Challenges facing waste industry need proactive maintenance services

RS has urged engineers, procurement professionals and health and safety managers in the waste industry to tackle the growing demand on services by embracing specialised services and solutions that will help them avoid plant downtime, keep workers safe and work towards increased sustainability.

Chris Cruise RS Maintenance services
Chris Cruise, industry sector manager for Utilities, Power and Communications at RS, said: "...the best possible strategy is to reduce that risk with a predictive maintenance approach."
RS – a global provider of industrial products and services including maintenance and safety solutions – says that better management of Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) and a specialist approach to safety is vital with mounting challenges facing those involved in waste management like household and commercial waste collection, composting, energy recovery and landfill.

As industry market research firm IBISWorld highlighted the growth in waste management services as 4.4 per cent in 2022, taking the UK market size to £1.2 billion, RS says that the need to keep the plant moving is evident.

Using maintenance services to make MRO more efficient

Chris Cruise, industry sector manager for Utilities, Power and Communications at RS, said: “If a waste processing plant stops working, the waste is still going to be produced at source: there’s a limit to what can be stockpiled. So the best possible strategy is to reduce that risk with a predictive maintenance approach.

“Using maintenance services to make MRO more efficient, like condition monitoring – which detects potential maintenance issues before they become problematic – will help avoid more expensive and risky unplanned maintenance down the line.”

RS believes this approach can also help the waste industry as it faces a range of financial pressures. More than 80 per cent of respondents surveyed for the RS and Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) Indirect Procurement Report 2022 said that inflation and higher costs will be a major challenge for procurement in the next twelve months.

Cruise added: “Higher energy prices are adding another layer of pressure for the waste sector, as does the expense of environmental regulations, compliance and health and safety legislation in this high-risk industry. So they must look to drive down costs - which of course should not be at the expense of safety or environmental considerations - but by efficiencies made via better procurement processes, downtime avoidance through preventative maintenance, and utilisation of energy management services.”

RS says condition monitoring services like calibration keep equipment accurate and reliable, thus further reducing unplanned, reactive maintenance. Asset performance can be improved and lifetime extended by employing effective lubrication services, which can often be a specialist task.

Improving safety through maintenance services

Improving safety in the waste industry and recycling sector is also a growing agenda, as the latest HSE report (2022) unveiling statistics on fatalities and work-related injuries for the sector highlighted a need for continued efforts to improve safety performance. The average annual number of fatalities between 2017/18 and 2021/22 was five, and while this may seem low, the rate of 4.61 per 100,000 workers is 11 times the all-industry rate of 0.41.

Cruise said: “The statistics on fatalities do cover all aspects of waste management, not just plant, and will include deaths such as those arising from being struck by a vehicle, for instance. But with an average of 3,000 work-related injuries occurring each year and ill health cases standing at around 5,000 annually – ranging from musculoskeletal injuries to skin disorders and respiratory issues – it’s not difficult to understand the growing health and safety pressures on waste management plants.

“Navigating PPE requirements can be a real minefield, with new technologies, sustainable options and fit-for-purpose solutions such as women-specific or wider-ranging sized PPE emerging all the time. Using a specialist service that can perform site audits, and recommend the best options to suit the requirements, will give health and safety procurement professionals peace of mind that they’re buying the best options for worker safety, and for the environment, and be totally compliant with regulations,” he added.

Sustainability and the waste industry

As sustainability is another major challenge impacting the waste industry, using maintenance services that help to reduce operational costs can also aid sustainability goals. Less reactive maintenance means fewer tools, consumables, parts and PPE are needed, reducing waste as well as time and money. The demand for waste to be disposed of more sustainably is growing, and RS says the answer involves all aspects of waste management organisations, including operations, as much as materials processing.

Cruise concluded: “A range of challenges in a high-growth sector need to be tackled with the right approach. Managing plant and asset maintenance without a clear and holistic strategy or a specialist solutions provider won’t suffice in an industry that is growing at a rapid pace, is subject to rising costs and sustainability scrutiny, and involves complex safety regulations.”

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