Installing Reliability Focused Maintenance Technology

Leveraging asset availability and performance with enterprise reliability management and computerized maintenance management systems.

In today's business environment, the bottom line now includes not only profit margin but also cost management, environmental concerns, best practices, safety of employees, and public image. One major petrochemical company established as a primary initiative the goal of reducing the number of incidents affecting its profitability, as well as causing a significant public relations problem. The company traditionally had tracked incidents in terms of costs as well as lost profit opportunity. The new initiative would shift the emphasis of its maintenance efforts from fixing problems to preventing them. It was determined that the way to achieve this goal was to combine the efforts of the companys maintenance and reliability teams. The effort resulted in a leading edge philosophy: Reliability Focused Maintenance (RFM).

Implementing RFM proved to be a challenge. As part of the effort, the company chose to interface stand-alone software applications into one integrated system that takes advantage of the strength of the combined applications. Senior management assembled a task force to institutionalize the Reliability Focused Maintenance philosophy using the following strategy:

  • Ensure that accountability for equipment reliability is shared between the operations, technical, and reliability/maintenance organizations.
  • Encourage and accelerate the current direction to move from individual maintenance organizations to RFM organizations all functioning on the same principles.
  • Develop new management metrics that recognize and reward for equipment reliability, thereby reducing management focus on performance measurements such as cost per barrel and the Solomon Metrics.

In pursuing the lower incident initiative, the maintenance best practices team searched for a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) that could be used across all sites. Independently, the reliability team also was looking for effective reliability software. Working together within the RFM context, the two groups decided to combine their needs and implement an integrated system after considered many factors, including current maintenance costs and production issues, environmental issues, the existing system, and the existing culture.

Current maintenance costs and production issues: It was determined that maintenance costs were not competitive. Failures had cost the company money in the areas of energy costs, wear and tear on other equipment, and additional equipment failures associated with bringing equipment back on line, etc. Support costs for maintaining multiple equipment and maintenance databases were high. In terms of production issues, all of the incidents that could occur when corrosive chemicals and flammable elements are subject to extreme pressure and heat were occurring on an all-too-frequent basis.

Environmental issues: Each environmental issue or violation resulted in stricter and more costly standards being implemented, not to mention the cost in terms of strained public relations. The choice was to increase investments in equipment, monitoring devices, and personnel, or use reliability methods to improve the resources that already existed. The decision was to follow the reliability approach.

Existing system: On the maintenance side, each of the company's U.S. sites had its own CMMS and each system used multiple databases for tracking the various aspects of the process: equipment, work orders, inspections, results, etc. On the reliability side, the group had documented equipment history and maintained the metrics of equipment reliability for the past 20 years with a primary focus on rotating equipment. The legacy system was a 20-year-old mainframe system designed for that purpose, combined with mainframe financial and materials management systems and a variety of manual and desktop applications that stored equipment lists, technical data, work management, and safety and compliance information.

Existing culture: To execute RFM, the maintenance and reliability staffs had to join forces to achieve the common goal of increased reliability. The feeling among many mechanics and operators was that an improved reliability system would mean fewer repairs which meant less work and fewer jobs. They were also leery of a new computer system that might not prove effective. The goal of the integrated RFM system was to pull all this divergent knowledge together into one place so everyone could benefit from it.

Selecting the systems
The business case for the project was based on the cost savings anticipated by the initiative to reduce the number of incidents. Members of the core project team, representing the technical and business aspects of the project, had spent a great deal of time developing their individual work processes and best practices, so they looked for a system that could be adapted to these requirements rather than forcing them to change their practices to meet the requirements of the system. In addition, they wanted a system that would support the often-divergent needs of end users, management, and information technologists.

It quickly became obvious that no one system was going to meet all of the company's RFM requirements. The solution appeared to be an integrated system. In the end, the company chose Meridium as its reliability system and a CMMS from a major supplier.

Implementing the solution
Implementation was a multi-step process that included project organization, business issues, technical issues, integration, conversion, education, and system support:

  • Project organization. The RFM team supported the implementation of both the Meridium and the CMMS. An RFM Steering Committee was established to oversee the project and ensure senior management engagement.
  • Business issues. Subteams were created to focus on the specific requirements of each work process. Areas of interest included equipment and technical data for fixed, rotating, and instrumentation routine work; shutdown work; planning and scheduling; preventive maintenance; labor entry; contracts management; reliability analysis; and reporting; inspection tracking, including scheduling based on reliability analysis; condition-based monitoring; and instrumentation. The teams were responsible for obtaining consensus on best practice and deploying the best practice across the system.
  • Technical issues. The IT department was committed to a commonality of information systems enterprisewide, so it was necessary to choose hardware that could handle varied and heavy use. Several servers were installed, with each performing a specific function within the overall IT plan for implementing RFM.
  • Integration. The RFM system required the integration of three commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems: Meridium, a CMMS, and the SAP financial system. The interface between Meridium and the CMMS had the following primary interface needs: import equipment data from Meridium (database), export of work order and equipment history to Meridium, and export of actual cost data to Meridium.
  • Conversion. A data conversion contractor was retained to support the data conversion efforts. The major areas of conversion included equipment lists, equipment technical data, equipment parts lists, preventive maintenance programs, equipment history (20 years), equipment costs histories (20 years), personnel data, training records, and emissions data.
  • Education. Meridium and the CMMS supplier offered extensive training and produced training materials in conjunction with the core team. Core team members provided "train the trainer" education, enabling representatives to return to their individual sites and train others to use the system.
  • System support. Ongoing system support includes system administration, help desk, reports development, and desktop and infrastructure support at each site. The corporate IT organization is responsible for server support, integration development, and configuration management.

Integrating the two systems
The goal of the integration effort was to create an interface between two separate, standalone database software applications (the CMMS and Meridium) to create a new tool with a common language for mechanics, operators, and engineers that directly responded to the strategy of the RFM initiative.

In integrating the systems, the core team had to determine the areas of overlap between the systems, then decide which was better suited as the owner of each process (see accompanying section "System Components"). Once this was decided, the core team looked at the areas where the two systems could work together and set about designing the appropriate interfaces. Obvious areas where data could be shared included general equipment data, work order data, and cost data.

The system utilizes a network of personal computers and servers. The interface supports real-time, uni-directional updates of equipment information to the CMMS. It also passes work order data, associated with the proper equipment or location, from the CMMS back to Meridium for analysis. Datasheets in the Meridium database are used to hold not only the shared work management data, but also reliability data collected directly for use by Meridium. Records that are exchanged between the two systems are validated based on user-defined criteria. Errors occurring during the interface are detailed for quick debugging by system administrators.

User-defined flags can be placed on records for specific pieces of equipment to indicate that data is to be used in reliability analysis. Flags can easily be updated to meet current business needs or expanded analysis capabilities.

A hierarchy structure allows work orders to be broken into tasks with each task defined as a child of the work order as a whole. This structure keeps all of the parts of a work order together and facilitates the tracking and scheduling of each individual task based on the overall scope of the work order. Costs can be tracked for each individual task and summed for both the specific tasks and the entire work order. This data then can be used in reliability trending.

Equipment, location, and event records can be grouped into categories and hierarchies created to organize the databases. Datasheets are designed to track data for each group of records. In addition, by settling on specific common datasheet designs, both maintenance and reliability staffs are assured that the data they need to do their jobs is collected and stored in a central location that is easily accessed by all who need this information.

The development of a database structure and datasheets drove the creation of a set of common definitions, codes, and processes acceptable to both the maintenance and reliability people. In defining incidents such as failures, the company produced a means of using reliability practices to reduce those incidents.

As part of the process to get users involved, extensive training was performed. The core team and training teams brought many operators and mechanics up to speed despite the fact that most had never used a personal computer. Although many were skeptical at first, most found that the system was intuitive and easy to learn. They also quickly discovered that it allowed them to take a more active role in improving overall reliability and in turn increasing profitability.

The RFM was designed to interface with other applications such as the new SAP financial system in the areas of material cataloging and cost tracking. The CMMS delivers work order data and materials requisitions to the financial system and receives materials catalogs and on-hand inventory data, project data, material requisitions, material management activity, and actual cost data.

The results
The company is now reaping the results of its efforts through savings from the CMMS and Meridium as standalone products, as well as from the integration of the two systems and the resulting RFM mentality that they promote:

  • CMMS benefits. The ability to write work requests directly to the system has dramatically altered the work practices of the mechanics and operators. Requests automatically go to maintenance supervisors for approval. Parts are ordered and are available when the mechanic arrives to do the repair. The new system tracks maintenance and materials costs and equipment histories and stores them in a centralized database. Documentation included by each mechanic or operator is stored with the equipment information and is available to any one else who works on that equipment in the future. Best practices are recorded and shared across all sites.
  • Meridium reliability benefits. Meridium provides advanced data analysis using a battery of statistical tools. It takes cost and history data from the central Meridium database and uses it to help identify and resolve problems with critical equipment. Improved equipment reliability and availability helps prevent incidents, creating a safer working environment and lowering bottom line costs, as well as making the CMMS more effective. The system tracks "worst actors" so that when repairs are done on this type of equipment, maintenance can schedule for a reliability analyst or engineer to be present. Rather than waiting for equipment to fail and then fixing it, Meridium helps flag equipment that may need repair based on analysis of performance, history, time in production, and performance of other equipment related to the equipment in question.
  • Integrated systems benefits. An immediate benefit realized through the integrated system is the ability to schedule needed work ahead of time rather than just dealing with problems as they occur. As a result, repair backlogs are decreasing and the focus now can be turned toward reliability and preventive maintenance—the source of the greatest future cost savings by reducing routine maintenance and the number and cost of incidents.

By interfacing the CMMS to Meridium, data is captured and dumped into a centralized warehouse. This means that data located in multiple systems can be combined, compared, analyzed, and used. The Meridium database has the flexibility to record various forms of data that might not fit into other systems, such as vibration readings from online vibration systems, process variables from process control systems, and readings for corrosion analysis.

Equipment history and cost data gathered by the CMMS are effectively used by Meridium to help pinpoint and resolve problems with critical equipment. This in turn helps prevent incidents and creates a safer working environment as well as a lower overall operating expense. Once the information is in the database, it can be used easily over time for reliability metrics trending. These metrics, based on actual data, can be used with confidence to make cost effective, long-term decisions on maintenance issues.

Vision for the future
The vision for the future includes institutionalizing the philosophy and tools of the Reliability Focused Maintenance program into the entire organization. In addition, a drive is in progress to continuously improve the quality of the data and work process supported by the system. This initiative is driven now not only by management but also by the users who see the benefits of the system. More far-reaching goals include a significant reduction in the cost and impact of incidents, improved equipment up time and availability, and standardized best practices across all company sites.

Lessons learned
Among the lessons learned during the project are that corporate initiatives do spawn real business change, especially if buy-in can be generated at all levels of a project, and that senior management sponsorship is critical to effective business change.

Another lesson learned is that there is significant benefit in focusing on the reliability and availability of equipment when calculating the bottom line.

As with any far-reaching and visionary changes, business change is hard work but rewarding. Groups of people begin to communicate that have rarely worked together before, and discover that their goals are common and needs are universal. People at every stage of the process are empowered to strive toward a level of independence and pride that results in a significant culture change—a desire to "work smarter," to use the tools they have been given because they have seen real results. People begin to see the future of the industry and realize they have been given a chance to control and shape that future for the better. MT

Bonz Hart is president and founder of software company Meridium, Inc., 10 S. Jefferson St., Suite 1100, Roanoke, VA 24011; (540) 344-9205

System Components

The integrated system consists of three parts: reliability system, CMMS, and reliability database. The data functions are distributed as follows:

Reliability system:
Equipment registry database
Technical data
Component and system reliability analysis
Condition monitoring
Inspection and PM scheduling based on analysis
Equipment inspection
Instrumentation tracking

Work management
Preventive maintenance
Equipment parts lists
Labor entry and reporting
Contracts management
Management of change
Document management
Qualifications tracking
Fugitive emissions tracking

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