I still find it truly amazing that aircraft high above the ground or racecars hurtling around a racetrack can have their engines monitored, diagnosed, tuned and possibly repaired from a remote location-often many thousands of miles away. Although this technology has been available for several years, the same is also happening more often now with process equipment.Many types of equipment are monitored and controlled directly using wired or bus-based intelligent sensors and controllers, or indirectly by wireless devices. In addition, it is becoming more commonplace to operate sites or units within a site remotely- especially "skid-mounted" units.
But, how does a site start on the journey to using some of these leading-edge technologies? How does a company know whether it will benefit them or not? Does this level of remote interaction with process equipment require a new and different level of maintenance technician -or can your existing technicians bridge the gap? How would you know? How would you learn?
One way of getting started is to compare your current metrics and practices with companies and sites at the leading edge-using benchmarking.
Benchmarking can be done on an ad-hoc basis between two or more companies, by using a consulting company or by joining a consortium, similar to the one started by ARC Advisory Group. In this type of consortium, companies and sites from a number of different industries share metric data to see how they compare against each other. Example metrics include:
Metrics-based benchmarking, along with associated best practices, allows these companies to focus in on important issues-to really "take aim" on their business. Showing where the gaps are and how significant they are allows a site to focus in on the important ones and also to see where metrics interact. So, for instance, having a low number of technicians per I/O may be a good thing, if the training and support regimen on the site is at or above best-in-class. Otherwise, it could be just a cost-saving measure that will eventually become a major issue.
The ARC Benchmarking Consortium recently released its Benchmarking Report comparing data from 51 different plants. Staffing levels are just one of the metrics these manufacturing companies are using to compare themselves to others, both cross-company and cross-industry. Each metric is composed of several measures approved by the consortium as being valuable, with clearly defined calculation methods in order to remain consistently measured from plant to plant.
By using benchmarking to take aim on their businesses, consortium members are also focusing on areas of most concern.Moving to the next step, these companies can now put improvement plans into place and adopt best practices that will enable them to move closer to best-in-class. MT