The importance of maintenance

Randy Ortgiesen, head of the Facilities Engineering Services Section, wrote this week’s column.

Randy Ortgiesen

The annual village electrical distribution maintenance was successfully completed this past weekend. Although a distant second to the planning and coordination required for large maintenance activities associated with an accelerator shutdown, maintenance in the Village is still very important and involves a lot of planning.

Conducting such maintenance prevents unplanned down times and equipment failures, increases efficiency, saves money and optimizes performance. I was reminded of these facts when I received the report about the results of annual Village maintenance Executing such a power outage, or shutdown, involves coordination months in advance to ensure Village residents are informed, laboratories and machine shops are able to stabilize processes before the power outage, fire protection systems are secured, specific resources are identified and scheduled, sufficient materials and equipment are available and there is no rain in the forecast.

You never exactly know what you will find when substations, switches and breakers are opened for inspection and cleaning. To help identify specific corrective maintenance and repairs needed during the outage, personnel conduct preparatory activities weeks before the shutdown. This includes overhead line visual inspections of poles, conductors and hardware. We also conduct infrared-camera inspections. These inspections can help us assess what we might find or specific locations to look at a bit more thoroughly during our maintenance activity.

When we assessed the Village infrastructure, we identified items that needed attention. In addition to the routine inspection, cleaning, lubricating, tree trimming, etc. that takes place during annual maintenance of the Village electrical distribution system, the FESS team responsible replaced broken insulators, fuse cutouts, lightning arrestors and conductors, tightened loose connections on breakers and re-terminated wires. The list was a reminder of what can occur to an infrastructure system in a relatively short period of time, and of the potential consequences of not performing maintenance as required.

At Fermilab and other critical facilities across the DOE complex, maintenance activities must be balanced with other operational requirements. The very favorable results of our science indicate this has been optimized given all the variables. It is important to remember that delaying or limiting the amount of maintenance performed often results in unplanned down time, inefficiency and higher costs. For the maintenance team that executed as planned and then some this past weekend, well done!