Part 2. How to prepare and use the forms
By Ed Butts, PE
We kicked off a two-part series on a water well and pump maintenance program and how to set one up in July’s Water Well Journal. This month, we will conclude this series with how to prepare and use the forms.
Preparing the Master Forms
To fully evaluate the feasibility and cost of a preventive maintenance program, it is important to first establish the program’s parameters and limits. This means you first need to decide how much advance system information you should provide to the technician.
I found the technician should be given the information needed to perform the required maintenance and to determine if the system was running just right or too far outside the design boundaries. At the same time, I also believed too much or too little information could be just as harmful—leading to unnecessary, unproductive, and unbillable time spent developing and expressing to the client theories not plausible or not in the technician’s job description.
As shown in July’s WWJ column, we finally settled on the use of Master Form 1 (republished again as Figure 1) for wells and well pumps; Master Form 2 (Figure 2) for booster pump stations with one up to four units; and Master Form 3 (Figure 3) to describe the various drivers used for the units outlined in Forms 1 or 2. Master Form 3 was specifically developed to match the well or booster pump data on Forms 1 or 2 for a single well and pump up to four booster units at a single site.
Deciding what to include or exclude on the master forms is largely a matter of personal preference. Although I would suggest even though you may wish to include the design COS (Conditions of Service) for each pump, other specific design criteria—such as capacity and head calculations—should not be included on the master forms. This not only takes up space on the forms better used for data, but also creates the real possibility of field personnel making ill-informed opinions to the client that you may have to retract later.
Generally, the information contained on the master forms remained and were updated in the office after each inspection from data filled in on the Field Data Form (Figure 4) but were often distributed to field personnel as background information on an as-needed basis. Each of these four forms can be developed and include the information required by your individual firm and region.
Developing the Field Data Form, however, requires you to decide how much onsite field work should be performed each visit, determine the average amount of time required for each task, and then add a factor for data collection, documentation, and travel (usually invoiced for a two-way trip).
Some tasks, such as visual observation of lubrication levels and packing leakage or static water levels, may require no more than two or three minutes each to conduct.
Other tasks—especially those requiring substantial time to generate and reach stabilized operating parameters, as with pumping water levels, or sufficient time to generate maximum operational (running) temperatures, particularly a motor, motor starter, load terminals, or circuit breaker/fuses—may require a much longer and non-uniform period to reach individual operating temperatures.
The key is to first identify those specific parameters you feel should be examined during each or every other inspection and those not as important. Although the information shown in Figure 4 can provide a basic guide, it is also just one person’s idea as to what is important.
Since I would never presume to tell another water system firm what to include or exclude in their market area, I will also not make any specific recommendations as to what to examine in your preventive maintenance (PM) program. However, whatever you select, I recommend you invest the first month or two in a trial program to verify the scope and validity of the selected parameters and to determine the total billable time required for the typical unit.
To determine the total cost for each PM visit, you should include or consider separate time or cost elements for a proportional cost factor for equipment rental, use, depreciation, retrieval, and setup.
Typical equipment rental factors consist of a service truck (cost and
depreciation) and fuel; hand tools; water level measuring device (probe, air compressor for airline, transmitter, etc.); calibrated pressure gauges; flow measuring device (if not already present); and electrical test meters.
Labor and incidental costs can include lockout/tagout procedures and system shutdown (if already running); initial or static inspection along with the static maintenance procedures; consumables (packing, oil and/or grease for bearings); operating inspection (including adding time for operating temperatures to rise and pumping levels to stabilize); conduct readings and record data; system restoration and reactivation; retrieve and collect equipment and tools and return to service vehicle; cleanup, travel, and the always dreaded paperwork. Not every PM visit will require invoicing for every separate time or cost factor listed above.
Another simple way to ensure covering the technician’s time, plus an adequate return on investment without overcharging a client, is to develop a cost rate for the “Base Inspection,” along with billing extra per-hour rates that include individual charges for tasks or items not required for each inspection, such as flow or water level measurements or use and setup of other devices (where none are present), calibrated gauges, or consumables such as packing, oil, or grease.
For what it’s worth, after a three-month initial trial period we eventually arrived at a typical average total time for our PM program around 1.88 hours for a single well or pump installation to an average of 1.66 hours per unit for multiple pumps at one site. This generally resulted in a billing time averaging about 2 to 3 hours for a single
well/pump facility up to 6.5 to 8 hours for a four-pump booster or well pump station.
Field Data Form
An effective PM program is built on developing a database of past performance and operating conditions along with a trigger to identify any errant operational conditions to provide advance notice to the client of impending failure or those issues requiring immediate attention.
Our program was established and functioned with these goals in mind as the primary objective, along with a specific set of criteria to provide a reasonable uniformity of cost expectations to clients. For those who wish to receive some general guidelines as to what parameters to look for when establishing a PM program, I offer the following.
Referring to Figure 4, starting at the top and working down:
Introduction and Header: The header includes the typical information you would expect on a form of this type such as client name, facility location and address, technician’s name, date along with time work started and stopped, and other information specific to the tasks.
a—Initial Pre-Inspection: The area for the pre-inspection includes the work normally conducted while the unit is disabled. This is more important than may be apparent since performing the pre-inspection and system examination is generally conducted immediately upon arrival and up to one to two days following advance notification to the client of an impending visit.
This usually provides enough notice to permit operational transfer to other facilities, followed by an orderly shutdown of the well/pump station and recovery of a well to static conditions and cooling of motors and other electrical equipment.
b—Locked Out/Tagged Out: As far as safety is concerned, this step may be the most important. By listing this step as an individual procedure, the technician is expected not only to verify the unit is off, but implement the appropriate “lockout/tagout” procedures before beginning any work potentially harmful to the technician.
c—Operational Inspection: After all elements of the pre-inspection have been completed, the operational inspection is conducted. Once again, this not only permits a progressive and orderly examination of the plant in a safe environment, but ensures the prior lockout/tagout procedures have been removed and the unit has been restored to a functional status, which tends to remove any likelihood of forgetting to reactivate the unit.
d—Operating/Pumping Data: Obtaining the data in this category is generally a matter of obtaining readings once the unit is operating and all well or pump operating conditions have stabilized. This is critical for obtaining measurements such as pumping water levels and operating temperatures of motors and related electrical components.
Typically, adding the observed pumping water level lift (in feet) with the operating head for wells or the net difference between the suction (inlet) and discharge head for booster pumps (again, in feet) provides a close approximation of the total dynamic head.
Lastly, space has been provided at the bottom of the pumping data to indicate whether a water sample has been taken or not. This is critical for a water well since the position and time pumped shown in this question is both intentional and critical for the indicated time must be adequate to provide sufficient “purging” of the well to occur or at least two full raw volume exchanges of water within the wellbore.
Generally for most wells, this required an operational period of only 5 to 15 minutes. Coincidentally, this is also the minimum amount of time needed for most electrical components to elevate to desired operating temperatures. This is believed important to ensure a water quality sample extracted from the well represents an actual sample of fresh and unadulterated water from the aquifer and is not a sample that has spent excessive residence time within the wellbore.
Due to factors surrounding possible oxygenation, sedimentation, and precipitation, the results obtained from a water sample that has been exposed to significant time and the accompanying environmental factors occurring in a typical wellbore may easily distort or negate test results. This becomes particularly important when obtaining water samples to evaluate possible causes of well issues or the optimum well rehabilitation chemicals and procedures to use for a given well and was always an established element of the protocol whenever obtaining raw water samples from pumping wells.
e—Electrical Data: The data obtained for electrical readings is a function related to the type of system and whether power readings can be obtained from onsite watthour, clamp/clip-on types of power meters, or derived from the known horsepower relationship that exists between power factor, voltage, and amperage. In either case, determining the associated water and input horsepower, and thus the plant efficiency, is simply a matter of conducting accurate observations of various operating parameters and employing a few fundamental equations.
Whether these calculations are performed in the field or later in the office, following this type of test procedure on every visit ensures a uniform set of criteria is used for each inspection. This goes a long way toward ensuring accurate and meaningful data is collected for each unit and for each site visit. This provides the ability to determine and track unit and system performance and efficiency over a long span of time.
Finally, the bottom of Master Form 1, Master Form 2, and the Field Data Form provides space for comments and red flags. Red flags are emphasized to indicate situations representing an immediate or short-term condition that may present a risk to equipment or personnel.
The intent is all red flags will be documented by the field technician and transferred and recorded to the appropriate master form for notification to the client to determine any desired further action.
A second Field Data Form (Figure 5) has been added as a guide for those also charged with routine service and maintenance of diesel or gasoline engines used as primary, backup, or emergency sources of power. Again, the information and data important to your firm can be customized on the form.
Using PM Data to Determine Need for Possible Well or Pump Rehabilitation
If a PM program is properly developed and conducted, with emphasis on a sufficient but not excessive interval of inspection, the capability of using a program to help gauge the need for a well or pump rehabilitation is significant.
By testing and recording various static and operational well parameters—such as static and pumping water levels and flow rates—potentially important well conditions like loss of specific capacity or yield can be determined and tracked.
This data, when tracked carefully over time and during a uniform time of year, can assist in determining critical well operational factors, including drawdown and recovery rates which may indicate a trend or potential need for an immediate or scheduled well rehabilitation or service.
If conducted properly and at appropriate intervals, performing routine preventive maintenance on a water well pumping plant can identify potential or minor well problems before they develop into a major headache.
In addition to the PM elements themselves, an effective program on a well installation will also track water quality issues and the potential for well plugging, especially for biological or mineral incrusting material. Obtaining a water sample during the test procedure and having it analyzed for the water quality parameters common to biological and mineral growth can assist in scheduling needed well maintenance as well as pump repair.
The use of pumping plant performance, whether in a well or booster application, can also be used for tracking loss of pump performance, increased load vs. theoretical horsepower (decreased overall efficiency), and other conditions which may lead to a catastrophic and sudden failure.
In many cases—often due to simple ignorance, personnel overload, or time constraints—operating personnel may not be familiar with or recognize the need to conduct routine maintenance on pumping equipment.
This not only creates a situation where the equipment is neglected and doesn’t receive regular or scheduled maintenance, but also a condition where an early warning or advanced indication of impending failure may be offset and prevented by a few simple repairs.
This is particularly true for hidden types of deep well pumps, such as vertical turbine or submersible pumps. These factors are in addition to the real benefits gained from implementing a PM program with the basic goal to provide an enhanced and scheduled maintenance and check on the condition of the well, pump, or driver.
In addition to the data forms, other firms may wish to set up forms for evaluating and servicing other equipment and components used in water systems, such as control valves, filtration systems, and control systems.
This concludes the short series on establishing a preventive maintenance program. I hope you can use some of the information I have provided as a guide or outline for your own program.
Until next time, work safe and smart.
Ed Butts, PE, CPI, is the chief engineer at 4B Engineering & Consulting, Salem, Oregon. He has more than 40 years of experience in the water well business, specializing in engineering and business management. He can be reached at email@example.com.