Machine and Process Management

Define a Profitable Reliability strategy through Automation

Automation systems have primarily been focused on using real-time control to improve the efficiency of industrial operations. But as process and logic control technology and techniques continued to advance over the years, control strategies too have improved significantly. As a result, plant assets are being pushed harder than ever before. And that has had an understandably negative impact on their performance and reliability.

The effect of all this is that companies are now paying much more attention to and driving advancements in plant maintenance. Over the past two decades traditional responsive maintenance has evolved to include preventive, predictive and prescriptive maintenance strategies. The results have been promising, but some are beginning to realize that improving business performance requires maintenance and operations strategies that collaborate much more than they do today. If the ultimate objective is for both maintenance and operations to maximize operational profitability, approaching reliability, efficiency and profitability from a common strategic plane is essential. This collaborative approach is referred to as profitable reliability.

Developing a profitable reliability strategy might seem daunting, but some fairly simple steps can help move industrial operations in the right direction.

  • Identify the critical equipment assets that represent the largest opportunity for performance improvement. Very often this will be rotating equipment because their mechanical movement tends to wear the asset over time.
  • Determine what process and condition measurements are required to perform a complete asset performance analysis. At the base equipment level this can be a relatively simple exercise. The goal is to measure the maintained state of the equipment (how it is operating as compared to its optimal operating condition) and the probability of failure over a specified time.
  • Install the appropriate measurement on the asset. Typical process measurements, as well as condition measurements, provide significant reliability information. For example, the amount of process output based on a given energy input might decline as the asset nears failure.
  • Use the process and condition measurements to calculate the asset’s maintained state and its probability of failure.
  • Use the process and condition measurements in conjunction with business data to determine how much the asset contributes to real-time operational profitability. The goal is to maximize operational profitability over a given time.
  • Determine how much operational (control) freedom each asset has. For example, is the only operating action to turn the asset on and off or is it possible to operate the asset at a less than maximum level?
  • Develop an asset control scheme that includes integrated reliability and process control strategies that maximize operational profitability. These might include reducing the output of the asset to extend its time to failure so you can finish a run or a contract.
  • Move the reliability measurement and control up to the next level asset set (for example, the process unit) and perform the same control strategy analysis. This analysis should be simpler to perform once the base equipment level assets are under control.
  • Continue this process all the way up the asset hierarchy until you have real-time control strategies in place for all your critical assets and asset sets. This would include process areas, plants and even enterprises.

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