Machine and Process Management

Plant “Asset Performance Management” Is For Everyone

Asset performance management (APM) is a topic of growing importance for plants in asset-intensive industries, which pretty much means all plants. In this series, I’ll take you through the asset management story, from why APM is important to what needs to be done, how to do it and, finally, how to measure the success of your APM program.
So why do plants need automation APM?

It’s no secret that industrial productivity and profitability are severely impacted by the current business environment and market uncertainty. Businesses are looking for ways to improve the bottom line and gain competitive advantage and this means that assets need to be running at peak productivity, producing high quality products while also ensuring health and safety compliance.

Plant automation, including field devices, is not only a fundamental building block of any industrial plant but also represents serious capital and operational costs. This is why an automation APM solution which manages the life cycle performance of your automation assets is so important for improving time to production, safety, operational and maintenance efficiency, and overall productivity.

Traditionally, plants have opted for time or usage based preventive maintenance practices to avoid unscheduled breakdowns but this approach is not only labor-intensive, it also doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of a catastrophic failure. Studies have shown that 63% of maintenance efforts were actually unnecessary and avoidable: 35% of field maintenance trips to inspect process instrumentation were routine while another 28% were in response to an anticipated problem that was ultimately not found upon inspection. While we shouldn’t completely discard preventative practices, there is definitely a growing need to gradually evolve to automation asset performance management (APM) programs to become more efficient and effective.

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What are some of the challenges we face in day-to-day operations?

Plant O&M teams face any number of challenges in their day-to-day operations. Understanding these challenges is the critical first step to developing solutions that maximize long-term asset value. Some of these challenges might look like:

  • Complex technical environment with multiple protocols, multiple asset types from multiple vendors
  • Poor decision support due to information scarcity, information overload or information islands which can make it hard to differentiate and prioritize asset health data automatically and in real time
  • Knowledge management challenges driven by an aging work force. Significant amounts of tacit knowledge regarding the safe and efficient operation of assets are lost when workers retire or leave
  • Satisfying the needs of a wide range of stakeholders, ranging from the plant manager to the maintenance supervisor/technician to the plant operators
  • The ability to access information on the go and act on it (e.g. raise a work order) using handheld devices like smart phones, tablets etc. is emerging as a critical need for maintenance staff

In my next blog, I will tackle the “what” of an APM program, namely what needs to be done in order to implement one and start reaping its benefits.

What are some of the challenges you or your O&M teams face in your day-to-day activities?

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