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Reliability solutions offer unique value propositions

08.01.2012  |  Hollywood, Paula,  ARC Advisory Group, Dedham, MA

Keywords: [asset management] [wireless] [software] [optimization] [maintenance]

Globally, the process industries lose the equivalent of 5% of production annually because of unscheduled downtime and poor product quality. ARC Advisory Group estimates that almost 80% of these losses are preventable. As the longest phases in any asset’s life cycle, operation and maintenance (O&M) expenses account for the highest costs. Any improvements that a manufacturer can make in these life-cycle phases can significantly impact the bottom line.

A perfect storm

A number of factors have converged to drive present interest in reliability software and services. Increases in the amount and complexity of plant assets applied are the primary factor, as the lines between work management and information technology (IT) are blurred. Greater emphasis on safety, energy consumption and environmental control compound the need for more data. Enterprises now place greater emphasis on risk management to limit exposure to adverse events. With the growing shortage of skilled technicians capable of operating and maintaining such assets, a “perfect storm” is materializing.

For owner-operators, asset reliability requires the convergence of process control with work management to form the basis for a more robust approach to sustainable business performance improvement. This convergence resolves weaknesses in one methodology, while being additive for both. For example, process control solutions cannot identify asset criticality, but reliability solutions can. Manufacturers can improve efficiency and productivity with standardized workflows based on best practices. Reliability solutions transform data into instantly accessible, context-appropriate information for those who need it.

Proactive maintenance as a strategy

As maintenance activities migrate from reactive to proactive, new solutions are emerging that are designed to leverage the now available rich information to manage critical issues better within the confines of operational constraints. In terms of enterprise software for the manufacturing industries, asset reliability software is a new entry to the marketplace. ARC believes the real value of enterprise-level reliability software lies in its analytical capabilities.

Operational risk management

Managing risk is an essential component of a reliability program. Decision-makers must understand the uncertainties of costs vs. risks to make informed decisions about the benefits of a given strategy and their possible impact on safety. Identifying critical equipment; failure modes; failure effects on equipment, personnel and the environment; and critical spares on hand enables decision-makers to leverage the right risks, while maintaining the appropriate controls to ensure effective and efficient operations. Visualization capabilities in risk-management modeling tools provide individuals with information in the context of their responsibilities and level of authority. Displays of real-time information and historical trends at the management level enable actions based on facts to minimize costs and losses associated with a business interruption.

Reliability goes mobile

Technicians frequently perform work that takes them out of range of wireless networks or handheld cradles for data transmission. As a result, reliability solutions have migrated into handheld devices and tablets for the bidirectional exchange of data. This enables operators to take a more proactive role in initiating corrective actions for degrading equipment.

Taking reliability to the next level

At present, reliability is generally an afterthought, with little input in the concept and design phase of the asset life cycle. To take reliability to the next level, it must be built into the asset. Reliability expectations should be defined in the concept phase and used to drive performance into the design phase of the product development cycle. Early testing can identify important failure modes that should be resolved in the final design. Unresolved failure modes, such as normal wear of items, should be tagged in diagnostic guides for condition monitoring and PAM solutions to drive appropriate maintenance strategies. A reliable-by-design approach provides a clear understanding of the risks before products are introduced and enables end users to better address issues later, if necessary.

Historically, in the hierarchy of an enterprise, maintenance has been viewed as the ugly stepchild. It carries negative connotations—connotations that something is broken and will cost a lot to fix. In challenging economic times, the maintenance organization is frequently the first to experience cuts in an attempt to improve profitability. Enterprises have come to the collective realization that this attitude can be self-destructive. As a tool in the asset-performance management toolbox, reliability solutions enable enterprises to optimize asset availability and utilization while mitigating exposure to risk. HP

The author

Paula Hollywood, senior analyst at ARC Advisory Group, has been covering field instrumentation and other automation technologies for over 30 years. At present, she focuses on enabling technologies and strategies for industrial asset performance management. Prior to ARC, she held various technical and marketing positions at The Foxboro Company, Krohne America and Kentrol, Inc. Ms. Hollywood has a BS degree from Northeastern University and an MS degree from the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

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