Independent maintenance, repair and overhaul companies are making their mark, as John Bensalhia finds out
Maintenance and repairs: the ongoing chain reaction. In our everyday lives, it seems that every alternate week something needs repairing or checking. Take the car: if it's broken down or needs its annual checks, the problems of time and money inevitably surface. Repairs and maintenance come at a price, but without these, you have to rely on public transportation to get to work or to do the shopping, leading to lengthy queues and almost certain delays.
With ports, time and money are also of the essence, which is why the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) sector is so important. Original equipment manufacturers offering solutions such as programmes for maintenance and repair, plus the requisite spare parts.
“We would, of course, prefer a scenario where our equipment is sold to the customer, we enter a preventive maintenance agreement for the lifetime of the equipment, and we provide all spare parts as well as all necessary repairs and troubleshooting for the equipment,” says Mario van den Heuvel, manager of port service at Konecranes. “Last but not least, we retrofit our equipment with the newest technology every so often whilst both keeping the availability and productivity up, and the downtime and total cost of ownership down.
“In the majority of cases however, one has to compromise, wherefore we do offer our customers all of the above items individually as well. Next to selling equipment, we do offer maintenance programs, both preventive and corrective. We do provide spare parts to our customers, both complete packages including stock analyses as well as individual parts. We provide inspection and repair programs, whether it is a planned repair or an emergency repair after an incident.”
Mr van den Heuvel adds that Konecranes also provides retrofit solutions to their existing fleet, based on proven technology from their new equipment: “i.e. electrification or fuel saving technology as well as but not limited to the equipment’s control systems.”
Ports need to consider various issues before seeking the right options for maintenance, repair and overhaul. As Mr van den Heuvel explains, the port operator needs to think about one important question. “There are numerous different issues to consider, but the main one is 'what do I want to achieve by doing this?'. We as OEM and service provider can point out the possibilities and consult during the process, but the answer to the question really depends on what our customer wants to achieve.
“Some questions we have encountered are, 'How much equipment is required for my operation and are there differences between OEMs?', 'Do I need this crane right now?' and 'How do I account for breakdowns in my operational planning?'. Most of these require a certain flexibility from any potential service provider, which is ultimately something to consider.”
One of the most important issues for ports to consider is that of cost. While maintenance and repairs are vital for port operators, they must still make sure that these can be carried out for an affordable price. “In many port operations, the cost of procuring equipment itself is the key evaluation factor,” says Mr van den Heuvel. “However, as most of us are aware, there is no such thing as “maintenance free” for port equipment. You may not have to lubricate certain components and there even are components that are engineered to last for the entire lifetime of the equipment, but, when equipment is used, something wears, and that wear needs to be monitored and parts replaced.”
Alfredo Bouza, general manager for Konecranes port service, adds: “Simplicity and efficiency of the equipment layout has a great impact on overall cost of the equipment during its lifetime, and in reducing the more extensive maintenance aspects (hydraulics, festoon systems, etc.) already at the engineering level of the cranes will not only have a positive impact on the overall availability of the equipment, but also reduce the total cost of maintenance for the crane.”
It's not just OEM companies that are providing maintenance, repair and overhaul services. Independent MRO teams are now providing solutions for ports in the wake of successful maintenance, repair and overhaul services for aircraft and auto sectors. But can they benefit ports with regard to MRO in the same way that OEM companies can? Mr Bouza comments: “Having OEMs and independent MRO teams available in the market allows crane users to compare prices and skill sets to look for the best balanced solution on their specific cases. OEMs normally provide services with the latest technology available and bring added value to the customer’s end goal of keeping productivity at the highest and reducing unexpected failures, thus optimising performance of their business.”
However, independent MRO teams are making their mark. Mawdsleys BER is one such example: “We are involved in the maintenance, refurbishment/repair of motors, generators and pumps. For these types of equipment, regular scheduled servicing can maintain the condition and highlight potential problems in advance, avoiding unexpected failures. When a failure does occur, we have the special facilities that are needed to determine the cause and make the necessary repairs as soon as possible.”
A key benefit of companies like Mawdsleys BER is that they offer a wide variety of maintenance, repair and overhaul services. On the one hand, Mawdsleys BER provides standard motor rewinds, repairs, overhauls and de-watering pump repair and maintenance. On the other, they also cater for bigger projects such as upgrades of old and/or obsolete equipment, either on board the vessel or dockside. Mawdsleys BER deals with dockside cranes, motors and on board pumps, and also the lifting and moving of goods on site.
Another notable company providing MRO services for ports is that of Malaysian-based Maju Engineering Services (in conjunction with Allison Transmission). Among their principal services are the maintenance, repair and overhaul of various brands of diesel engines, the refurbishment of port equipment and special vehicles, and the lease of port terminal tractors. Maju says that thanks to their flexible maintenance concept, this allows for availability and lower operating/maintenance costs. The independents have taken on a broad range of clients, and judging from the positive feedback, this is an MRO solution that works well.
One of the main factors with regard to the future of the MRO sector is that of information. Mr van den Heuvel of Konecranes comments: “We as a company envision that we know in real-time how millions of lifting devices are performing across the industries. The key for future-proofing our equipment in regards to maintenance, repairs and also overhauls is information. We can already now monitor the status of our new equipment and its components – a technology that is also fully retrofittable to our existing equipment on the market.”
Mr van den Heuvel explains that with the information provided by the crane itself, and its interconnectivity with other systems – for example, spare parts, component lifetime analyses – Konecranes can proactively engage customers about the status of the equipment in order to stop breakdowns before they happen and to ensure part availability when parts are needed.
“With this information, we can schedule maintenance when it is actually required based on real-time operational information of the equipment. We can evaluate actual remaining lifetime of our components and the equipment efficiency based on our customers’ operations. Applying this knowledge and information flow, we can analyse the status of current equipment and make modernisation or retrofit proposals to our customers in order to assure maximum efficiency, reliability and availability by applying the same technological level as for our newest equipment.”
It's thanks to technology solutions like this that ports need not worry when it comes to maintenance, repair and overhaul. With information at the fingertips of the OEMs, port operators can get any problems solved as swiftly as possible. In addition, port operators have the choice of using an independent MRO team, a growing concept that's becoming more popular thanks to the wide range of services on offer and financial value.
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