, like greasing moving parts, checking gearbox fluid levels, and watching for sprocket wear, will keep your operations running smoothly. It will also help you better prepare for the major inspections during the off-season.
Asphalt Plant Planned Annual Maintenance
Major asphalt plant equipment like drums have a life expectancy of 20-30 years, but only if you maintain them properly. We can’t overstate how important planning and preventative annual maintenance are to extending the life of your equipment and preventing downtime.
If you haven’t started yet, don’t wait! Contact us for help with planning, executing, and documentation before the busy season rolls around again in the spring.