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VA, Vatten och Avlopp, lags behind in the development of preventive maintenance. Something that can lead to unnecessary leaks and interruptions which in turn can lead to destruction, large costs and extensive work. In a conversation with four representatives in the industry, we get to take part in the challenges that VA currently faces – and the reasons behind the short life cycle of pipe systems.
VA includes water supply of drinking water but also management of wastewater. Both areas require large piping systems and associated treatment plants. In other words, VA is an incredibly vital part of modern society. However, the water and sewerage industry is facing major challenges caused by the fact that work in maintenance has not developed at a desirable pace.
Pär Dalhielm is the CEO of Svenskt Vatten and believes that the development around VA’s maintenance is lagging behind, among other things, because it is difficult and complicated to conduct.
– Why it is said that VA maintenance is underdeveloped is because it is true. It is a giant infrastructure network where the large amount of systems are also not visible because they are underground. When it comes to VA, they have put gunpowder on operation, which has made them forget to work with maintenance. Simply put that cost in front of him, says Pär Dalhielm.
Conny Ohlson, technical and maintenance manager at Stockholm Vatten has his area of responsibility within sewage treatment plants and also encounters a problem with maintenance there.
– The maintenance debt at the sewage treatment plants was large when I started, we have worked systematically for many years now to catch up and implement preventive maintenance based on production needs and criticality analysis. It is a great challenge to explain to everyone who does not work with maintenance how important it is with preventive maintenance and working methods, we now work hard to prepare all work where planning for spare parts, work permits including breaks and locks is included.
That maintenance lags behind in development is agreed upon in various types of operations. Thomas Nyberg, business area manager at Sandviken Energi, believes, just like Pär Dalhielm and Conny Ohlson, that finances are one of the reasons.
– It is based on a culture that has developed through many years of working methods in a too short time perspective. According to law, a VA operation may only have a necessary cost, but the competence in what is required to manage the fixed assets over a long period of time has been lacking. The industry is now starting to wake up and understand that the definition of what is a necessary cost must be calculated over the entire life cycle, says Thomas Nyberg.
– The benefits of a planned and structured maintenance work are many. Reducing maintenance in the short term does indeed reduce costs in the short term, but has extensive consequences in the long term. In addition to the fact that our customers more often risk shortcomings in water supply, failure to maintain means higher costs in the long run. Thus also more expensive for the customer in the long run. It is also an issue of sustainability. We must protect our resources, whether they are natural resources or money. Not working with maintenance is a waste of both parts, says Pär Dalhielm.
There is no doubt that VA has long been incredibly operationally focused. The neglected development of maintenance is also caused by the fact that for a number of years they did not pave the way for the future but instead worked with a short-term perspective. But despite the fact that the issue of maintenance is raised somewhat, different organizations differ in how it is treated.
– At Sandviken Energi, we have just started talking about criticality analysis, but to cope with that, competence needs to be increased. I would guess that you will find a few VA companies in the industry that today can handle such work and to take advantage of its benefits. Large parts of the water and sewerage industry are today at a basic level in their work with efficient and professional management of fixed assets, says Thomas Nyberg.
Walter Jonasson, maintenance manager at Vakin, believes that several factors have contributed to it being difficult to implement the importance of good maintenance.
– For decades, we have collected data in various ways, but we have not been good at refining the information we have received. Today we can work with AI and data warehousing, which feels like a routine for most industries while something is bubbling with us, says Walter Jonasson.
– If you do not have the competence to set up plans and analyzes, you need to bring in that competence now. It will be a cost now and it can be difficult to know where in the budget to take that cost from, but in the long run it is absolutely necessary, says Pär Dalhielm.
It is a fact that VA is facing major challenges as a result of the lack of competence and willingness to invest in maintenance. At the same time, many VA businesses and companies are struggling and have difficulty taking the necessary investments further due to limited budgets and inherited work roles, which makes the issue very present. It is difficult to say what the future in VA will look like, but it is clear that the competence and understanding of maintenance must be implemented throughout the chain.
– It is about competence development and anchoring in our clients, the importance of managing our facilities in an appropriate way. We must reach the next level. Maintenance was not needed in the same way before, but with today’s operation, need for availability and process control, it must be developed, Conny Ohlson concludes.
Do you want to know more about VA’s maintenance challenges? The maintenance fair is northern Europe’s largest meeting place for operational safety and maintenance issues. An industry-wide forum where technicians and decision-makers in all stages of the maintenance chain meet the technology of the future and share each other’s experiences. The maintenance fair 2020 had to be interrupted due to the outbreak of the Corona pandemic in March. Therefore, the meeting place is extra long-awaited and we warmly welcome to Maintenance 2022, March 15-18, with a focus on, among other things, smart maintenance, sustainability and industrial safety. More info at underhall.se.
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