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Blog: What is the Right Maintenance Model for your STP?

September 28th, 2017

What is the Right Maintenance Model for your STP?

The right maintenance plan can save Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) owners and operators both cost and downtime, thereby improving efficiency and allowing companies to keep their operations running smoothly. When a piece of equipment is allowed to fail (e.g. pump) it can lead to expensive repair costs, lost production and license breaches.

The article below looks at different maintenance programs available to ensure sewage treatment plants continue to run economically and discusses the pros and cons of outsourcing maintenance

1. Reactive Maintenance

Reactive maintenance is the process of reacting to failed, ineffective or damaged equipment and repairing or replacing in order for the intended function to be achieved. This type of plan essentially operates on the run-to-failure strategy. It ignores any preventative measures and simply deals with a problem or issue when it is reported. This is a very hands-off approach to facility maintenance and while it keeps routine maintenance costs low, such a program has the potential to be costly in the long run.

Some of the major advantages of running a reactive maintenance regime are:

  • Lower start-up cost as a result of reduced investment in systems, procedures, pre-planning.
  • Limited personnel requirement as this approach requires fewer staff to manage/ operate a facility.
  • Reduced maintenance costs as maintenance is avoided in line with a ‘run until it fails’ concept.

This plan also comes with some disadvantages with the major one being its unpredictability of when issues may occur. Extended downtime can be minimised by holding stocks of critical and operational spares, but labour costs to get the equipment back up and running will be more expensive as often work needs to be completed in a hurry and can incur  overtime costs.

 2. Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is the practice of regularly servicing equipment on a pre-determined schedule so that it does not develop catastrophic failures and performs better over its useful lifecycle. It requires an on-going effort, but when executed properly, it can reduce overall costs in both the short and long term. While there is still a risk of equipment failure occurring, a facility has a far greater chance of catching and correcting issues before they become major problems when using this strategy. This requires more labour to perform tasks that may seem unnecessary, but as previously stated, this extra effort pays off in the long run. There are a number of advantages to preventative maintenance, some of which are noted below.

  • Extends the useful lifecycle of assets which decreases the need for capital replacement
  • Enhances the efficiency of equipment keeping them running more efficiently and lowering power expenses
  • Enhances the performance of assets by increasing uptime
  • Enhances customer (internal or external) service because maintenance teams have less unplanned maintenance and can respond quicker to new problems
  • Stocks of critical and operational spares can be lower than for a reactive maintenance strategy as major works are planned
  • Improved working environment for maintenance personnel.

 3. Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance, much like preventive maintenance, means you are getting ahead of problems before they happen. However, the benefits of predictive maintenance can differ from other preventive maintenance strategies as a result of monitoring the condition of the equipment in real-time, through process control, vibration analysis or ultrasound technology for example, rather than looking at average life expectancy statistics. By directly monitoring equipment for troubling signs through techniques such as this, technicians can proactively identify an impending equipment failure before it happens and get ahead of the problem before it starts.

Some of the major advantages of running a predictive maintenance regime are:

  • Provides increased component operational life and availability
  • Results in decrease in equipment and/or facility downtime
  • Allows for pre-emptive corrective actions
  • Lowers costs for parts and labour

4. To Have Maintenance Performed In-House or by Outside Vendors?

There is no question that performing routine maintenance regularly and emergency repairs efficiently for your equipment is critical to maintaining safe operations and timely customer service. The real question is whether to have the maintenance performed in-house, by outside vendors or both. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these solutions and because of this, many plant managers are facing a tough decision – should they outsource their maintenance activity or hire an in-house team? The below headings looks at the advantages and disadvantages of outsourced contract maintenance which will hopefully aid plant managers to understand what is the best fit for their facility.


Determining the impact of downtime should be one of the highest priorities when considering whether to manage maintenance in-house or not. Downtime directly impacts productivity and customer profits, so having in-house staff available to deal with problems as soon as they occur has a significant advantage on response time. Despite this, having a maintenance partner with the correct skill set could significantly lower the repair time. When making the decision between hiring an in-house maintenance team and outsourcing to a contractor, consider whether your team will be specialist enough to deal with every problem, quickly.

Core Business Focus

Out-sourcing allows management to concentrate on their core proficiencies and critical objectives to drive the business.

Cost Saving

Cost control is a driving issue for most industries and a prime motive for outsourcing. In-house staff wages and benefits may have become too costly for the company to subsidise. Cost is also a function of a contractor’s ability to flex up and down faster than in-house staff; additionally, hiring costs are absorbed by the contractor. An outsourced contractor assumes the burden of these, and other, financial liabilities associated with workers.


An out-sourced contractor can provide flexibility in delivering the proper staffing level and required skill set quickly, with less cost and time investment, as well as providing expertise that may not be available, or is inadequate, within the in-house staff. This expertise will also positively impact the quality of the work being performed. It provides the flexibility to utilise specialised services as needed, instead of incurring the cost of developing in-house competencies that are not needed on a permanent or continuous basis.

Staff Issues

In the majority of instances, when a company completely outsources its maintenance function, personnel grievances, disciplinary actions and issues become the responsibility of the contractor. Former in-house activities such as payroll, etc., are handled by the contractor, releasing management from the responsibility and time requirements of doing so giving company management more time to deal with customers.

Next Step?

As you can see there is quite a difference in maintenance programs and generally the best maintenance plan is one that balances elements of each of these programs. The end goal of a maintenance program is making sure that facilities are as close to 100% available as possible and as such it is important to make sure that these plans account for the equipment that is unique to a plant and its operations. If you have shortcomings in maintenance and don’t have the in-house expertise or time to implement such plans, outsourcing the maintenance may well be the best fit for you.

MAK Water can provide efficient and professional industrial wastewater, sewage and water treatment support for total peace of mind and reduced operator involvement with your water treatment solution. MAK Water operates service offices in every mainland state in Australia, and is able to offer flexible solutions for service and maintenance (planned and emergency), remote monitoring, technical assistance and full operational and maintenance support.

MAK Water proudly provides the commercial and industrial sectors with water treatment solutions compliant with local regulations. Our reliable and efficient industrial reverse osmosis systems, industrial wastewater and sewage treatment systems have been assisting operations throughout Australia and internationally for over 20 years, as well as in South East Asia and South America.

At MAK Water, we are dedicated to helping industrial operations with their water, wastewater and sewage requirements, via the provision of high performing water treatment plants and systems. We have developed a reputation for delivering superior service and solutions in order to enable our clients to reduce operating costs and extend equipment operating life.

What water treatment means with MAK Water:

For assistance with your sewage treatment plant’s operation and maintenance contact MAK Water – The Smart Water People – on 1300 669 032 and to discuss the most appropriate water treatment solution for your business.



Brendan Doherty, MAK Water Operations Manager WA

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