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Reducing the Maintenance Burden

David  Wilbur's picture
Generakl Manager & CTO, United Electric Controls United Electric Controls

David Wilbur is the General Manager and Chief Technical Officer of United Electric Controls. Dave has 35 years’ experience in the design and manufacture of embedded instrumentation. He joined...

  • Member since 2021
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  • Jul 20, 2021 9:42 pm GMT
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Poor maintenance strategies can reduce a plant’s overall productive capacity by 5 to 20 percent. Relying on a reactive approach can result in unplanned shutdowns and potential safety incidents, all of which negatively impact the bottom line. Increased maintenance costs, shorter asset lifespans, additional safety issues, and inefficient practices are all the norm with this approach.

 

A study into the causes of unscheduled downtime found aging process equipment was the leading contributor. To address this problem, organizations need to streamline processes, reduce redundant efforts, and digitize where possible to optimize maintenance and operations.

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Plants need to look for ways to update and connect the complex web of process equipment and machinery to gain valuable insights into every facet of their operations. This intelligence enables them to make informed decisions around when and how maintenance should be performed to improve reliability and availability.  

Data, Driven Decisions

The promise of Industry 4.0 is the automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices. As plants undertake digitization efforts, they need to modernize antiquated technology spanning heavy equipment through to the instrumentation and field communication layer. 

 

As plants digitize their assets, this generates data that they can use to drive better decision making including predictive and preventive maintenance.  For example, the intelligence can shed light on the instabilities and contributing factors behind issues like water hammer. Data then determines the steps needed to prevent the water hammer from reoccurring and keeping everything running smoothly. Adding self-diagnostics to digitized assets adds another layer of protection against undetected failures that might occur. The impact of these problems could lead to an unplanned outage incurring significant financial losses and creating a potentially catastrophic situation.

 

The data generated by digitization enables plants to make timely and insightful maintenance decisions that drive up the efficiency and reliability of operations. As plants tap into the insights, maintenance can shift from reactive to preventive and ultimately predictive strategies. The key to reducing the maintenance burden and optimizing uptime is to tap into data and take action before the next predicted failure

 

Maintenance Strategies

With unplanned downtime, the Achilles Heel of oil and gas refineries, every plant is looking for ways to optimize production and eradicate unplanned outages. This is seeing a shift to preventive maintenance techniques to help optimize the management of assets. Maintenance is now no longer viewed as an overhead but as a way to maximize plant uptime while driving growth. Proactive strategies cut down the need for frequent repairs, which translates into significant cost savings in the long run. As a result, plants continue to move towards preventive and predictive maintenance strategies.

 

Asset-intensive organizations allocate a significant portion of revenues towards maintenance programs. So, minimizing maintenance directly impacts the bottom line, delivers efficiency gains, and improves overall safety. By tapping into the actionable insights about the condition, safety, and performance of equipment and processes, plant operations will run smoothly with minimal downtime. Every industrial organization can reduce the maintenance burden by updating and digitizing legacy assets and tapping into the added intelligence provided to increase operational reliability.

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