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Introduction to Aftermarket services

General rules and principles of equipment service and maintenance

As we all know, that to purchase, install, and even start any equipment (i.e. diesel engine, various type of turbines, propulsion systems, pumps, boilers, and so on) is not enough for a successful realization of your project and it is only the beginning of an exciting journey into your equipment efficient performance process. What is lacking in this equation – is a well thought and clearly defined maintenance plan. Preferably the duration of such a plan should be designed for the expected lifetime of the entire project.

Ignoring such planning and budgeting of the maintenance expenses into the total project cost, no matter whether it is related to the power plant or a vessel, or any other type of equipment service and maintenance, would be an inexcusable mistake which is hard to imagine to be made by any experienced project manager or a project owner. Such maintenance services in the industry slang are often called “aftermarket services” or simply “aftermarket”. It could probably be an exaggeration to call aftermarket a standalone science, but it could also be a wrong approach to underestimate its importance and complexity.

Very often aftermarket results in hiring additional engineers and specialists, either on a temporary, service by service arrangements, or even on a permanent basis. Take, for example, a power plant which is comprised of several large diesel engines, ones that produce power for a city grid. Usually, to maximize the plant efficiency, the engines run a maximum number of hours per year to produce a maximum amount of electricity for the city needs. The city and the owner of the plant are interested in stopping the engines for the shortest possible time for maintenance and service and put them back again into operation as soon as service is completed. The absence of a well thought out in advance maintenance schedule could lead to longer maintenance times, and accordingly, lower power output, fines, and other penalties for delays, which ultimately could result in the power supply contract termination between the city and plant owner. Nobody wants this! To avoid such negative situations, aftermarket services should be organized and run as efficiently and smoothly as an engine itself. We all understand that equipment, to be maintained, is different for each specific project, and sometimes the differences could be huge. However, there are several general rules and principals which might be applicable to many projects where such maintenance is required.

Let us look at how aftermarket can function in principle and let us take a diesel engine-based power plant as an example for our analysis. The assumption is that such a power plant has its own engineers who are capable of taking care of basic maintenance needs of the engines and balance of plant equipment. In the event of major and extraordinarily complicated overhauls of the equipment, the engineers request the equipment manufacturer to send a team of their specialists to supervise and manage the maintenance process.

First, the plant itself should be completed, and engines and any other maintainable equipment installed, and the whole project should already be commissioned. That is the border line where usually (unless there are no other specific terms and conditions) where Aftermarket steps in. The Service Contract starts after all EPC tests are performed and test protocols for further maintenance period are established. Second, maintenance schedule should be set, all spare parts and scope of service jobs for all service intervals should be identified and pre-agreed upon. Third, well before the scheduled service starts and the specialists of engine/equipment manufacturer arrive on site, all spare parts should be shipped and delivered to the site, and also be checked and be ready for installation. Fourth, before the manufacturer maintenance team arrives on site, make sure that all necessary tools and consumable are ready and the equipment is prepared for the maintenance (like, engine is stopped and cooled down, oil and other media are drained, all special and hand tools are ready, local service team is available, etc.) Fifth, once the planned maintenance is performed and completed, the service report should be ready within a reasonable time, so that maintenance supervisor’s company is paid on time.

Such service reports should be studied carefully by the equipment owner, all recommendations should usually be followed, and in case certain unscheduled situations occur or some extra work is required, the owner and the contractor should discuss and agree on some extra work to take care of additional technical issues.

The modern equipment we are talking about is a complex set of mechanical and electronic parts and devices. Any error or negligence in performing a proper maintenance according to equipment manuals or not properly following the recommendation of the equipment specialists could ultimately end up being very costly! The aforementioned steps are basic and only outline the general direction. Of course each step has a few smaller sub-steps and actions. For example, if the power plant owner decides to transfer the plant, full operations and maintenance to the third party, usually to the engine manufacturer, then the whole package becomes the full responsibility of the service provider. This now becomes an even more complex and complicated process. There are many more changes and contingencies that can also occur. Challenges and other considerations are never ending in the field of Aftermarket.

[7/08/2021]

General principles and principles of equipment service and maintenance