Design for reliability: Long may your assets run

Everything you need to know (and do) to ensure success with asset installation – because asset management is everyone’s business.

By Marie Getsug, Commissioning Agents Inc., and Stephen Holland, Abbott Laboratories / Abbott Nutrition

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Your organization has a goal: Make new assets more reliable by design. To do that, you’re working to build reliability into the design and planning process so that operators, maintenance teams, and all other stakeholders get what they need from a given asset.

In January, we described how to create a request for proposal (RFP) that lays out precisely what you’re looking for from suppliers and exactly the type of partnership you expect from fellow internal stakeholder teams. (Read "Design for reliability, part 1: How to help OEMs help you") Now we turn to the next big questions: How do you get what you need from your vendor partner, and how do you establish the processes that will help you achieve a longer, more-productive life for your new assets?

Life cycle cost and maintenance strategy development

After the initial results of your RFP are secured, do the following to determine your lifecycle cost options and develop an appropriate maintenance strategy for the projects’ assets:

  • Perform lifecycle cost (LCC) analysis and use it as the basis for procurement activities. In so doing, you’ll encourage the procurement team to include reliable design features on their “must-have” list and discourage the team from making procurement decisions based solely on initial cost
  • Have your cross-functional project team complete a risk-based impact/asset criticality assessment to identify the most-critical assets from a product quality and reliability perspective
  • Based on the results of the asset criticality and impact assessment, develop a maintenance strategy that incorporates the cross-functional team’s insights on the asset’s operating context and sequence of operations as well as shared perspectives on failure modes
  • Create preventive, predictive, and corrective work plans to address failures when they do occur. As part of this, identify the tools and parts that will be necessary to put these plants into action (and make sure they’ll be readily available)

Training and documentation requirements

Core to your project’s success is providing the project teams with training regarding the benefits of front-end planning (FEP) and how to apply these tools with OEMs, suppliers, vendors, and contractors (see Figure 1).

Ensuring that required documentation and training are available in the required format is a frequently overlooked activity. Leveraging the automation already required on a new asset or system can provide a platform for documentation and training via work instructions and videos. Requesting this intellectual property early in the design and concept phase can identify those providers that have already established such a level of integration. In addition, making sure an expert trainer is provided to teach the content to the operators, technicians, integrators and engineers is invaluable. Often a qualification test in both a written and a practical format can ensure that the training is effective. Project managers tend to underestimate the importance of measuring and tracking results of training; this can lead to a lack of ownership by those operating and maintaining the equipment.

Improvements made by the OEM, supplier, vendor, or contractor after an asset has been purchased, installed, and commissioned often address repetitive failures that other facilities have experienced. As such, they should be written into the contract as documentation that will be provided in the future. The following language, or some facsimile of it, can be included in documentation and contractual/warranty requirements:

  • Buyer must be advised for the life of the asset when a publicly available modification is available to the design of equipment or systems installed within two weeks of the available modification
  • This includes the following examples:
  1. Changes to design out the failure modes of repeat failures in next-generation equipment
  2. Any system modifications or redesigns
  3. Providing all supporting documentation for the revised designs and solutions
  4. Identifying potential failure modes the new design may introduce and the recommended mitigation strategies

Commissioning and performance criteria

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