Globally, the process industries lose the equivalent of five percent of production annually because of unscheduled downtime and poor product quality.
ARC Advisory Group estimates that almost 80 percent of these losses are preventable.
As the longest phases in any asset's lifecycle, operation and maintenance (O&M) account for the highest costs associated with an asset. Any improvements a manufacturer can make in these lifecycle phases can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
A perfect storm. A number of factors have converged to drive the current interest in reliability software and services. Increases in the amount and complexity of plant assets employed are the primary factor, as the lines between work management and information technology (IT) become blurred.
Greater emphasis on safety, energy consumption, and environmental control compound the need for more data. Enterprises now place greater emphasis on risk management to limit their exposure to adverse events.
Add to this the growing shortage of skilled technicians to operate and maintain assets, and a "perfect storm" begins to materialise.
For owner-operators, asset reliability requires the convergence of process control with work management to form the basis for a more robust approach to sustainable business performance improvement.
This convergence resolves weaknesses in one methodology, while being additive for both. For example, process control solutions cannot identify asset criticality, but reliability solutions can.
Manufacturers can improve efficiency and productivity with standardised workflows based on best practices. Reliability solutions transform data into instantly accessible, context-appropriate information for those who need it.
Proactive maintenance as a strategy. As maintenance activities migrate from reactive to proactive, new solutions are emerging that are designed to leverage the rich information available to manage critical issues better within the confines of operational constraints.
In terms of enterprise software for the manufacturing industries, asset reliability software is a relatively new entry to the marketplace as it applies to emerging critical issues facing manufacturers. ARC believes the real value of enterprise-level reliability software lies in its analytical capabilities.
Operational risk management. Managing risk is an essential component of a reliability program. Decision makers need to understand the uncertainties of costs versus risks to make informed decisions about the benefits of a given strategy and any impact it may have on safety.
Identifying critical equipment; failure modes; failure effects on equipment, personnel, and the environment; and critical spares on hand enables decision-makers to leverage the right risks, while maintaining the appropriate controls to ensure effective and efficient operations.
Visualisation capabilities in risk management modelling tools are a powerful tool that provide individuals with information in the context of their responsibilities and level of authority.
Displays of real-time information and historical trends at the management level enable actions based on facts to minimise the costs and losses associated with a business interruption.
Reliability goes mobile. Technicians frequently perform work that takes them out of range of wireless networks or handheld cradle for data transmission.
As a result, reliability solutions have migrated into handheld devices and tablets for the bidirectional exchange of data. For example, SKF offers ruggedised handhelds to support operator-driven reliability (ODR). This enables operators to take a more proactive role in initiating corrective actions for degrading equipment.
Meridium recently introduced its Tablet Application Framework, a platform that allows for the rapid development and deployment of mobile, tablet-based applications, which integrate with Meridium's software. Mobile applications enable access to data at the point of the asset where it is most needed.
Taking reliability to the next level. Currently, reliability is generally an afterthought, with little reliability input in the concept and design phase of the asset lifecycle. To take reliability to the next level, it must be built into the asset.
Reliability expectations should be defined in the concept phase and used to drive reliability into the design phase of the product development cycle. Early testing can identify important failure modes that should be resolved in the final design.
Unresolved failure modes, such as normal wear of items, should be identified in diagnostic guides in condition monitoring and PAM solutions to drive appropriate maintenance strategies.
A reliable-by-design approach provides a clear understanding of the risks before products are introduced and enables end users to better address issues later, if necessary.
Historically, in the hierarchy of an enterprise, maintenance has been viewed as the ugly stepchild. It carries negative connotations; connotations that something is broken and will cost a lot to fix.
In challenging economic times, the maintenance organization is frequently the first to experience cuts in an attempt to improve profitability. Enterprises have come to the collective realisation that this attitude can be self-destructive.
As a tool in the asset performance management (APM) toolbox, reliability solutions enable enterprises to optimise asset availability and utilisation to help mitigate exposure to risk.
Paula Hollywood is a Senior Analyst at ARC Advisory Group. She has been covering field instrumentation and other automation technologies for over 30 years. She currently focuses on enabling technologies and strategies for industrial asset performance management.