Thanks to our guest blogger, Amanda Hill from Commercial Industrial Supply, for this terrific article on planning for pipework maintenance. Combine her no-nonsense checklist with your CMMS maintenance system to maximize results.
What's On Your Pipework Maintenance Checklist?
Every plant manager faces maintenance challenges, which is why we wrote this article to help highlight the most important plant manager responsibilities, particularly when it comes to plumbing and piping. However, you can minimize those challenges by adding a thorough preventive maintenance plan to your plant manager responsibilities. Routine inspections help your pipework maintenance team spot potential problems before they cause a slow-down or become a hazard. Use the following as a guide to help you in your plant manager responsibilities and come up with a pipework maintenance checklist that will keep your facility running smoothly.
What Needs to be Checked Each Shift?
To prevent slow-downs or work stoppages, your pipework maintenance engineers should make a round of your facility at the beginning of each shift. Industrial machinery is normally under a lot of stress, which makes small malfunctions quite common. Catching them early prevents larger disasters down the road.
In addition to these plant manager responsibilities, make sure your pipework maintenance engineers check all pipes hooked up to vibrating machinery each day—particularly rigid piping like steel and copper. Threaded pipe, flanged fittings, bolts, brackets, and clamps can easily work loose. By tightening the connections before that happens, you can make sure that work doesn’t grind to a halt, and you’ll also prevent chemical spills and other safety hazards.
Items for Your Daily Checklist
Certain valves in your facility should be inspected on a daily basis. Flow control valves, since they are typically under pressure, are more prone to leaking than other types of valves. Make sure someone from your maintenance crew visually inspects the valve (particularly the gland nut) for leaks each day.
Steam traps are another kind of high-pressure valve that can sometimes fail. Traps are generally bolted to flanged pipe, with the void between the pipe flange and the trap flange sealed by a gasket. Your engineers need to check the flanges for loose bolts and inspect the gasket to make sure it’s providing a tight seal.
What Should be Checked Weekly?
Unlike flow control valves, stop valves and isolation valves tend to be either open or closed most of the time. Since they are under less stress and see less wear, you can check these valves weekly. The most common failure point is the valve gland around the valve stem. When the valve gland wears out, you’ll find leaks around the valve stem or gland nut.
Safety valves, pressure release valves, and pressure reducing valves don’t fail often, but they are essential for safety, which means they also need to be on your weekly maintenance checklist. Make a visual inspection, and if possible, perform safety tests to ensure that they are functioning properly.
Quarterly Piping Checklist
Your quarterly routine is the most extensive part of your plant manager responsibilities and your maintenance checklist. Have your pipework maintenance crew do all of the following:
- Check all threaded fittings and unions for leaks.
- Turn valves to make sure they aren’t seized or broken.
- Do a plant-wide inspection of clamps, brackets, flanges, and other fittings.
- Inspect all indoor piping—overhead, trenched piping, and piping in tunnels or crawlspaces.
Loose or leaky fittings and malfunctioning valves will make themselves obvious during this inspection. What aren’t as obvious are the problems that may be developing in your pipework. The inspection should include pressure checks to make sure there aren’t buildups developing inside the piping, and you’ll also need to perform a visual inspection of the exterior of the piping. If there is steel, copper, or other metal piping in your facility, look for signs of rust and corrosion and make plans to repair or replace sections before a leak develops.
What You’ll Need to Check Biannually
Outdoor piping is typically stronger than indoor piping, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Every six months, one of your plant manager responsibilities should be to follow the same routine as with indoor piping: Check exposed valves, connections, and pipes while looking for signs of wear, rust, and corrosion. As with indoor pipework maintenance, replace anything that is malfunctioning or is likely to fail sooner rather than later.
Maintenance Checks Over the Long Haul
All of the short-term checks are helpful, but there is one key area that is often overlooked: buried piping. If piping is under a concrete slab, it may not be worth the time, effort and money to excavate it without good cause. However, piping that is easier to excavate needs to be checked once every five years.
Of course, the five-year rule isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but depending on what kinds of buried pipes your facility has, you may want to adhere to it closely. For instance, clay and iron drainage lines have a life span of approximately 50 to 60 years before they start to rust, crack, or shift. If you have pipes approaching this age, you can prevent many problems with some exploratory excavation. Even buried steel, copper, and plastic lines can suffer damage, so it’s wise to check them as often as your maintenance budget allows.
To most plant managers, it doesn’t make sense to replace buried lines that aren’t leaking or broken—the cost just isn’t worth the benefit. However, there are cost-effective replacement options available. For instance, Class 125 PVC is inexpensive, and it works well for drains, vents, and other applications that don’t require much pressure. Rather than ignoring a potential underground problem, this kind of piping offers you an inexpensive way to prevent a disaster.
Every facility is different, with unique plant manager responsibilities and pipework maintenance checklists. As you create a guide for your maintenance team to follow, don’t skip the pipework! If unnoticed or left untended, even a minor piping problem can turn into lost work hours, line shutdowns, or occupational hazards.
Amanda Hill is the Content and Creative Manager for Commercial Industrial Supply, based out of Rock Hill, South Carolina. CIS is a supplier of PVC pipe and other plumbing supplies for facility managers all across the United States.