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When operations and maintenance see eye-to-eye

02 June 2015

Operations and maintenance staff can work more effectively together if they use the same plant data, says Will Leonard, Oil, Gas & Petrochemical UK marketing manager for ABB. 

Electrical, instrumentation, control and telecom systems are responsible for monitoring a process plant’s critical assets and companies are under pressure to get more from these assets – higher reliability, productivity and performance. Yet over time, the condition and performance of all this equipment will degrade.

The adoption of asset management strategies, based on systematic condition monitoring, are often employed to counter this, as these solutions are designed to help avoid unplanned production downtime and reduce operational expenses by optimising maintenance planning. 

However, operations and asset management systems are often incompatible or are unable to share information among all the people who need it.  Operations, maintenance and engineering departments often have different goals and priorities – at least in the short term – leading to under used assets, inefficient operations, lost revenue and perhaps even compromised safety.

There is also the issue of how and when maintenance is performed. No industry can afford to perform maintenance on equipment that does not need it, nor can they afford a shutdown resulting from the sudden failure of a critical asset. Yet time-based maintenance practices often lead to no actual task being performed, while corrective maintenance inevitably leads to production interruptions. 

By contrast, predictive maintenance – maintenance when a condition is detected – can replace time-based guessing, enabling maintenance to be more accurate and operations to be more efficient.

The main benefits of an asset management strategy, therefore, are increased asset availability and performance, maximised operations and maintenance effectiveness and enhanced health and safety.

To promote collaboration between operations and maintenance, and streamline the overall work processes, maintenance data needs to be shared between the DCS and a computerised maintenance management system (CMMS). 

This brings huge benefits. With one system, offering a single complete view of the assets across the enterprise, maintenance operators can plan their activities, track spare parts inventory and even order external contractors, using the same system that is aggregating condition monitoring data across the company. 

Building a complete asset management strategy requires two types of systems – plant asset management and enterprise asset management.

Plant asset management (PAM)
Plant asset management systems provide a single application for predictive diagnostics, document management, calibration management and device configuration for managing different types of assets. 

An important aspect here is fieldbus technology, which provides access to diagnostic data from field devices and electrical equipment. This contrasts with traditional hardwired connections, which limit the amount of diagnostic data that can be used for maintenance analysis.

Equally important is the analysis of process-related data such as that from PID control loops. When the diagnostic and process data is collected, maintenance users can monitor asset health and make decisions based on real-time data, either from maintenance work places or different types of mobile applications and notification systems.

Enterprise asset management (EAM)
Maximising the return on investment from assets is crucial, with the objective being to maximise productivity and minimise total costs.

Managing assets across the facility gives organisations a number of benefits, including improved performance, reduced capital costs, lower asset-related operating costs, extended asset life and improved return on assets.

Essentially, enterprise asset management helps the company decide how equipment budgets should be used to meet the needs of the business – whether resources should go to adding or reducing equipment, sourcing replacements or maintenance. 

CMMS maintains information about the plant assets and the maintenance organisation’s operations, allowing better planning and execution of maintenance jobs and helping management make more informed decisions.

Helping operations and maintenance staff achieve better cooperation requires all work processes related to maintenance. This means connecting and sharing maintenance data between the plant asset management system and the enterprise asset management system.

A seamless connection
An effective asset management strategy will combine the needs of both the production and maintenance organisation to be streamlined. With a seamless connection between PAM/ EAM systems and related working procedures, asset information is provided in the proper context to operations, maintenance, engineering and management.

An integrated PAM/ EAM integration allows users from different departments, in geographically remote locations, to co-operate on workflows in real-time using different views of the same data. This ensures time-to-repair is reduced and coordination between production and maintenance activities is more effective. 


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