3 steps to evaluate your plant improvement idea

July 29, 2021
You don’t need to quantify everything — but if you can’t clearly explain something it’s probably not justified.

Most process plants runs for months or years between unit shutdowns. This leaves few opportunities to repair, modify or upgrade existing equipment. At some level, plant personnel should view every equipment intervention as an improvement opportunity. Indeed, some of the best-known reliability engineers consider that approach as a best-practice methodology for continuous plant improvement. Nevertheless, one intractable problem often arises — how to pay for the modifications and from whose budget? This applies to modifications included as part of normal maintenance activities as well as for capital project spending.

Finances often depend on the answer to a crucial question. Is the work part of the minimum requirements for getting project tasks done or an extra effort to improve things?

Anything necessary to meet minimum requirements should get straightforward approval. However, other items require justification and sometimes may generate heated debate. Adding an individual improvement may incur a low incremental cost but the cumulative effect of multiple ones can sink a project. Moreover, developing the reputation as someone who always promotes “pet” modifications to projects can undermine your credibility when you say that including something truly is essential. Conversely, making improvements to equipment and the process are the only ways the plant ever will improve. Waiting two, three or more years until the next opportunity occurs may prove short-sighted both operationally and financially.

To learn more, read "Maintenance: Properly Pitch Improvement Ideas" from Chemical Processing.

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