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.”
ITT tracks the current asset state in order to manage future performance (Figure 3). “You need to have a good, sound asset management program that captures equipment condition information. If these conditions are not within the acceptable range, action must be taken to bring the equipment back to their optimum operating parameters,” explains Dabbs.
“We use vibration and temperature sensors to give us equipment condition information. The sensors are put onboard the equipment to monitor conditions for any deterioration, and the information is captured and integrated with the asset management system for action,” says Dabbs. “In addition, tablets and smartphones are being used to enter and track equipment information and actions when we do reliability improvements, energy services, or field service, and track asset movement. Our personnel in the field can scan bar codes on the equipment and pull up the equipment history information, specifications, pump curves, and the instructions for installation, operations, and maintenance,” he adds.
“There was a situation where a client in the field was trying to assemble a pump, but it would not line up. They were able to scan the bar code and pull up the maintenance manual, where they found the procedure to set the clearance on the impeller. This allowed the pump to go together a lot more efficiently. They saved quite a bit of downtime by being able to access the information from the field,” says Dabbs.
Dow has taken a multi-faceted approach to achieving world-class asset management and enterprise-wide reliability, says Sampson. “It really all starts with IT. The information has got to be present, accessible, and of the quality necessary to make effective decisions. Our information systems allow broad collaborative connectivity across all organizational levels, from the front-line field operator to the CEO concerned about global performance against forecasts,” he says.
“Dow is in the process of implementing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system along with a globally connected manufacturing reporting system that allows the company to monitor the value chain’s reliability in near real-time — from order through invoice. Advanced enterprise analytics provide the ability to analyze any point of the value chain, enabling Dow to minimize customer impacts when unplanned events do occur, such as by shortening or altering the supply chain,” adds Sampson.
Utilities are increasingly relying on a smart grid infrastructure, says UAI’s Smith. “The two-way communications infrastructure across the utility’s distribution system helps to mitigate maintenance surprises. With increased intelligence on specific assets via sensor and smart meter data, the utility industry is moving toward changing out the equipment before it fails,” says Smith.
“For example, sensors can be installed on specific pieces of equipment or on distribution lines and send data back to a central computer. Software provides the data management and algorithm capabilities that enable the utility’s staff and management to interpret what is happening with the equipment and to design asset management programs based on these algorithms. And robust, highly scalable servers are being configured specifically for high-speed, complex computing on a large scale, which will enable many of these advanced analytics applications,” explains Smith.
The strategy pays dividends. “A classic example is a large investor-owned utility on the East Coast that demonstrated major savings in a transformer loading pilot project. Factoring in variables like crew time and oil spill clean-up costs, the utility’s management sees the potential to save literally millions of dollars each year, not to mention the reliability and safety improvements,” says Smith.
The importance of industry standards
Reliability best practices are documented in asset management and reporting standards, such as the current British standard PAS 55, emerging international standard ISO 55000, and the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Framework. Adhering to such guidelines heightens awareness of and accountability for optimizing performance and reliability.
Genzyme’s Morris is the vice chairman, U.S. delegation for the development of ISO 55000, which is based on PAS 55. “The standard puts a structure in place for the sustainability of asset management programs. You embed a lot of the processes in your operations so that the program will survive if momentum is lost or the champion leaves,” explains Morris. “It isn’t about a person; it’s more about building a process in your operation to have that sustainability. Everyone must be involved in making it work, including operations, maintenance, finance, quality, lean, purchasing, project management, and others.”
ISO 55000 is the education component. “It teaches you to treat your assets like you’d want things that you own to be treated. It explains in positive terms the value of using an asset management system to achieve organizational objectives,” says Morris. ISO 55001 provides a game plan for establishing structure and sustainability, and ISO 55002 provides the guidelines for implementing 55001. The series is expected to be published in February 2014.
Sustainability Reporting assures a company’s employees, investors, consumers and other stakeholders that steps are being taken to avoid surprises from an environmental, social, economic, and governance perspective. “Equipment-related issues and human-error-related issues are all being targeted and reported in our annual and quarterly sustainability reports,” says Dow’s Sampson. "We take a holistic view of this and believe that all employees working on our site deserve to be able to work safely."
The results at Dow EHS have been impressive. It reduced the rate of injury and illnesses per 200,000 hours of work time by more than 80%, says Sampson. “Dow’s 2015 goal is to achieve an average of 75% improvement of key indicators for EHS operations from its 2005 baseline. These indicators include personal injury or illness of Dow employees and contractors, loss of primary containment incidents, process safety, severe motor vehicle accidents, emissions, and transportation-related incidents. We are well on our way to achieving these goals and in some areas are actually exceeding our goals. Excellent progress is being made as Dow workers are now 15 times less likely to experience an injury or illness when comparing to the U.S. manufacturing rate reported in 2010,” adds Sampson.
Recommendations from the pros
To asset owners and operators aiming to avoid surprises, ITT’s Dabbs suggests capturing all the data about your equipment and using it to determine what actions will be necessary to prevent failures. “If you send your equipment out to third parties for repair but don’t capture any of the failure data found, then you’ll never have the capability to take advantage of it,” says Dabbs. “When ITT repairs client equipment, we try to provide that failure data in report form and also as input for the asset management system.”
|Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.|
Capturing work processes is equally important. “The best way to deal with an aging workforce is to solicit the way things need to be done from your workers and capture those best practices in your electronic work library so that they can be shared with everyone instead of kept in a book or in someone’s head,” suggests Dabbs.
Genzyme’s Morris recommends planning, monitoring, and especially listening to your assets. “Reactive maintenance doesn’t do anything for anybody except increase stress levels and costs. Shift more to predictive processes and listen to your assets,” he encourages. “An asset management approach doesn’t happen overnight; it takes perseverance, but ultimately the perseverance will pay off.”
For utilities with a smart grid infrastructure, UAI’s Smith suggests: “Be sure to look at this as operational infrastructure that can redefine your established asset and maintenance practices. In most cases, this will require investing in additional technology — sensors and analytics software, for instance — but the business case is there to transform transmission and distribution operations and maintenance.”
Besides ERP systems, data connectivity, and value chain analysis, Dow’s Sampson believes there are a few softer components that ultimately enable success. The first is knowledge. “A company must invest sufficient time to grow expertise internally, preferably at a learning institution. Understand the value chain’s weak spots so you can implement mitigation plans. Turn data to information through analytics so that you can make efficient and rapid decisions and be more effective at problem-solving,” he recommends.
Figure 4. Dow tries to instill in each employee the importance of building knowledge, gaining expertise, following established processes, and making great decisions. (Source: Dow Chemical)
The second is to establish processes that allow disciplines to be followed consistently. “Invest in knowledge management systems to ensure that work practices are tailored for the local culture and regulations,” suggests Sampson.
Finally, understand the behavioral link. “Downtime, safety incidents, and maintenance surprises are not just functions of investment. You can’t fool-proof every process; ultimately a human being has to interface with the machines and tools and make decisions,” explains Sampson. “We try to instill in each employee the importance of building knowledge, gaining expertise, following established processes, and making great decisions. We empower our employees and contract partners, as well, to drive continuous improvement and minimize unplanned events, by both anticipating their likelihood of occurrence and developing the appropriate containment strategies that build organizational resilience,” adds Sampson (Figure 4).