While the goal of a plant, refinery or other processing facility is to operate as a single, seamless unit, these facilities are made up of hundreds or thousands of individual assets, such as pumps, control valves, pipelines, and turbines, that work together to efficiently produce the end result. Ensuring that these assets continuously operate and communicate together and that unforeseen maintenance issues are accounted for is not a matter of luck, but of careful planning and evaluation. Having a strategy in place for effective asset performance management (APM) is critical in today’s zero downtime world.
To guarantee that you are fully utilizing your assets, you should consider implementing the three “M” strategy: Measure, Monitor and Manage. This allows you to best gauge the state and quality of your assets, make changes where needed before a problem arises and strategically plan for future production.
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A more in-depth look at the three function areas:
- Measure: The first step, measurement, is critical to asset strategies, because every asset in industrial organizations is essential for successful operations. Today’s advanced sensors and hardware measure asset health in real time to prevent costly failure and disruption to business operations. When engineers identify abnormalities, such as a sudden vibration increase in a compressor or high temperature trends, they must determine the root cause of the problem before a machine trips or equipment fails. This is particularly critical to ensure asset availability until a planned shutdown. Regular audits and automated measuring allow operators to detect problems early, before they become more severe and costly.
- Monitor: While measurement is the first step for asset performance management, machines must be continuously monitored for valuable insights. Software tools today identify root cause failure through data analysis and initiate proactive maintenance to protect assets and reduce downtime. Once the problem is detected through regular measurements, close monitoring provides the information needed to effectively identify, evaluate and respond to events while keeping assets online for continued operation. Further, automated monitoring and response to these conditions frees up resources to perform additional activities to enhance overall productivity. The next and final step, management, harnesses the power of the data gathered through software systems for more strategic decisions across the organization.
- Manage: Organizations need to operationalize big data to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Asset performance management provides structured processes and analytics to identify critical assets and failure modes, calculate equipment reliability and determine downtime impacts. Executives and operators need the end-to-end picture of operations to drive impactful change. Being able to leverage information from equipment and asset strategies, as well as methodologies such as risk-based inspection (RBI), adds clarity and stimulates cross functional ‘integrity’ team building and exchange of best practices. The approach is very practical, easy to apply and transparent. The full integrated framework allows for seamless analysis, consistency of approach and synergy with other strategy assessment methodologies, including reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) and RBI.
Furthermore, it isn’t enough to compare an asset’s performance against another in the same facility, or even across the enterprise. Assets must be compared against each other across organizations worldwide. Advanced comparative analytics software helps executives and operators to understand what is working well and what isn’t working on an individual asset level and structurally for the organization as a whole. Without the full framework, industrial organizations cannot compete in today’s global market.
The level of visibility into the performance of your assets generated by the three M strategy allows you to set policies and guidelines that ensure higher production levels, lower downtime, and more manageable maintenance and replacement costs. In short, through the use of the three M strategy, you will better manage your assets rather than them managing you.
John Renick is Director of Partner Solutions at Meridium. He may be reached at editor@ScientificComputing.com.