Construction data an asset for maintenance—but only if it’s shared

ARC Forum: Better quantity and quality of asset data an opportunity to reduce costs and improve uptime.

By Bob Vavra, Content Manager, CFE Media February 11, 2015

There’s a hidden weapon in the battle for uptime: information.

While plant design and construction leaders have a ton of information, migrating the information about all of the installed assets has been either too fast or too slow, according to Ralph Rio, research director for ARC Advisory Group.

“There has been too much emphasis on design and build and not enough on operate and maintain,” Rio told attendees at the 2015 ARC Industry Forum in Orlando on February 10. “Those folks involved with (asset lifecycle management) can communicate better with those who are not.”

The data available when a plant is built or retrofit often gets lost in the handover between the construction team and the operations team. And Rio noted that it’s not just the quantity of data that’s the issue.

“Quality problems are pervasive around asset information,” Rio said. “The primary problem is associated with handover, and that’s the most dysfunctional process there is, and it’s totally mucked up in most organizations. The bulk transfer of data is terrible; the ad hoc sharing of information is even worse.”

ARC champions what Rio called a “stage gate” process to manage the volume of data as well as make the process of verifying data easier to manage. “If you bring the operation and maintenance people in earlier in the process and they become aware of information available, you can pull information more gradually rather than wait for the end to do it.”

The move to a more systematic asset lifecycle information management system is gaining a foothold, and Rio said such a system helps plant managers keep control of costs and improve maintenance practices.

“The primary reason for this kind of solution has to do with uptime,” said Rio. “That relates to the balance sheet and the P&L statement. More capacity drives revenue, it removes unplanned downtime, and it controls costs around material and labor.

“The longer an asset lasts, the more it improves the balance sheet,”[SS1]  he added. “The metric of the senior executives is the P&L statement. When you can affect that in a positive way, you get management’s attention in a positive way.”

Rio noted that a recent ARC study with found that 82% of asset failures are random. “Preventive maintenance doesn’t fit well where likelihood of failure is random in nature,” he said. “Preventive maintenance makes sense for about 20% of assets. The other 80% of our assets needs predictive condition monitoring. You really need to have a conversation about condition monitoring, and have a conversation with your OEM about how they’re going to help you do condition monitoring.”

At Dow Chemical, the process of managing all assets in a $60 billion chemical company is obviously daunting, yet it still is a company objective, according to Dow Chemical’s Deborah McNeil, who also spoke at the ARC event.

Finding alignment between such diverse interests as IT, maintenance, construction, engineering, and operations is one of the big challenges for a company such as Dow, McNeil said. “We are trying to get owners to agree we could align all of these functions, but I still think we’re struggling in defining the value,” she said. “We still remain pretty siloed. It’s hard to see that the value is in the white space between the functions.”

McNeil identified four reasons companies such as hers have struggle with better data sharing across functions:

  • Cross-functional barriers still have to be overcome. “We’ve got to start talking to each other,” said McNeil.
  • “We had multiple operating and maintenance systems. You’ve got to get a common platform.”
  •  “We’ve got to care about accuracy of data. Otherwise, no one is going to trust it. That’s a big cultural change for us. It needs to be good data.”
  • Companies have to move away from a capital project mentality to a more holistic operational strategy. “We have to have it coming from the top,” McNeil said. “Short-term project priorities trump longer-term values.”

The payoff, though, is in getting the right data to the right person. Noting that between 20% and 30% of maintenance costs could be saved with better information in the field, McNeil championed a process that looks for gradual, provable success ahead of a big win.

“The value is in the big projects, but there’s greater risk,” she said. “We’re going to pick the smaller projects and prove the value. To have one of these big projects fail is not a pretty thing.

You take a small step, take another step, and keep going.”

– Bob Vavra, content manager, Plant Engineering,