Maintenance Management of UK's First Artificial Surf Lake

Episode 5

Maintenance Management Podcast


About this episode

Michael Lewis, Maintenance Manager at The Wave (which is the UK's First Artificial Lake) offers insight on why condition monitoring is important and how to build an impactful maintenance culture. 


INTRO: Downtime, spreadsheets, technician problems, communications problems, maintenance management, maintenance budget, predictive maintenance, reactive maintenance, CMMS Software.

Matt:[00:00:31] Hi everybody. And welcome back to the Comparesoft podcast. My name is Matt Cook and I am your host. And today we’ve got our special guest Michael Lewis from The Wave. Michael started his career as an instrumentation engineer at RWEgeneration, got promoted to become materials handling technician, had a great career at RWE for nine years, and during the same time he also completed his bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of South Wales. He then became a maintenance manager at NSS and is now maintenance manager at The Wave. And The Wave is a place where you can surf anytime in the year, but we’ll go into that a little bit later on.

So, Michael, how’s it going? How are you? Has COVID affected the business? Obviously it is somewhere where you need people to be visiting for such a business, a leisure business. So how’s everything been going?

Michael: [00:01:42] Yeah, I’m really good. Thank you. Yes, it has affected us a great deal. As you can imagine, a surf league really does need strong summers, so we need a strong finish for sure.

Matt: [00:01:52] Could you tell us a little bit about what you do then at The Wave, how you’reinvolved in the business and what exactly you do there?

Michael: [00:02:00] Yeah, so I’m the maintenance manager at The Wave. I’ve worked here about 18months now. So I’ve seen it through the build stage and into opening. I’m in charge of new Wave machine and in general, facilities run site. So it involves heavily around the uptime of the machine and the general upkeep of the supporting infrastructure. It’s really good on my behalf because it’s got a heavy amount of condition-based monitoring based around it. So it’s easy to analyze and stay on top of and present touch where we have another go down electrically or mechanically. We had a few software glitches to start with, but since then we’ve been really solid.

Matt: [00:02:43] And obviously, I mean, it’s a massive piece of equipment. I haven’t been there myself, but judging from the photos, I mean, it’s a Lake. It’s huge. It’s not like one of these old school wave machines that we’ve seen on like a yacht or something that. It’s like a real Lake. It looks like a Lake like it’s quite incredible.

Michael: [00:03:06] So we bought a section of washing pool farm and used to come to in Breslin, turned it into a Lake. Yes, you’re right. It’s got occupancy of around 70people, 25 millilitres of water. Yeah, it’s really big and all that is poured from fresh tap water as well. It’s not from a river. So yeah, it is quite the engineering project.

Matt: [00:03:30] Yeah, sure. Incredible stuff. And so how would you set than a good maintenance culture?

Michael: Yeah, so from The Wave’s point of view, I find it quite easy because I literally established the first maintenance team. But in general, if you were going to go into a new place, it is first really important to get the buy-in from senior management. It’s really important how they see maintenance and how especially they see the maintenance budgets. So for example, typical running costs for a business, five to 10% of that should be spent on maintenance. And I think it’s really important to understand why. And again, it’s not just the investment they make into maintenance in their plant, it’s their attitude towards maintenance. And so like Mike Tyson says everyone has got a plan till they get hit in the face. What happens when the plant falls down? Are you actually given the correct amount of time to properly repair equipment or are you encouraged to get it working as soon as possible? Because there can be a large difference between the two and you’d know you can get it back running faster initially. It made me a detriment in the long run.

So once you get the buy-in from there, you’re able to sort of run with it then, so you’ll have to measure the current business is and see if you can take it on. So the maintenance pyramid is the absolute base of the pyramid is reactive maintenance. If you’re purely reactive, you’re definitely failing as a maintenance department. The next step of above preventative maintenance, then condition-based, then productive, and the top of the pyramid is proactive maintenance.

The more time you spend on everything apart from reactive maintenance, the better. So I believe if 15 to 30% of your, or if you’re in the bracket of 15 to 30% reactive maintenance, you are considered world-class, but it is definitely important to set achievable goals in terms of more short term success and then sort of move on from there. And it’s really important to see the measure where you are, develop a plan, implement and then measure again to see where you have got to is acyclic processes as opposed to linear and constantly strives to move further up the pyramid.

On top of that then, a full support structure around me and then most focus on the maintenance technician or the maintenance staff spend as much of their practical time maintaining the equipment. So you must remove or streamline the other processes.

So for example, the supervisors should already have the work plans. The large portion of their day should be spent on tomorrow and further. The workshop must be conducive of an efficient, proactive environment. That must be clean. It must be safe. The tools must be labelled up and put in the right places. Same with the stores. It’s like New York in the ’80s where they went on a broken window theory. So if you’re in a bad environment, it’s more likely to produce bad results is probably the best way of putting it. Until you get the absolute foundations in place and everyone’s clear on their goals, yeah, that’s the basis of a good culture of maintenance in my opinion.

Matt: [00:07:03] Okay, yeah. It makes absolute sense. And so moving on from that, how would you go about planning maintenance activities then?

Michael: [00:07:10] Okay. Yeah. So it’s really important, especially initially. And if you’re in a company that has a heavy portion of reactive maintenance that your maintenance time is spent wisely. So for example, a lot of the work has got to be really data-driven and focused on the big-ticket items, meaning what takes up most of the maintenance team’s time? What is causing the most down for them in the plant? And what are the quick wins? What are you able to get working fastest? And without data, it’s really going to slow down or make your work less efficient. So for example, if it’s again, safety and production problems, your hands are sort of tied and you must hit those first. So you may have to go about hiring additional hands or moving the structure to overload when shifts, so you have enough people to carry on preventative work. But it should all be around completing effective PMs.

Matt: [00:08:12] So how do you go about implementing an effective maintenance plan then?

Michael: [00:08:18] So again, what I really focused on in previous companies was condition-based monitoring. Condition-based monitoring can provide you with really good vibration and temperature analysis typically to show a machine’s performance, even though it hasn’t failed, it can show it’s failing, and this can be used in a few ways. You can maintain the machine, monitor again, and you can actively see the improvement you’ve made, and you can start to build up a scope of how often that machine actually needs maintaining because over maintenance can also affect the team as it takes a lot of time away from other areas which may need it. So if all maintenance needs arise at once, there’s all sort of cost and a time waste. So yeah, also a really effective tool to show what maintenance is actually doing.

So if you’re performing preventative maintenance, the machine won’t break down, but it’s hard to show that. So with actual data, the smoothing of vibrations or the levelling off of hotspots and temperatures on the equipment, you’re able to prove and show the benefits to your department.

Matt:[00:09:36] And so moving on slightly from that, do you think software tools are useful for managing said maintenance activities?

Michael: [00:09:43] Absolutely, yes. My team spent a lot of time previously. I’m currently finding the right software for our business. And I think if you really think about drastically reducing downtime, they’re essential these days. They are really good at tying in between condition-based monitoring equipment and life preventative maintenance schedules. It’s obviously more effective to run a maintenance schedule based around machine running times than actual calendar times. Yeah, for obvious reasons. But yeah, it really helps see over longer periods, the amount of reactive maintenance going down and decreasing as a proportion of your work, which will then be found in some production with an increased uptime.

Matt: [00:10:48] So what’s your take on using spreadsheets then for maintenance management and is that a good or a bad thing? What would be your advice on that or what you’ve seen people doing?

Michael: [00:10:59] Yeah, so I’ve used spreadsheets heavily in the past. If you can get the equations right, and if you can get all the data input into them, they can be useful. And they have been useful in the past, but they are very good. Well, they’re very good as a stop-gap between getting bespoke software and they were useful in tying two different software packages together, but there’s definitely a lot more clunky and a lot slower than it needs to be. And it’s the same as the software package is only as useful as the data you put into it, but for a spreadsheet a lot more time and a lot more effort to put the data into it. And with the modern maintenance software packages, that data like rescheduling and the current condition of the machine is automatically put in, which makes your job infinitely easier.

Matt: [00:11:52] So much easier. So how do you use a maintenance strategy as a competitive advantage?

Michael: [00:11:59] Yeah, that’s a really good question. To me, this is often I feel overlooked or seen at least as a necessary evil, but companies in the past have really, really focused on it and doubled down like Toyota to really reduce downtime, to increase quality. Once you get a plant running reliably and consistently the obvious knock-on effect then is cheaper and lower production costs as well as increased quality in whatever you’re producing. So, yeah, I think it’s really essential because maintenance downtime can really hit business bottom line hard. So it’s what they are avoiding rather than what are they actively doing. They are avoiding the downtime and ensuring that finds that time.

Matt: [00:12:53] Okay. That’s fascinating. So what are your top three tips then on effective maintenance for our listeners?

Michael: So the foundation of a modern maintenance department needs to be solid data. If you’re not getting solid data, you can’t be 100% sure of your outcomes. You need to be implementing effective, maintenance strategies in the right areas at the right time, especially in today’s climate, where everything is run, maybe with lower mining and especially lower costs. You really need to be focusing on the absolutely essential. So the bedrock needs to be solid data for your maintenance file even in terms of PMs completed, a percentage PMs completed, you must be keeping track of that. Preventative versus reactive. You should beat at least completing one preventative to one reactive job even that ratio is incredibly high. It needs to be heavily weighted towards preventative maintenance.

And with that data comes to the second point, which is helping convince a senior manager that you’re spending their money wisely. So if you can prove the plant is improving, or if you can physically show risk on condition-based monitoring systems where the equipment is getting better, they’re more likely to not to get your budget, because maintenance is typically only seen twice, once when it goes wrong and the other time when the accountant needs to make cuts.

Thirdly, I think it’s really important to see, especially when you go into a business, you’re very, very proactive. And as you mentioned, you’re looking at the culture, it’s really important to hit continuous improvements. And that to me involves moving up the pyramid of maintenance. So you need to be looking at the next level and what you need to achieve it. So reactive to preventative to a condition-based to predictive to proactive. The last two require heavy investment but just through good data and a solid team, you can easily get to a condition-based. I think that’s absolutely essential.

Matt: [00:15:07] And so wrapping up into our final question, what’s your favourite saying or quote on maintenance?

Michael: [00:15:17] Yeah, so I put up a thought, it’s this one. So if any of your maintenance staff say the quote, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, you’ve got to get rid of them because they clearly don’t know what maintenance is about. It’s really old fashioned. It’s got to go.

Matt: [00:15:34] Okay. That’s great. And so why don’t you tell us a little bit more about the wave then, because we haven’t spoken about that much. We said in the intro, we talk a little bit more about that. It looks incredible. It’s a surfing Lake. That’s all I know about it. I mean, how does this work? I mean, it’s a massive piece of water. How does it work? What is it? I mean, could you tell us a little bit more about that?

Michael: [00:15:55] Yeah. So The Wave uses, the latest Wave garden technology is the most advanced wave pool in the world, whereas traditionally, typical wave pools. Well have some way of impacting the water and you are at the lump of water that flows out of it. The waving technology where it’s only become possible in the last 10 years because computers are now powerful enough to model more simulations. So it’s capable of producing around 15 different kinds of waves going from really slow, gentle beginning waves up to full barrels. Twenty-five million litre pool in the middle of a farming in Bristol and it’s still your only one Northern hemisphere that is open to the public. There’s another one in Melbourne. And yeah, it really helps, well, massively improves your surf if you’re into that sort of thing. And we have inquiries quite often about professional surfers and professional teams would want them to come and train them there.

Matt: [00:17:02] And what about yourself? Are you a pro yet? I mean how many times have you got up on the board?

Michael: [00:17:08] That is a better question it is because I count them on one hand. I have a few go, you need to fast shutter to catch me stood up on the board and there’s some really, really good coaches down there. The waves that come out are perfectly consistent, so I’ve literally got no excuse for why I’m going tumbling on the water.

Matt: [00:17:26] Well, it’s a lot harder than it looks, right?

Michael: [00:17:30] The power of the wave is surprising because you obviously go from a standing start and then there’s this in the sea where I used to surf down, Porthcawl in south wales. I go in when the waves are quite little, so it barely carry you with this and you really feel it pushing you down there.

Matt: [00:17:49] And is it popular? How many sort of people do you get down there on a typical day, on a typical weekend or something like that or in the holidays?

Michael: [00:17:56] Oh yeah, we look to accommodate. I think in one given session, we can have about 60, 70 people in the pool every hour. It’s sort of, you come down for the whole experience. So you can come down, there’s plenty of cafes and restaurants down there. What’s quite unique about The Wave is if you typically are into surfing and especially as a spectator, you typically see a surfer 50 to 100meters away. So you can’t really see them catch a wave. Whereas we’ve got varying platforms and allocations bars, you can get right up to within three, four meters of some of the best surfers the Southwest has to offer to really see how they’re doing which I’m heavily taking notes, but I’m still at that stage.

Matt: [00:18:44] Well, that sounds absolutely fantastic. Well, thanks very much for being on the show. Really appreciate your wisdom now and some of the fantastic points that you’ve put across.

Michael: [00:18:54] Yes. Thanks for having me on. Thank you very much.

Matt:[00:18:56] No problem. And thanks again to the listeners. We will see you again very soon. We hope that this has been informative for you and I look forward to seeing you again soon. Ciao.

OUTRO: This podcast is presented by Comparesoft. We recommend CMMS and asset management software. 1500 maintenance experts from GE, Siemens, Transport for London and numerous small and medium Businesses have used Comparesoft to shortlist and compare CMMS and asset management software. Visit to shortlist the best CMMS software for your needs.