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3 fundamental processes guaranteed to unlock maintenance efficiencies and ensure plant reliability

An operating plant is subject to significant changes throughout its lifecycle, ranging from new owners to plant upgrades, design changes and expansions. When these changes are not managed correctly this can incur exposure to safety issues, downtime and unnecessary costs. 

The updating of condition changes must be reflected in the master data that resides in the CMMS or EAM to minimise these risks or what once felt like a well oiled machine for managing the plant maintenance will rapidly deteriorate.

Bringing it back to basics, Graham Stewart, Senior Engineer in ABL’s North America team, shares three fundamental solutions that will not only deliver instant ROI, but be the catalyst for future improvements across your business.

The foundations: How best to assure all equipment is accounted for to provide you with the means to manage and maintain them

“Missing information and data is a common issue that most plants face throughout their lifecycle. Whether this is driven by plants being acquired from other operators or changes to the plant being made over time. 

“Surprisingly, this issue is also extremely common on new build plants, when the initial master CMMS data hasn’t been delivered to the correct standard required to maintain the plant efficiently and effectively, or is missing all together. If equipment is not accounted for in your system, maintenance work orders will not be triggered and the maintenance for the equipment in question may not be executed, this will significantly increase your risk profile, without you even knowing.

“Modifications, expansions and upgrade projects are often carried out by different contractors from the initial project so consistency of what and how that additional master data is received or set up can often differ significantly each time.

A good example of the impact this can have comes from a company I previously worked with; an incident occurred, and an investigation was conducted and it was found to be caused by a valve failure.

“As the investigation continued, although the valve was actually being properly maintained by the site technicians, they were unable to prove that maintenance was being done on this particular valve as the part wasn’t ever logged in the CMMS as a location, meaning there wasn’t an auditable trail to showcase to the HSE when they were asked to demonstrate how it was maintained prior to the incident.

“Due to the severity of this incident, the company deployed a team to identify any other potential data gaps. During this process, they quickly realised a huge amount of data was missing from the CMMS, and this included both safety and production critical equipment that wasn’t documented in the CMMS off the back of plant expansions being completed by a variety of different contractors. 

“A lack of management of change was found to be one of the contributors to this incident. 

“If you know or believe you have missing data, it is fundamental to take the first step in gaining full visibility of the equipment you have.

“Ensure this is documented in the CMMS to avoid incidents like this and assure reliability. This provides an accurate and reliable foundation to confidently and effectively build your maintenance from.

“To do this, we would recommend conducting a desktop asset verification (DAV), a physical asset verification (PAV), or ideally a combination of both. The DAV involves reviewing drawings, comparing this with the data in the CMMS, and filling the gaps. Although this is a highly effective technique to plugging data gaps, you are reliant on having access to good quality drawings, and if this and the nameplate data is incomplete or missing from your document and data repository, then a PAV is your only option. 

“A PAV exercise enables a team to physically go to the site to review the equipment to verify equipment existence and associated data you already have in your CMMS, whilst on site, the team should also be tasked with capturing new data points that will enable the maintenance and procurement team to manage the equipment and its spare parts effectively. 

“We recently worked with a client in North America to conduct both a DAV and PAV, where we 

  • Identified and recorded over 1000 tags that were missing from the asset register (including valves, transmitters, detectors, and control valves)
  • Removed over 2700 duplicate tags from the asset register due to tags existing across multiple drawing types.
  • Increased nameplate data by 470%
  • Improved meter site data accuracy from 43% to 100%

“Accurate data is the key to ensuring your maintenance and procurement teams are equipped to liquidate the right maintenance, at the right time, with the right materials – this in turn will help protect your people, plant and profitability. Can you really afford to have gaps in your data?” 

production plant sunset

The silver bullet: Corporate and consistent approach to maintenance, localised where required 

“A global approach to maintenance that is applied across multiple plants is proven to unlock efficiencies and reduce risk when planning, preparing and executing your maintenance management regime. 

“In my experience, adopting this approach to maintenance will help embed pockets of excellence in your maintenance strategies and ensure best practice is shared and applied across the business. 

“In addition to this, it will also allow updates to be made in one place, and cascaded across each plant in a very efficient manner. This minimises admin time, and eliminates inconsistencies that could lead to bigger issues if not resolved.

“It is important to note that “local rules”, such as country regulations, operating conditions and team competencies should be reviewed and accounted for before deploying these strategies. 

“We recently completed a “Global Maintenance Centralisation” project for an international oil and gas operator where we were tasked with creating one centralised and optimised approach to maintenance and spares management. The goal of the project was to reduce risk by ensuring the company had a consistent and quality approach to maintaining equipment across the globe. 

“From the client’s perspective, they recognised the benefits of implementing a consistent and centralised approach to maintenance across their operating facilities. They wanted to take learnings of good practice maintenance and ensure they were replicated across the business, as well as utilise the recommendations provided by ABL to help enhance their reliability. 

“To showcase the value that can be unlocked through this type of initiative, below is an overview of the cost savings and efficiency gains that were unlocked for our client: 

  • Savings of over $18.5M per year by streamlining annual planned maintenance 
  • Savings of $7M per year through optimisation of annual planned maintenance work orders applied globally 
  • Savings of $14M on planning and efficiencies gains through enrichment of 147,000 Maintenance BoMs applied globally 


A quick win: Standardised terminology

“One of the most simple yet impactful pieces of work that can be done to improve your master data that is guaranteed to unlock efficiencies across your business is standardising terminology. This improvement is a quick win, and improvements can be made effectively at a low cost.

“In almost every company I’ve worked with, there have been significant variations in terminology used for the same equipment type. An example of this comes from a recent project I worked on when it became apparent that for a single part, the vendor, the technician in the field and the team in the warehouse all referred to it differently – meaning when they go to look for it in the system, there would face difficulties in finding the equipment because they were using the wrong terminology. When they can’t find it in the system, it is common practice of “simply order another one”, which can lead to over stocking and capital being tied up in spare parts unnecessarily. In addition to this, this can waste a lot of time, which will further impact the bottom line, yet is something that can be fixed easily. 

“A standard terminology list of abbreviations should form part of a company’s Data Governance document, which clearly documents what terminology should be used. And my biggest tip is to develop this with input from end-users across multiple teams and disciplines – from people on the plant to the warehouse to obtain a common language which can be easily searched by all and located.  

“During the development of a recent Master Data Governance document for a client, we had a workshop with the Maintenance Supervisor from each of the three disciplines – mechanical, electrical and instrument to develop a usable standard terminology list of abbreviations. By getting their perspectives and ultimately their buy-in from the outset, the adherence to these standards moving forward greatly increased and time efficiencies were unlocked.”