Amusement Park Preventive Maintenance Reduces Costs of Quality

Carowinds Amusement Park in North Carolina performs regular preventive maintenance on its trains and coaches during the off-season.

Maintaining safe rides is a key issue for amusement parks. The potentially high costs of breakdown, in terms of injury or loss of life, make avoiding them a top priority.  Despite this, however, breakdowns can still occur. When they do, the consequences can range from ride downtime to loss of reputation to injury or death for the riders.

Ride safety, however, is extremely high across the amusement park industry, largely due to preventive maintenance activities.

Video Spotlight:  

This post is based on the FOX News article, ‘Top Thrill 2’ roller coaster at Cedar Point closes indefinitely just days after long-awaited opening, by Christine Rousselle, May 14, 2024, and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: imac/Alamy Stock Photo

Discussion Questions:

1. How does Carowinds decide when to perform preventive maintenance?

Guidance: In general, there are several ways to decide when to do preventive maintenance.  One is based on the passage of time.  At Carowinds, when the park is closed in the off-season, a variety of maintenance activities are performed.  Trains are carefully removed from the tracks and taken back to the shop.  At this point, certain repairs or replacements of parts may take place every year.

Some needs for preventive maintenance are identified based on inspection.  At Carowinds, this could involve the appearance of the train or its mechanical soundness. For instance, a train may need to be repainted or to have a fiberglass repair. While this may seem primarily cosmetic, chipping paint or cracked fiberglass could negatively impact guest experience if not dealt with.

Some inspections look at the mechanical soundness of the trains, testing the condition of the train parts and identifying ones that need to be replaced.  Certain pieces are slated for non-destructive testing, including ultra-sonic testing and x-rays.

A third way to decide when to do preventive maintenance depends on actual usage.  As an example, for the wheels, the wheel coverings, and the bearings in the wheels, the frequency of maintenance is dependent on hours of operation.

2.  Who performs preventive maintenance on the trains?

Guidance: There are a number of options regarding who does preventive maintenance.  It could be the workers themselves, an in-house maintenance crew, outside repair people who come to the site, or off-site repair shops.

Carowinds maintains its own staff of repair people.  The narrator of the Behind-the-Scenes video is the Director of Maintenance and Construction.  Paint and fiberglass techs, who work on the trains or other ride elements like the horses from the merry-go-round, were specifically mentioned in the video.  Carowinds has a special shop on -site where train parts are taken for ultrasonic testing.  However, the x-ray testing that was mentioned is sent off-site to a company that performs the work with special equipment and technicians.

3. What is considered a “breakdown”?

Guidance: A breakdown can mean that a ride stops functioning entirely, as happened at a Wisconsin fair.  A roller coaster stalled, leaving passengers stranded upside-down on the ride for hours until they could be brought down.

However, a breakdown can also occur when a ride is performing in a substandard way or a way not intended.  An example of the latter happened on a ride at Ride Playland in New York. An electrical malfunction caused it to run backwards on its circular track with passengers on board for ten minutes before it could be stopped.  The emergency “stop” button also did not work, so maintenance workers had to unplug the ride to bring it to a halt.  Fortunately, no one was injured.

In another example, this time at the aforementioned Carowinds in North Carolina, a large crack in a roller coaster column was noticed by a guest.  The park said that it was a weld indication and that it “didn’t compromise the structural integrity or safety of the ride.”  Nevertheless, the ride was closed for further inspection, testing, and repair, constituting significant ride downtime.

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