If you are a facility asking “what do I need to do to improve?” the first thing you should do is evaluate your current state.
Do you have foundational elements in place?
Do you have a risk-based approach in place?
If so, is it working? Are you getting what you expected?
We constantly see a big push for more proactive maintenance programs all over the world. The most common examples of these include Risk Based Inspection (RBI) and Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM). Yet, many times facilities that are not ready to implement such programs do so and do not receive the results they wanted. This often leaves them questioning the value of spending the money on these proactive steps.
While RBI and RCM are valuable tools, a tool is just a tool—it is not an overnight shortcut to achieve your goals. If you have implemented RBI or RCM and are not seeing the value in it, we would question whether you have the appropriate foundational elements in place. The best way to build your program is to first ensure your foundation is built to sustain your long-term vision.
Our goal is to help our clients reach their vision and move from a reactive to a proactive state by helping them navigate different maturity phases with a focused approach on delivering only what is needed. At a fundamental level, facilities should have foundational elements matured before moving forward with more advanced tools. Once the foundation is built, we can then move forward into time-based, then risk-based, and eventually into next-generation tools for more proactive and mature programs.
First thing’s first. Foundational elements are a must for any organization. This includes making sure your systems are in place. Are your documents under control? Do you understand what’s out in the field versus what’s not? Do you have digital documents? Do you have an Inspection Data Management System (IDMS)? All of that needs to be aligned and maintained before entering the next phase of tools.
Within the time-based level, thickness readings commonly drive Mechanical Integrity (MI) schedules, while Maintenance schedules typically follow the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommendations. In this stage, organizations typically have scheduled operator rounds (but there is no continuous improvement and normally no feedback to MI/Reliability) and PMs.
Moving onward from time-based, we can further optimize risk-mitigation activities by transitioning into risk-based strategies, such as Risk-Based Inspection (RBI) and Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM). For example, let’s look at risk-based strategies from both a fixed and non-fixed standpoint. Once these have been implemented, it is important to make sure that your site personnel (from the inspection / mechanical integrity perspective to unit operators) understand what risk-based strategies are and why they are important. At this stage, mitigation activities should be targeted towards the most-likely failure modes.
Once we’ve reached this level of maturity we can begin adding more advanced tools, such as Integrity Operating Windows (IOWs) that help us understand our risk in real time. Remember, without IOWs, most Risk-Based programs rely on inspection and maintenance history that can be multiple years old. Without understanding how the equipment operates today and protecting it with IOWs, you can easily throw away an entire risk-based assessment due to the introduction of a new damage environment. Ultimately, if there’s a process change over here, what does that mean for my asset today? And what does it mean for my asset tomorrow? And in the future? And are we taking the right course of action to mitigate that.
Once there is a solid foundation and site maturity within risk-based strategies, the next level is where we start pushing the boundaries of what the future can hold by leveraging all available technologies (even some that are not proven yet). It’s where we began to talk about predictive and prescriptive reliability, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and mobile inspection.
Understanding what is or is not feasible in today’s vaporware marketplace is key to knowing what technology to focus on. We look to help our mature clients understand how these advanced tools can influence their current programs and build ways to implement them within their current work processes.
To reiterate, the fundamentals are key, and each sequential step should build on the previous in order to build a solid foundation. If you don’t have the foundation in your existing asset performance maintenance program in place first, it doesn’t make much sense to jump into the prescriptive and the predictive reliability now. Definitely put one foot in front of the other and build a foundation for success as you mature your program.