Focus: Effective Asset Management

The key to optimizing safety, efficiency and reliability

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

By Bilal Abdallah

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Asset Management: the phrase may be a modern term, but the concept is not new; in fact it dates back to the Stone Age, in a manner of speaking.  When Man started using tools, maintenance began with the sharpening of stone knives as well as the preservation of clothing and other basic belongings. It was a major part of the survival of mankind for centuries. This reactive maintenance prevailed for thousands of years until the advent of the ‘machine’.

Once machines were invented, preventive maintenance (lubrication, replacement of parts and regular checks) began to gain traction and was used in conjunction with reactive maintenance. The measures for preventive maintenance were set out by the emerging manufacturing sector.

Over-maintenance then became a concern when research showed that in more than 70 % of surveyed cases it was proved that equipment aging and reliability were not inter-dependant. Fast-forward to more recent times and Honeywell’s control loop management (loopscout) studies which determined that 50% of maintenance processes were quite unnecessary while 10% were actually harmful!. Therefore, plants started to take advantage of technology to monitor the equipment condition as basis for maintenance; however, there was a tendency to set up equipment condition monitoring processes around the plant, most of which were not required and added to needless costs.

To rationalize the method of using a varied maintenance approach, industries such as those in the aviation sector adopted Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) which proved to be an excellent tool in terms of reducing or avoiding reliability issues at the equipment design phase.  However, RCM did not work quite so effectively with existing equipment since it drew heavily on the plant’s high-level resources, aggravating a situation where such resources were already becoming scarce.

Integrated technology thus provided a much-needed solution – it helped foster collaborative and innovative thinking to optimize the use of available resources. Having said that, integration is a tool; to use it efficiently and effectively for leveraging the desired results is a science… I may even call it an art! Several integration projects failed for any number of reasons: unclear direction, complexities, violation of internal regulations to name just a few.

A thorough understanding of business processes and best practices is extremely crucial for collaborative asset management to work effectively and efficiently with top management buy-in at the very outset.  Inexpensive measures should also be first examined for their efficacy such as ‘visual inspection’ that can be implemented by trained operators for simple routine inspection jobs using Remote Frequency Identification (RFID) proximity scanning. Another example is monitoring process parameters for predictive maintenance where (for example) only six simple measurements can provide the required data to periodically calculate both the efficiency and fouling factor.  Vibration monitoring can also be widely used since monitoring tools are now less expensive and wireless technology has made it feasible to even monitor pumps and other rotating equipment.

However, for rotating equipment, performance management through rigorous models and benchmarking is a key to ensure optimum utilization of compressors and turbines. Corrosion monitoring is very often considered a separate practice because of its specialized nature where Risk Based Inspection is often used.  Instrumentation and smart devices need to be effectively monitored not just because of their high cost value, but also because of the far-reaching effects of safety and efficiency on the plant due to any malfunction.

Asset Management is a comprehensive practice that involves several departments – including operations and management - and can no longer be the sole domain of the maintenance section.  Integration and presentation tools can be used wisely to support the plant’s holistic strategy.

Bilal Abdallah is the business development manager, Manufacturing Excellence Solutions for Honeywell Process Solutions

 

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