When the unexpected occurs in plant or facility assets, there’s no hiding the consequences. No asset owner wants to be subject to surprises, whether it’s downtime-induced production losses that impact revenues and customer satisfaction or an asset failure with environmental, health, and safety (EHS) repercussions.
Strategies for gaining and sustaining asset reliability are rooted in software, technology, corporate policies, and best business practices. Companies like Genzyme, ITT, and Dow Chemical are finding success in their efforts to thwart asset management surprises, and some unique solutions are available to utilities, as well.
Strategies for predictability
Figure 1. "Dow’s vision for asset management is to have 'zero unplanned events that impact stakeholder commitments.'" (Source: Dow Chemical)
There is a growing understanding of the importance of reliability throughout the value chain (Figure 1). “Dow’s vision for asset management is to have ‘zero unplanned events that impact stakeholder commitments.’ With this approach, we ensure that our organization is aligned to reliably deliver on our commitments to our customers, communities, and employees,” says John Sampson, vice president of EH&S operations at Dow Chemical.
“It is a shift from traditional asset-only management to looking holistically at the reliability of the entire value chain. Dow recognizes that our focus leads to an enhanced customer experience, which allows greater share and margin and, ultimately, higher shareholder return,” adds Sampson.
The impact of asset reliability on the predictability of supply for manufacturers and utilities is well-known. “It’s a problem if there is no predictability or dependability of processes,” says Scott Morris, associate director of global engineering and asset management for Genzyme, a Sanofi Company. "That would be a huge issue."
Cost control is an additional concern. “Organizations need to produce at the lowest cost that they can, but recapitalization is going to be an issue going forward, particularly where equipment is showing signs of aging,” says Morris. “It is in everybody’s best interest to smooth out the recapitalization over a longer period of time by strategically extending equipment life, so that you won’t have as many spikes in capital expenditures.”
As an equipment manufacturer and service provider, ITT’s asset management practices impact both internal and client operations. “A no-surprises approach to asset management is essential to optimize equipment life, as well as production throughput,” says Tom Dabbs, asset management program manager for ITT. Dabbs promotes reliability-centered maintenance practices within ITT’s manufacturing operations and also at client sites (Figure 2).
Figure 2. "A no-surprises approach to asset management is essential to optimize equipment life as well as production throughput." (Source: ITT)
Figure 3. "You need to have a good, sound asset management program that captures equipment condition information." (Source: ITT)
Utilities have unique concerns. “The U.S. utility infrastructure is decades old,” says Mike Smith, vice president, Utility Analytics Institute (UAI). Not only is this a risk to service reliability, but it poses a hazard, as well. “Failing equipment creates a very real safety challenge for utilities and their customers. Exploding infrastructure — be it underground, on the ground, or pole-mounted — is an unfortunate and increasingly rare occurrence for utilities, but these incidents still happen.”
Utilities are changing the paradigm from run-to-failure to predictive asset management, says Smith. “Predictive maintenance (PdM) practices ensure that the utility will receive the maximum useful life from an asset while not degrading reliability due to equipment and asset failures. Sound business models are being developed that will make the run-to-failure model obsolete, perhaps sooner than we might think,” he explains.
Tools and tactics to assure reliability
Broadening the responsibility for asset management is an emerging trend. “Many organizations have gone through and implemented reliability and PdM programs throughout their facilities, but we now need to shift to more of an asset management approach," says Genzyme's Morris. "This should not be done just by the maintenance groups. You need to involve the operations and lean groups to try to get more traction.
“By shifting to an asset management approach, I believe that we’re going to prevent problems because we’ll have more awareness of the totality of asset management and its effects, rather than just the maintenance aspect,” explains Morris. “It’s more holistic; the more people who are looking out for our assets, the better off we’ll all be. That’s our ultimate goal.”