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Major asset life cycles can be managed effectively with configuration management

June 24, 2003
Configuration management helps users effectively manage the life cycles of major assets.

American industry spends more than a trillion dollars annually maintaining its plants and facilities. At least 50 percent, $500 billion, of this expense is caused by breakdowns, partial loss of function, frequent rebuilds and other reliability-related problems. Statistically speaking, at least 85 percent of reliability problems, asset use and escalating life cycle cost problems are directly attributable to deficiencies in, or total lack of, enforced configuration management.

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What is it?

Configuration management is the methodology of managing the life cycle of major assets in the plant or facility effectively. It prohibits any change of the asset's form, fit and function without a thorough, logical process that considers the impact proposed changes have on life cycle cost. Based on traditional life cycle management concepts, it also governs the development of strategic and tactical plans that optimize the facility's useful life. The six components are shown in Figure 1 and detailed below.

Strategy for making changes

Program management includes the management plan, definition of the critical assets that comprise the facility, definition of interfaces, databases and procedures needed to support a life-of-facility management program.

Design requirements establishes the design requirements, system and process boundaries, specific asset or equipment lists and engineering design criteria that must be maintained for the facility. The configuration management procedure defines clearly how each step of the design or engineering change process is to be performed.

Document controlis a key requirement of effective configuration management. This component identifies documents that must be saved, their storage and retrieval requirements and the controls and tracking requirements needed to support effective life cycle asset management. In a facility with effective configuration management, nothing can be done without proper documentation. Flying by the seat of your pants is simply not permitted.

Change control relates to developing and implementing a standard procedure to control configuration changes. The procedure provides a specific methodology to identify, evaluate, manage, implement and document changes. Engineering change management is a subset of configuration management. It focuses on effective management of the plant's individual component assets and governs the process that changes the asset's form, fit and function.

Assessmentson a periodic basis quantify the condition of the plant and its assets. These assessments include physical configuration, criticality, condition, remaining useful life, life cycle cost, equipment performance (predictive maintenance) and other analyses or testing that quantify effectively.

Asset condition and aging management focuses on extending the useful life of the facility and its assets. It includes specific management methods and standard procedures to evaluate asset condition continuously and to develop effective means for extending useful lives. Generally, analyses relevant to this part of the configuration management process include aging degradation, feasibility of continued operation and feasibility of extended operation.

Configuration management affects the entire organization. It provides standard procedures that define day-to-day operations, as well as the tactical and strategic planning process that governs future actions. These procedures are predicated on the optimization of the facility for as long as it is feasible to continue operations.

Every plant and facility must have a viable, enforced configuration management process to eliminate or mitigate the negative impact of uncontrolled, undocumented changes in the configuration of its infrastructure and assets. Enforcing a logical, disciplined process to evaluate, design, procure, implement, operate and maintain modifications to critical assets eliminates most of the excessive maintenance cost caused by poor reliability. In addition, it extends the useful life and reduces the life cycle cost of critical assets.

Contributing Editor Keith Mobleycan be reached via email at [email protected].

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