HomeLearnCase StudiesCase Study: Global Petrochemical Company Improves Safety and Compliance While Reducing Unplanned Downtime with Reliability Centered Maintenance Program

Case Study: Global Petrochemical Company Improves Safety and Compliance While Reducing Unplanned Downtime with Reliability Centered Maintenance Program

Learn how we helped a global petrochemical company improve facility reliability following corporate audits with a Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) program.

The Challenge

One of the world’s largest petrochemical producers has multiple facilities across North America, Europe, and Asia. Following a series of corporate audits, the company established a committee of Subject Matter Experts (SME) centered around creating standardization of reliability programs across all its sites. According to this guidance, each site was given the liberty to develop its program. One of the producer’s North American facilities chose to implement a new reliability program aimed to improve the compliance, safety, and operating costs of its non-fixed assets.

The site had a Preventive Maintenance (PM) program in place; however, it was bloated with non-value-add tasks, and stakeholders were hesitant to remove tasks for assets due to an incident at the site that occurred years earlier. Because of this incident, many new assets were deemed critical without proper evaluation. Different stakeholder groups managed instrumentation, electrical, and rotating equipment at this facility and each expressed that they had experienced difficulties maintaining siloed asset lists across the groups. The current condition of the facility had multiple issues that were preventing both the facility and its personnel from operating at its full potential, including:

  • Siloed critical equipment lists across the site
  • Duplicate, missing, and misidentified equipment in the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)
  • Lack of awareness of the site’s program maturity
  • Maintenance program growth without optimization

Pinnacle's Solution

To solve the above issues, facility leadership implemented a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) and Pinnacle’s optimized Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) process for multiple units in the plant to maximize the reliability, availability, and maintainability of plant equipment. RCM is an asset management approach that identifies and prioritizes maintenance strategies critical to sustaining system functionality. This approach enables facilities to maximize reliability, availability, safety, and performance while optimizing maintenance spending.

The overall objective of the RCM program was to identify equipment criticality, one-time opportunities, and risk-based preventive maintenance tasks to ensure that production reliability and availability targets were met. Equipment criticality was reviewed and documented in one location, and equipment documentation discrepancies across all sources (CMMS, Equipment files, Drawings, etc.) were noted with action items to address. The PM program was optimized based on equipment criticality, maintenance history, and SME input. For each unit, the project was broken into four phases:

Phase 1

As a separate project but connected effort, each unit completed a Risk-Based Inspection (RBI) revalidation study before starting efforts on non-fixed assets to validate correct circuitization of piping, related operating and process conditions, and associated risk.

Phase 2

Once the RBI revalidation study was completed, the project team moved forward with CMMS cleanup. This phase eliminated issues associated with missing, duplicate, and mislabeled assets and created a clean set of data that all groups could work off.

Phase 3

Perform process interviews with key site stakeholders from the reliability, process, operations, RBI, instrument, and electrical groups to define performance objectives or targets, identify system functions, and understand the consequence of failure for each asset within scope.

Phase 4

The last phase was to perform the FMEA interview with the site. The team was able to identify the applicable failure mechanisms, select Operations and Maintenance (O&M) preventative maintenance tasks, and identify one-time reliability improvement opportunities.

The Pinnacle team leveraged ReliaBuilder© software to streamline the process for documenting RCM elements, analyzing data, and planning effective mitigation tasks—reducing the time and effort required to manage an RCM analysis while also maintaining technical rigor.


The RCM analysis of the units analyzed provides the facility with a complete and thoroughly documented proactive maintenance plan for the equipment deemed in scope. Developed by Reliability SMEs and with the input of facility personnel, each proactive maintenance task recommendation has been determined to be applicable and cost-effective. Each recommended proactive maintenance task addresses only the dominant failure modes identified for each piece of equipment and is focused on preventing the significant effects of equipment failure, mitigating, or reducing the impact of the equipment failure, extending the mean time between failures, or identifying hidden failures. In the analysis, each task recommendation has supporting detail to further elaborate on the task, for example, specific parameters to be monitored, equipment operating history justifying the recommendation, establishment of baseline data for trending and prediction of imminent failures, etc. In addition, each piece of equipment has been identified as critical or non-critical, based on the effect of its failure. These determinations provide the facility with a detailed list of:

  • Equipment that must be maintained to sustain unit operation (e.g., failure results in reduced throughput, intolerable safety, or environmental events).
  • Equipment that should be maintained for cost-effectiveness (e.g., failure results in expensive repairs, simple tasks to ensure reliability, etc.).
  • Equipment that may be allowed to run to failure due to no significant adverse effect upon failure.

Recommendations were provided for reliability improvements and suggestions to address existing or potential vulnerabilities. These one-time recommendations will require further review to allow the facility to prioritize these recommendations based on accurately gauging their cost-effectiveness and the effort needed to implement them.

One Time Recommendation Example
Phosgene Exchanger #1

Issue: Cleaning to address fouling planned at every major Turn Around (TA) at a four-year interval. The Flow-through of the exchanger is currently gravity-fed. Typically, by year three between TAs, there is enough fouling to require a rate reduction of approximately 40% for the remaining year.

Recommendation: Design change, evaluate adding a pump to increase flow velocity through the tubes to reduce the fouling rate inside the asset.

Value of Improvement: The 40% rate reduction for one year is the equivalent of approximately $15MM in lost production opportunity every four years. 100% unit shutdown of unplanned downtime for cleaning one week every TA cycle is roughly $2.9MM in lost production.

With the design change, the fouling in the exchanger will be reduced enough to allow operation at full rate until the planned TA date, meaning no rate reduction and no unplanned downtime. This one-time opportunity has the potential to save the site almost $18MM every four years through increased availability of the asset and the unit.

These one-time improvement recommendations include actions such as Spare Parts Optimization, PM Optimization, Root Cause Analysis (RCA), Documentation Updates, Design Changes, Failure Investigation. The number of one-time reliability improvement tasks is 1,560 on almost 10,000 assets evaluated to date. These tasks are shown with a recommended frequency of “ONCE” in the analysis.

After completing the RCM analysis and implementing the recommendations for several units, the facility has experienced improvements in the following areas:

  • Cleanup of inaccurate and missing data
  • Organization of non-fixed assets into one database
  • Design improvements through one-time recommendations
  • Reduced unplanned downtime
  • Optimized cost through spare parts and PM optimization
  • Increased safety and compliance through optimization and focus of maintenance activities on critical assets


Now that the facility has completed several units of the RCM study, the organization’s next step is to scale the RCM program to the rest of this site and others around the globe. After that, with mature RBI and RCM programs, the organization can evolve its program with a hybrid intelligence model, such as Quantitative Reliability Optimization (QRO). With QRO the facility can tie all its reliability programs together into one model that provides accurate facility availability and optimizes inspection and maintenance activities across the site.


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