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What did my Brompton teach me about condition-based maintenance?

I’ve been riding my Brompton – one of those nice folding bikes – to work almost every day for the past 4 years. I love it; one of the best purchases I have ever made! Interestingly, it also taught me the importance of condition-based maintenance.

https://www.brompton.com/The-Bike/Special-Editions/Black-Edition

“Designed with the street-smart urban cyclist in mind” – photo from Brompton’s website

I do not take my Brompton for a review every year, as suggested by the bike seller. I tried to take a risk-based approach to the maintenance – every time I leave, in the morning, I do my usual visual inspection to the main parts of the bike. I check the chain and how lubricated some of the parts are. I inspect the tyres for wear but the main focus is removing any bits of grit and debris – London has brand new cycle highways so there is a lot of debris and dirt in my route to work. I don’t check the tyre pressure every day but almost every week.

It is obviously impossible to visually inspect the bearings and other internal parts. Therefore, I need to bring it to the bike shop.

Dr. Panos Topalis has an interesting way of explaining this. During his last Risk-Based Inspection training about a month ago, he said that we should consider a vessel that hasn’t been inspected as an “unknown”. We don’t know the status, for example, of the wall thickness and corrosion rate; imagine an observer looking from outside of the vessel where not all the information is available. An inspection could be (and sometimes actually is) an observer going into the vessel to get more information. In the case of the Brompton this would mean dissembling the parts to inspect the internal bearings and so on.

Because I am keeping an eye on the main components of the bike, I’ve managed to extend the review service to around 18 months instead of 12 months suggested by the bike seller. That means for the last 4 years, I would have spent £45 pounds per review, £180 in total. With my approach, I am going to my second review now! So, OpEx has been £90 instead of £180!

On top of that, I had a nice surprise when I was collecting it this morning – because I am very careful with my bike, I’ve got a massive discount last week! They guy said “we don’t really need to do much about the bike’s parts as they are in a good condition, just need to perform some adjustments and clean it up”. The service charge was only £25!

I think condition-based maintenance is a no-brainer. This is even more important for major capital projects where the savings can go in to millions. GE Minds & Machine report from 2014 (reference here) says that increasing 1% in plant availability for assets operating in the oil and gas industry can have an annual impact of USD 4-5 billion. Having not stopped my bike for its “annual shutdown” saved me a daily tube fare (around £8) plus the £45 pounds. Not stopping an entire unit in a process plant can easily go generate great savings. In times where the OpEx is under scrutiny, having the ability to safely identify areas where intrusive inspection is not required is fundamental to the success of the business.

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