Steel plant processing technology, equipment and services specialist SMS Siemag South Africa, a division of SMS Group, has registered significant demand growth for preventative maintenance in the local ferrous, nonferrous and ferroalloys industries, paired with a 10% to 15% increase in technical and maintenance services in the past 18 months.
“There is an increased focus from SMS Siemag clients to consider more strategic approaches in terms of maintenance and move away from the ‘break-and-fix’ strategy toward the preventative maintenance strategy,” SMS Siemag MD Pieter Bezuidenhout says, adding that the company has noted this trend through industry’s engagement with it and increased requests for the condition monitoring of plant equipment.
Preventative maintenance strategies might seem more expensive because they comprise more integrated approaches, such as on-line condition monitoring, regular planned downtime and both internal and external spend, but Bezuidenhout stresses that the costs of unplanned shutdowns – which subsequently result in production losses – quickly exceed the costs of a preventative maintenance strategy.
Through the development and implementation of preventative maintenance strategies, such as on-line condition monitoring, the company assists the industry in monitoring predictive failure and scheduled maintenance shutdowns.
This includes reliability centred maintenance (RCM) and RCM audits for the plants, RCM training for key maintenance teams and managing strategic spare parts holdings and safety spare parts stock levels, Bezuidenhout says.
He adds that the majority of maintenance services work currently provided for industry is preventative maintenance related.
Further, SMS Group integrated maintenance services include proven standard software for asset management and an Installation Maintenance Management System maintenance database, while best practice maintenance includes, but is not limited to, the definition of software interfaces, the adaption of basic software development of data packages according to the rules of ME-RCM, as well as training and service visits, Bezuidenhout explains.
Currently, pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical engineering company Paul Wurth, a subsidiary of SMS Group, is involved in the reconditioning and refurbishment of the distribution chutes for the blast furnaces of a major steel producer’s production plant in Vanderbijlpark, in Gauteng, says Paul Wurth South Africa GM Johan Lotriet.
Paul Wurth completed the first refurbishment in February and the second in July, and is due to deliver another refurbished chute early next year, Lotriet says, adding that the company could become involved in the refurbishment and subsequent maintenance of the plant’s slag granulation system next year.
Paul Wurth is also involved in condition- monitoring exercises of the steel producer’s feed systems for the furnaces to determine preventative maintenance strategies, with the company providing on-site training for the maintenance teams, says Lotriet.
He notes that another condition-monitoring exercise and inspection services for the plant will be provided in February 2015.
Other recent refurbishment projects of the SMS Group in Southern Africa include the equipment refurbishment of several components of a pendulum shear at steel producer ArcelorMittal South Africa’s Saldanha Works, in the Western Cape, in the second quarter of last year, as well as the refurbishment and on-site structural repairs of the support beams and columns for the oscillator of a continuous slab caster in the second quarter of last year, Bezuidenhout adds.
He highlights that the client reported a significant increase in machine availability after the support beams and columns had been installed, as this ensured that the oscillator support structure was at the correct level.
Despite the increased focus on preventative maintenance strategies, industry’s biggest challenges regarding maintenance remain funding, as well as a growing shortage of skilled and experienced maintenance, Lotriet says.
Bezuidenhout agrees, adding that, although the metallurgical and processing plants in South Africa are quite aged, these plants still have to compete against the more modern international plants, yet continuously face reduced maintenance budgets.
“With fewer available resources, these plants need to achieve higher levels of efficiency – and therein lies the challenge for industry,” he asserts, adding that this drives the need for more strategic approaches.
In light of this, the SMS Group – as an experienced global original-equipment manufacturer with more than 13 000 employees that can add value propositions to improve overall equipment efficiency – is more actively pursuing the maintenance and servicing sector, Lotriet points out.
Moreover, SMS Siemag South Africa has received several requests from clients to manage their maintenance outsourcing functions, Bezuidenhout adds.
Maintenance outsourcing includes predicted costs, which result in reduced inventory costs and reconditioning costs; best practice maintenance, which comprises maintenance engineering services, equipment tracking and benchmarking services, root cause failure analysis and statistical analysis; and equipment reliability, which includes extended equipment campaign life and maximum machine use.
“Owing to SMS Siemag’s global maintenance outsourcing experience and a strong team of experts, the company can increase production efficiencies and reduce maintenance costs for the industry,” Bezuidenhout says, concluding that this provides a means of establishing a long-term cost-reduction strategy for these companies.