New Year's Resolution: Maintain Your Capital Investment

Feb. 1, 2010
With the start of the new year, it's traditional to make resolutions that involve personal health, wealth and happiness.

By Nadia Abboud

With the start of the new year, it's traditional to make resolutions that involve personal health, wealth and happiness. But, as stewards of one of the world's most precious resources, we should also focus our efforts on resolutions for our industry regarding the continued protection of public health and our environment in spite of financial challenges. These resolutions may address a number of issues including sustainability and reduced energy consumption. Another, less frequently considered option, is to resolve to protect your organizations' capital investments.

Given the recent economic climate and its near halting effects on the water and wastewater treatment industry, the decision to move ahead on a capital project is one that goes beyond the requirement to protect public health and the environment. Now, more than ever, the decision to appropriate funding for new or existing facilities, particularly decisions connected to the procurement of water and wastewater treatment equipment, should include the implementation of measures to protect that capital investment so it ensures the maximum return both environmentally and financially. The most effective way to protect an equipment purchase is to follow manufacturer-recommended maintenance and service procedures and schedules. Additionally, utilities with limited support staff should consider maintenance contracts offered by a manufacturer or recommended service providers.

An equipment purchase is effectively the start of a long relationship between the purchasing company and manufacturer, going well beyond the installation, start-up and commissioning of a system. Similarly featured competitive water and wastewater treatment equipment is not all alike, and the largest differentiator can often be manufacturers' after-sale service. As a result, it's important to focus on the service and maintenance a manufacturer offers throughout the life of the equipment. A simple review of the following service offerings will help ensure a partnership with a manufacturer that understands what is required to effectively support its system:

  • Availability of service locations; regionally and locally
  • 24/7 access for routine or emergency contact
  • Ease of obtaining spare parts
  • Availability of spare parts agreements and full-service maintenance agreements
  • Availability of service documentation and ease of obtaining copies for purchaser records

Water and wastewater system operators, too, play an important role in ensuring reliable water and wastewater equipment performance. Proper operation and maintenance of water and wastewater treatment equipment depends largely on the qualifications of the operators and the training they've received to support the equipment. Equipment-specific training from a manufacturer at start-up and routinely throughout the life of the equipment is important, especially given the high turnover rate of trained and experienced operators at water and wastewater treatment facilities.

From an operation and maintenance perspective, some of the common deficiencies affecting the ability to follow manufacturer-recommended procedures and schedules include:

  • Lack of adequate treatment equipment
  • Lack of maintenance equipment
  • Poor record keeping
  • Absence of O&M manuals
  • Lack of regular maintenance
  • The absence of replacement parts/supplies

Following manufacturer-recommended maintenance and service schedules will help to maintain optimal system performance, ensure compliance with warranty requirements and provide economic benefits to the end user. When properly maintained, equipment can be used for the full intended life, and unnecessary replacements and repairs can be avoided, leading to cost savings. Well maintained systems will experience less unplanned downtime, lessening the need to purchase and have back-up treatment methods on site, and reducing the requirement of manpower to attend to unplanned maintenance. When systems operate as expected, the morale of plant personnel increases, since they are not engaging in reactionary measures to treat the system.

Maintaining the highest level of performance of any water or wastewater equipment should also include considering manufacturers' parts or maintenance contracts and using only manufacturer-recommended spare parts. Parts and maintenance programs help ensure that necessary work is done without burdening purchaser staffs, which frequently are quite lean to begin with. Quarterly and annual maintenance contracts can further help to optimize equipment performance and ensure longer life. And, manufacturer-provided refresher training can quickly bring new employees up to speed on proper equipment operation and maintenance.

Properly replacing worn out parts is important because equipment warranties may be voided through the purchase of non-authorized parts. In addition, such parts may not function as effectively as manufacturer-recommended parts, jeopardizing system performance. Of course, frequently used spare parts should be kept on site at the facility, and most manufacturers offer recommendations as to the spare parts that should be kept on hand.

Water and wastewater equipment is no different than any other major capital investment. Following manufacturer recommendations and proper maintenance are the best ways to ensure a long and productive life. It's a New Year's resolution that is easy to make and one which we can all start today. WW

About the Author:
Nadia Abboud is marketing manager, water purification for Severn Trent Services, a supplier of water and wastewater treatment solutions, with global headquarters in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. Ms. Abboud serves on WWEMA's board of directors.

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