Preventative maintenance management best practices for winter, utility edition

Storm hardening, vegetation management, and weatherization for the winter

We’ve created a guide to help you get through the winter months stronger than you went in. Stay ahead of equipment failure and maintenance deadlines by standardizing and automating in advance of January and February. Follow our preventative maintenance program guide to maintain your assets with confidence.

Establish a strong and automated preventative maintenance program

Doing preventative maintenance should be automatic and trackable.

Utility companies have to prepare for this weather and get ahead of impending infrastructure damage. By creating a comprehensive preventative maintenance program that adheres to maintenance management best practices, utilities can secure their assets for winter.

There are essentially three steps to getting your utility assets ready for the winter:

  1. Build the right foundation
  2. Conduct preventative maintenance
  3. Effectively respond to disasters and crises

Build the right foundation

To build the right foundation, standardize your processes and align your technology with those processes. We call this operational excellence.

Empower field workers

Use an industry-leading project management mobile app to empower field teams.

  • Easily update records by uploading photos, videos, and comments to document activities, verify inspections, and increase data quality.
  • Guide mobile teams by configuring checklists that inspections, upgrades, and maintenance are completed quickly, easily and thoroughly.
  • Eliminate delays by viewing recent records, favoriting important projects, and searching for nearby sites. This will help you get the most out of your time in the field.

Get your whole team on board

Project management is not simply managing the process of maintaining or upgrading an asset, it’s managing people and relationships. Utility field teams have to be dispatched efficiently to tackle the vegetation management and preventative maintenance. These tasks must be done to keep critical infrastructure from being damaged from the impending rain, wind, and snow.

Conduct preventative maintenance

You’ve done the hard work of building a strong foundation for your preventative maintenance program, now you have to execute. Successfully doing vegetation management, storm hardening, and asset maintenance is easier once you’ve standardized the steps needed to make sure all your assets are in top shape. They become tasks that are built into your entire preventative maintenance program.

In order to execute on your plan, you’ll need the right tools. Leverage project templates and checklists to reduce error and keep your team on the same page. Empower field workers with a mobile app to take pictures of overgrowth around an asset, and other vulnerabilities in order to track and attack issues before they become reactive maintenance issues.

The ability to standardize the execution of your storm readiness program depends heavily on the preventative maintenance software your company chooses. Make sure to choose preventative maintenance planning tools that reduce rework by leveraging project templates and mobile checklists. In the long term, an investment in the right asset management infrastructure will increase reliability and grid resilience.

Below are some examples of necessary work to do before the storm hits:

Vegetation management

Recurring vegetation management is an important part of conducting a standardized preventative maintenance program. Vegetation management is crucial to keep branches and dying trees from falling on equipment during high winds and heavy snow.

An example of how standardizing the process for vegetation management would reduce rework would be if a field worker with a SaaS-based mobile app, could snap a photo of the tree, note its proximity to the asset, remark on the threat level, and recommend an appropriate course of action. All of these fields are predetermined when using a mobile checklist and immediately sent back to the office in real-time. Note that not only are you collecting consistent data, but you’re able to see the new information in real time and pull all similar visits into a roll-up view to understand how many assets need to be storm-hardened before winter hits.

Storm Hardening

The process of storm hardening includes improved designs for wind resistance, anti-corrosion techniques, and the use of upgraded materials. The most common hardening practice for electric transmission and distribution systems is upgrading poles and other asset structures with stronger materials.

There is much preventative maintenance that has to be done. With 5.5 million miles of transmission lines and 180 million utility poles that is a lot of vegetation management and infrastructure upgrades to get through before seasonal changes.

Every pole and utility asset is important to the grid. The same steps and quality of vegetation pruning have to be applied to every pole and stretch of power lines.

  • Remove broken, dead, dying, diseased, or damaged branches
  • Prune young trees that may become a problem in the near future
  • Remove entire dead or diseased trees

Going down your winter readiness checklist isn’t easy when you’re managing hundreds or thousands of assets. It becomes impossible to track which assets are at risk, which need maintenance work, and which are just fine for now. Spreadsheets and other antiquated tools cannot handle this volume and do not offer standardization, automation or collaboration.

Effectively respond to disasters and crises

Winter is coming. In some areas the weather is becoming harsher and more challenging than ever before — wind speeds are increasing, snowfall is reaching record highs, and temperatures are dropping rapidly. Every year, utility companies have a huge maintenance challenge ahead of them when winter approaches. Falling branches, heavy snow, and high winds all have the potential to do serious damage to smart meters, utility poles, and all outdoor assets. Preventative maintenance such as vegetation management is as important as a quick response to emergencies, but emergencies are bound to occur and your company has to be ready to respond.

Don’t let inadequate technology get in the way of restoring critical services. Use a mobile app with offline capabilities to make updates and confirm critical details to get the repairs done faster. Coordinate teams between the field and the office and use mobile maps to quickly find nearby sites in need of repair.

Keeping critical infrastructure operational is crucial all year long, but especially during the winter, which can bring freezing temperatures, ice storms, and other extreme weather. A standardized preventative maintenance program will keep utilities prepared for the most extreme mother nature has to offer.

Sitetracker solves the challenge of preventative maintenance for a high volume of projects by making it easy to track all project and asset information in context. The platform leverages automation to ensure that companies can be proactive and get ahead of issues, rather than have to play catch up.

Get a demo right now to prepare your utility assets for seasonal changes.