The rush to reliability, fueled by rising global competition, high fixed costs, capital intensity, and the pressure for greater on-stream performance, is providing the planning and scheduling function with an opportunity to add further value to its business objectives. The maintenance planner might better be described as asset reliability coordinator.
Across the landscape of industrial plant maintenance, the asset performance picture is not all that good. Consider the following:
To rise above these shortcomings, plants have redundant systems and spared equipment to assure process availability. The average refinery runs at nearly 95 percent average availability, but studies have shown that downtime affects the bottom line by smaller profit margins, decreased yield and quality, reduced safety, additional environmental incidents, and missed delivery dates.
Additionally, plants have had to spend scarce capital to build more capacity to meet the fluctuations in their demand patterns and compensate for process unreliability.
Use of maintenance craft resources is even more alarming: average craft productivity, measured through "wrench time" studies, is typically in the 25 to 35 percent range. Productive work is held up by time spent waiting for materials, tools, instructions, and clearance and time spent traveling to the job.
Inefficiencies in craft utilization, many of which are beyond the individual craftperson's control, contribute to additional expense for outside contractors, rush charges for materials not planned to be on hand, excessive overtime, and work that had been identified but was not performed in a timely manner.
Perhaps the greatest cost for these inefficiencies is lost production resulting from process interruptions from unreliable equipment. Some examples illustrate the magnitude of benefits that flow from improved asset reliability:
One of the best weapons for fighting these deficiencies in maintenance performance is the competent planning and scheduling of maintenance activities.
The benefits of good planning
The benefits of good planning fall into several major categories:
At this point, the asset reliability coordinator assumes a pivotal role.
Asset reliability coordinator
Traditionally, the maintenance planner has been selected for personal knowledge of the technical side of maintenance (the whos and whats of equipment care), rather than the management side (the whys and whens). There is a need for personnel who understand the value of objective data on equipment condition, reasons for failure, and the protection of the economic value created by asset reliability.
Following are summary descriptions of the responsibilities of the recast asset reliability coordinator, using new tools and techniques to focus on asset reliability and availability, by making the crews not only more productive, but "smarter" by arming them with increased knowledge:
Job planner role
Central to the coordinator's ability to add value is his or her primary work product: highly focused work packages that contain not only a listing of which craft skills are required for what periods of time, and the likely parts to be used, but more supporting documentation, for example:
The level of documentation should be commensurate with the requirements of the work. Routine repetitive work should require relatively little documentation, probably nothing more than a standard job template, which exists in a library of such plans.
Work scheduler role
The second primary work product of the coordinator is the work schedule, actually a series of interlocking schedules with progressively more detail as the anticipated work time draws closer. In industries such as petrochemicals, with major turnarounds and long lead times, a long planning and scheduling horizon is critical to success.
The schedules are a joint product of operations, maintenance, and engineering and reflect all of the work to be accomplished. The coordinator generally chairs the scheduling meetings and comes prepared with a standard schedule incorporating production requirements (and windows of opportunity that normally arise), the condition of operating equipment and potential liabilities, and the manpower that will be available for the upcoming time period. Best practices call for detailed scheduling at least a week ahead, with less stringent requirements for the upcoming two weeks. Each functional group will have reviewed the work-order backlog to ensure that critical work has been identified, planned, and made ready for scheduling.
A longer-range and potentially more critical function of the coordinator is to develop the ability to forecast future maintenance requirements. Today's EAM systems allow for a three-way view of asset performance: historical, looking backward to determine the most common root failure causes; real-time condition monitoring (typically through the plant's distributed control systems); and forward, analyzing each asset's mean time between failure and forecasting when the asset is most likely to affect the production process again. Failure information is critical to these views, and the coordinator must be zealous in gathering and recording that information.
The coordinator is also the database administrator for the records maintained in the EAM equipment history and condition files and the person in charge of the open backlog. This second function is extremely important in providing life-cycle management of all work requests and work orders. Timely and accurate knowledge of the current status of all open work orders allows maintenance and operations to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities and maximize the use of unscheduled downtime.
A key trait for success is the coordinator's ability to influence the actions of others. In most organizations, the planner, now coordinator, has no staff, no organizational authority, and no budget. But he or she is charged with coordinating the activities of a diverse group whose short-term goals may or may not be in alignment. Facilitation skills and a clear vision of the longer-term objectives will serve the coordinator, and his organization, well. Such skills can be learned and will improve with repeated practice.
Finally, the coordinator must be able to clearly communicate the desired direction he or she is recommending, in terms that are relevant to the audience, whether it is operations (more throughput), maintenance (fewer breakdowns), or management (financial impact). Again, such skills can be learned.
None of the higher-level functional requirements of the coordinator can be achieved without enabling technologies. At a minimum, the support systems must include the following:
Best business practices
No functional area exists in a vacuum. The relationships among various functions are described by business rules that specify roles and responsibilities, decision points, data flows, and evaluation criteria.
A starting point is the description of a vision of how the company's assets will be maintained:
To ensure that the assets of the company will be reliable. This goal will be achieved by anticipating deterioration and addressing its root cause by technical means and education of company personnel. The timing at which these actions will be initiated will be set through a mature financial appreciation that takes into account the optimum time at which items can be removed from service.
The next step is to define the relationship between operations and maintenance. The elements of such a definition might include the following:
The two groups jointly review the inspection program in the light of information raised under items 2 and 4.
Additionally, the basics of asset care must be in place and rigorously practiced every day:
The starting point for improving maintenance planning is the interface between operations and maintenance, to identify sources of uncertainty that would adversely affect planning and scheduling and the execution of maintenance tasks. In particular, the focus needs to be on the ability of the two groups to work together to reduce the total costs of operating.
The most critical skill required for improving reliability and availability is understanding the root causes of failure. This knowledge, in turn, leads to the development of an intelligent and cost-optimized plan for asset care and the prevention of production interruptions.
The asset reliability coordinator is in a pivotal role to use information available through a combined view of historical, current, and forecast asset performance. MT