Neglect Generator Maintenance at Your Peril
It is all too easy to downplay the importance of generator maintenance and put it on the back burner when the management’s overriding priority is to ensure the factory achieves its projected production quotas. Most of us tend to take for granted that the washing machine and other household appliances will always perform when we need them. Likewise, as long as employees continue to hear the steady throb of a diesel engine, they are unlikely to spare a second thought for its welfare until that throbbing comes to an unexpected halt.
In many cases, an uninterrupted flow of sufficient electrical power is likely to be essential to almost every aspect of a factory’s activities. Invariably it will be one or more generators that are the source of at least part if not all of that crucial flow. Therefore, it follows that any failure to ensure those units continue to function optimally could end in disaster for those production quotas.
What Does Routine Maintenance Involve?
When it comes to routine care, the requirements for looking after a generator are not much different from those needed to maintain your family car. In the latter case, GM, Nissan or whoever will have listed all the things that you need to do and when you should do them in the owner’s manual. Other than the fact that there are no tyres, brake pads or windscreen wipers to check, the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the measures necessary to maintain your generator should be quite similar. After all, it is probably powered by a diesel engine as are many motor vehicles.
These recommendations are not the result of guesswork or a hunch that an end-user may be justified in ignoring. The suggested service intervals and the fact that they are typically expressed both as operating hours and calendar months are founded on data observed and accumulated over many years. Following statistical analysis, the findings from those observations provide the manufacturer with meaningful and invaluable insight into various factors. The most significant of these is the average time each machine’s key components will continue to operate before they fail. Once armed with these findings for its brand and models, the manufacturer can then draw up a maintenance schedule designed to extend those failure times for as long as possible and indicate when a replacement is advisable.
Be Prepared for the Unexpected
In many cases, not all of the gensets a company purchases are for routine, daily use. Instead, many organisations make a practice of keeping a spare unit on-site just in case they should have a problem with one of the operating units. That said, the sole purpose of a preventative generator maintenance programme is to prevent such issues. However, to attend to the required tasks, it is necessary to take the unit offline, and that’s another good reason for procuring a spare.
For the last four years, of course, there has been another reason to ensure you have a backup machine to call on. When the national service provider finally accepted that it could no longer guarantee to generate sufficient power to satisfy every South African consumer’s need during peak load demands, it had no option but to take action. As we all now know from bitter personal experience, that option was to institute a programme of rolling blackouts or load shedding.
The idea was to distribute the inconvenience as equitably as possible while attempting to accumulate sufficient reserves to meet peak demands. In practice, load shedding led to an increased demand for generators. Both the planned outages and sporadic brownouts spurred more and more users to seek ways to maintain production, ensure safety and, for many domestic consumers, to keep the lights on and charge their mobiles. Many of those who owned smaller factories had always relied on Eskom to provide their electricity. To cope, they too have found it necessary to install a diesel or gas-fired generator to avoid production losses they cannot afford.
Who Should Be Responsible for Looking After the Generators?
As is the case with other matters like health and safety that might negatively impact the workforce or production, it is wise to appoint someone to assume the responsibility for generator maintenance. The extent of that person’s responsibility may vary depending upon the capabilities of the individual chosen.
In the case of a large industrial plant, it is often the policy to appoint an experienced engineer. The appointee may be a full-time, dedicated engineer or a machine operator with the necessary skills and experience to take on the maintenance role when required. In each case, the incumbent will deal with every aspect of the schedule, including performing all recommended inspections, adjustments, top-ups, or replacements as indicated by its content. As well as ensuring that all of the necessary tools are available to the engineer, it is wise to keep sufficient stock of consumables and all of the most commonly-required or hard-to-find spare parts and especially those that may have longer lead times.
For a smaller factory, whose budget may not stretch to hiring a full-time engineer, one option will be to outsource the task to a trusted third-party. However, outsourcing will not necessarily eliminate the need for a member of the permanent staff to play a role in the maintenance programme. That role will be to keep a close watch on generator run times and the elapsed time since the last service. Armed with this data, it will then be up to the in-house appointee to arrange a timely visit from the third-party service company.
A Maintenance Contract Could Save a Lot of Hassles
Aside from the usual warranty agreement, a reputable supplier should be in a position to offer purchasers the option of a maintenance contract. Often, the contractor will be happy to service existing equipment even when purchased from a rival source.
Choosing to enter into a service contract can offer owners two valuable benefits. Firstly, all the tasks performed on your generator’s engine, alternator and control systems will be undertaken by a specialist engineer with extensive knowledge of your machine’s brand and model. Secondly, the contractor will also be responsible for sourcing and maintaining an adequate stock of consumables and crucial spare parts.
If you believe the price of maintaining your gensets may be too high, consider the cost of a generator failure. Many of South Africa’s industry leaders rely solely on PacB Group for world-class products, innovative power solutions and hassle-free generator maintenance. For peace of mind, perhaps you should too.
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