Preventative Maintenance and Outage Planning Podcast

Summary: In this episode I discuss preventative maintenance and outage planning techniques that can reduce unplanned downtime and add up to big savings for your operation in the long run, with my guest Deepak Kashyap. We cover common issues that Deepak sees in his role as a Technical Support Manager and ways that these can be prevented.

Topics Covered:

  • What is Preventative Maintenance and why it’s important
  • Common issues that can be prevented with proper maintenance
  • Different types and frequencies of Preventative Maintenance
  • Important considerations for proper outage planning

Guest Bio: Deepak is a Technical Support Service Manager for Nexus Controls and has over 15 years of experience working with control systems for steam turbines, gas turbines, and balance of plant. His past roles include Lead Technical Specialist, Lead Engineer, and Manager for Reliance Industries.


Why is preventative maintenance and outage planning important?

In this podcast, we discuss preventative maintenance and outage planning techniques that can reduce unplanned downtime and add up to big operational savings. The adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” encapsulates the power of preventative maintenance and outage planning, often amplified further in high stakes manufacturing environments.

Manufacturers need to optimize maintenance and proactively use planned outages in order to maximize uptime and manage costs, key levers to remaining competitive and meeting rising demand. Our podcast guest is Deepak Kashyap, Technical Support Service Manager. We cover common customer issues that Deepak sees in his role as Technical Support Manager and the ways many of these issues can be prevented, or at the very least, minimized. Deepak’s rich expertise spans steam turbines, gas turbines and balance of plant and his insights into best practices is a helpful guide to better manufacturing outcomes.

Interview with Deepak

What is preventative maintenance?

At the start of the industrial revolution when machines were used to produce goods, automation was limited, so maintenance, or “reactive” maintenance, became a part of our manufacturing reality.  Machine shutdowns and breakdowns were acceptable when a mishap or machine trip occurred. As consumer demand rose and competition increased, machine or asset availability has become a very key part of manufacturing competitiveness. Thus, focus shifted from a breakdown maintenance mindset to one of preventative maintenance.

Today, manufacturers must stay competitive by fine-tuning operations and reducing production costs. That means preventing unplanned outages before they occur so that repairs can be made at the lowest possible costs with the minimal amount of disruption to operations.

What impact does preventative maintenance have on operations?

In my current role as Technical Support Service Manager at Nexus Controls, my team and I provide remote service and support to troubleshoot issues with many of our customers. Some of the issues I see in our customer environments could have easily been averted or mitigated with a routine check during a planned outage or other preventative maintenance approach.

For example, there are various instruments and sensors that monitor asset characteristics. These sensors, such as a pressure switch, must be calibrated periodically to ensure on-going accuracy. Each instrument or sensor will have an OEM-recommended time period for recalibrations. Despite these recommendations and their inexpensive implementation, I see customers who overlook these OEM guidelines. As a result, an out-of-calibration sensor can escalate into an unplanned downtime event, which in turn can significantly skyrocket costs and consequences. 

Let’s look at a more specific example for a turbine that is supplying electricity. Due to a small calibration issue with the pressure sensor, the equipment trips due to low lube oil pressure. The turbine enters into an automatic shutdown. Consequently, the company incurs grid penalties, experiences the costs of unplanned downtime and electricity customers are unhappy about their disruption in service.  The costs of this oversight far outweigh those of a simple – and recommended -- calibration check.

Scenarios such as this can be readily overcome by doing routine maintenance, and conducting checks and calibrations during planned maintenance events, per OEM guidelines. Adopting a preventative maintenance mindset will keep equipment more reliable and most likely deliver proper operation until the next planned outage.

Preventative maintenance checklist for control system customers

Preventative maintenance is an ever-evolving topic, like a continuous improvement cycle. Whenever OEM equipment is manufactured, a recommended checklist is provided, which needs to be tailored to customer requirements and planned outage schedules.  Each task – such as a check, calibration, or replacement -- happens at different frequencies and is reflected in the checklist. 

For example a checklist may consist of recommendations such as:

Daily basis, or routine checks done every shift:  

  • Check the idle time of all processors
  • Review for diagnostic alarms being reported from the control system (this is an early warning signal and, if left unaddressed, can lead to very complicated situations).
    • Modern DCS displays alerts on the screen
    • Plant operators get alerts sent to them directly

Weekly basis:

  • HMI:
    • How the HMI (human machine interface) is performing?
    • Are there slow down issues?
    • Is there adequate hard drive space?
    • How is the memory utilization?
  • Turbine:
    • Are all the turbine trip systems working properly? 
    • What is the integrity of trip circuit?

Monthly basis:

  • HMI and critical software backups

Planned outage basis:

  • Standard checks (power redundancy, communication redundancy, backup redundancy, etc.)
  • Calibrations required
  • Device replacements due
  • Operational checks

Should checklist items be pre-planned prior to a planned outage?

The short answer is, yes! Pre-planning = preventative maintenance = maximized uptime. Let’s take a look at an analogy to demonstrate why.

In order for manufacturers to elevate their global competitiveness, outage cycles must shrink in duration. One analogy is Formula One racing.  Historically, a car would race for 10-15 minutes and then make a four minute pit stop.  Today, a race car pit stop takes an average of 2.4 seconds so that racing times and racing “uptime” can be optimized. To reach that impressive level of efficiency – where all four tires are changed in less than 3 seconds – requires careful planning, preparation, and orchestration.

Similarly, to maximize production uptime, manufacturing outages are being minimized as much as possible. In order to shrink outage duration, manufacturers must plan the recommended checks, calibrations and replacements prior to planned outage events. 

Outage planning can, and should, be orchestrated with the OEM. It starts with knowing how long the planned outage is going to last.  Duration is based on the type of planned outage. In gas turbine operations, there are typically three types of outages that vary in approximate duration as follows:


               Outage type                                                                   Approximate outage duration

               Combustion inspection                                                            5-7 days

               Hot gas path inspection                                                           14 days

               Major inspection                                                                        25-30 days


Five key questions to successful pre-planning

Preventative maintenance is built on the concept of developing a pre-planning approach and cadence. There are five key questions that help manufacturers properly prepare for a planned outage and maximize its effectiveness. Ultimately, this will ensure the utmost system reliability. 

Five Key Questions

  1. What activities will be done during the planned outage?
  2. What devices or spares will be needed during the planned outage?
  3. What is the routine checklist for the planned outage (mandatory equipment checks)?
  4. What other opportunities are there?
  5. Have the maintenance and operations teams synchronized on potential issues?

What activities will be done during the planned outage?

Each planned outage will correspond to a list of OEM recommended actions. For example, a combustion inspection consists of simpler routine checks and calibrations. Since a combustion inspection is the shortest of all planned outage durations, barring any urgent operational issues, manufacturers should avoid replacing things outside of the recommended checklist.

What devices or spares will be needed during the planned outage?

Replacements must be pre-planned and coincide with available inventory to ensure that, for example, a 5-7 day combustion inspection outage is utilized optimally.  To assist in spare part inventory planning, OEMs provide lists to help guide manufacturers, such as consumable critical spares or DCS critical spares.  

What is the routine checklist for the planned outage (mandatory equipment checks)?

Following the OEM checklist and pre-planning, the mandatory equipment checks are vital to a successful planned outage. Without careful pre-planning, tasks might go unchecked (to meet the planned outage duration) or outage duration may be extended (if a task is deemed of higher importance to operational integrity).

What other opportunities are there?

In addition to pre-planning activities, planned outages also represent opportunities to look for obsolescence – in processes or equipment.  As innovations increase in speed, obsolescence is an unavoidable reality. Consider an electronic component manufacturer of semiconductors, which are dynamically being optimized and updated, which can spur replacement opportunities during planned outage events.

OEMs will also update their recommendations and checklists periodically. Incorporating those updates into the pre-planning checklists are opportunities for improved reliability.

Have the maintenance and operations teams synchronized on potential issues?

Planned outage checks and calibrations are typically conducted by the maintenance team.  It’s important for the maintenance team to know what problems the operations team is experiencing. For example, are there pressure switch issues that are not associated with a trip but are generating some nuisance alarms? Issues such as this must be known, documented and pre-planned before entering an outage cycle so that they can be proactively addressed to ensure preventative measures are in place.

All of these key questions can be discussed during pre-planning outage meetings so that a comprehensive checklist can be constructed.  

The OEM’s role in pre-planning

As part of pre-planning meetings, manufacturers should include OEM consultations and encourage OEM participation.  If a manufacturer has a question or is having a specific issue with a piece of equipment (such as a DCS), the OEM’s perspective can offer a distinct advantage.  First, an OEM has highly skilled, specialized expertise and personnel that can help. Secondly, an OEM has complete fleet level visibility to installations and operations.  From that vantage point, the OEM is equipped to share knowledge and experience that will better guide planning, direct corrective action or even solve an issue outright.  

How can Nexus Controls help customers with preventative maintenance?

Nexus Controls offers various levels of support to customers, allowing that support to be highly customized and built around specific customer needs. No two customers are alike, each has their own requirements, their own way of operating their plant. We’ve been told by many customers that the ability to tailor support is a real benefit.

The range of services and support packages offered by Nexus Controls includes:

  • Technical support. When customers have skilled manpower on-site, only technical support / direction is needed and that can be fully supported by Nexus Controls.
  • Outsourced services. Some customers require skilled expertise from OEM personnel to help prepare for and execute planned outages. In this case, Nexus Controls will deploy field teams to a customer site to carry out all assessments, checks, and calibrations, ranging from partial assessments to full assessments, depending on customer need.
  • Health assessment of plant. Nexus Controls offers twice yearly health assessments, which outline what needs to be done immediately, which lifecycle notices need to be handled, and what updated information needs to be implemented. These objective, subject-matter-expert led assessments by the OEM can help significantly with outage planning and operations.
  • Data monitoring package: Delegate package. Nexus Controls also provides on-going monitoring of DCS health and will reach out to customers if any issues surface. This service package includes quarterly reports sent via email and / or reviewed via phone.


Based on our experience working with many customers, preventative maintenance and proper outage planning is pure gold in terms of the return on investment. Unplanned downtime is the bane of manufacturers and can quickly escalate into serious costs.  An easy and inexpensive way to mitigate unplanned downtime is rooted in the  power of preventative maintenance and outage planning approaches. 


Preventative Maintenance Article