Keep Focus on Reliability
Equipment Reliability is critical to any company that aims to retain and increase long-term value and productivity. It is of paramount importance that industrial managers keep on top of equipment maintenance and minimize downtime. Unplanned machinery outage is damaging to equipment, damaging to productivity and damaging to business results. Additionally, by definition of having to work on more equipment, there is also increased safety risk simply from increased exposure. Companies that fail to properly maintain their equipment are apt to see a measurable negative effect on long-term profitability.
Preventive and Predictive versus Run to Fail Maintenance
Getting into a deep dive of designing your maintenance strategy is beyond the scope of this post so I am starting with the simple proposition that the best business outcome would making repairs right before failure as a planned event. Easy in concept, very difficult in practice as any experienced maintenance manager knows. So, you are generally balancing your activities between Preventive, Predictive and Run to Fail Maintenance given changing circumstances and imperfect available information.
The focus of this post is a simple place to look for making reliability gains and move closer to that Preventive / Predictive Maintenance discipline.
Diminishing Returns on Bad Actors
Anyone with more than a few years of equipment maintenance experience knows the challenge of diminishing returns after you have picked all the low hanging fruit. You have improved all the easy to fix defects and moved into much more difficult to solve problems. Substantive improvements on the Bad Actors get harder to come by.
Justifying larger investments or expense toward improving machinery performance becomes more difficult than improving the equipment reliability.
Less Focus on Bad Actor Equipment; More on Flow
Many of your machines are sensitive to proper flow. Whether it’s not enough flow, too much flow, wrong flow, changing flow; bad things happen. Cavitation, vibration, heat, pressure and a host of other potentially damaging events go to work on your equipment. The frequency of these bad things happening can be hard to assess.
Put a little more of your maintenance and reliability focus on flow control. As valves of varying types generally control most flow, take a real hard look at how well your valves are doing their job.
Often the large, high dollar, bad actor machinery gets all the attention. So much attention that root cause issues may go undetected in less obvious flow control equipment.
Finding Equipment Reliability in your Valves and Instrumentation
Flow control and instrumentation may provide a good opportunity for many production sites to drive equipment reliability improvements without some of the relatively high capital cost associated with larger machinery. The following family of equipment can offer big gains in reliability improvements and associated business benefits by improving general machinery operating health stemming from proper flow, pressure and temperature.
Properly operating control valves are vital to overall equipment reliability. Damaged or worn control valves can lead to issues with flow rates that cause problems with machinery pressure and temperature. Control valves are a critical part of any process and keeping them in good working order is essential for good equipment reliability.
As a cousin to control valves, pressure regulators also should be included in equipment inspections and audits. Without properly functioning pressure regulators, controlling the pressure of liquid inflow becomes difficult and inexact. Similarly, pressure gauges and transmitters are essential for effective and healthy process equipment management. Unreliable pressure gauges can prevent detection of conditions that require attention and prevent operators from preventing problems before they occur.
Instrument valves are another necessary component to overall machine integrity. Defective instrument valves will allow critical equipment to operate at off design conditions which leads to a host of failure modes. The root cause of excess pressures and temperatures can be difficult to pin down after a failure especially when the cause may be an intermittent problem with a valve or regulator away from the machine that failed.
The items listed above is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but to highlight where you may find some reliability improvements hiding without the big maintenance budget impact of major equipment upgrades or overhauls.
Keep the Items That Affect Reliability On-Hand
An important aspect of human performance is to make it easy for the human to perform whenever possible. While inventory is a sensitive subject in many business settings, you need to have parts available in order to keep them operating as designed. If pressure gauges or pressure regulators are not in the warehouse, a work-order may just not include those parts during an opportunity to repair.
You should weigh the true carrying cost of the inventory against the cost of extending the cycle time for a repair and risk that the repair does not include the necessary parts.
So when you are wondering where you can look for equipment reliability gains, go with the flow.