Asset Reliability Management: Key Strategies for Plant Operations Managers

June 14, 2018

Meeting challenging production quotas without exceeding strict budgets, and then doing it all over again the next day—this is the life of a Plant Operations Manager. A single facility or campus is your home turf, your domain. But you also have to answer to your parent corporation up the chain who depends on you. Your duty, then, is simple, even if accomplishing it isn’t: maximize the reliability of your assets.

You’re probably offered unsolicited opinions about your asset management practices regularly, but you’re the only one who knows your plant inside and out. You know what your plant needs before it becomes obvious to anyone else. And you know that the foundation of effective asset reliability management is being familiar with your assets and assigning resources appropriately. What you may not yet have considered is how modern technology can bolster your current asset reliability management practices.

Key Strategies for Plant Asset Reliability Management

Your key plant management practices should all be focused on one primary goal: asset reliability management. Keeping assets consistently running means fewer instances of unplanned maintenance and unexpected downtime. The result is increased production levels, exceptional worker safety, and on-time customer deliveries. Bottom line: asset reliability is one of the biggest factors impacting your plant’s profit margins.managing plant asset reliability

The key to keeping your assets running? Know your assets inside and out, and then use that knowledge to inform the allocation of your resources. Easy to comprehend; difficult to implement—until now.

Digital data collection offers increased oversight  by utilizing intelligent mobile decision support for Plant Field Operators. Modern software and other technologies offer accurate, real-time visibility of your plant and its assets so you never lose sight of the big picture. Together, these benefits enable you to efficiently navigate surprises while strategizing for a healthy—and profitable—future.

Managing Your Assets via Awareness of Your Plant’s Equipment Reliability

To make smart decisions, Plant Operations Managers must know which assets they have at their disposal, if those assets are operating as expected, what operation each one is essential for—and what it would cost to fix it.

Without this basic oversight, you won’t be able to make strategic choices. This could leave you paying big and late on unplanned repairs and downtime when you could’ve paid small and early, if you’d known how.

How Timely Information Improves Asset Reliability and Strategic Planning

In order to be useful and timely, information must be visible. Collecting data does nobody any good if that data sits unread in dusty file cabinets or sequestered in various information silos accessible only to subsets of a plant’s personnel. It’s important to have the ability to generate reports and retrieve information on your plant’s key metrics in order to get a big picture idea of how it’s operating. It’s also necessary to keep a close eye on each individual asset, and how it’s functioning at any given time.

Knowing your facility’s big picture capacity and reliability will:

  • Help you plan for future operations
  • Give you insight into the best ongoing repair schedule
  • Determine what new assets you’ll invest in next
  • Allow you to meet your quotas on time, in full, every time

How Information Technology Enhances Asset Oversight

With instrumented assets, you’re able to take a quick look at an your operator console in the control room, your browser on your desktop, or a mobile device and get a good idea of what’s going on in your facility in real time. However, instrumentation alone has its limits. Visible inspection, combined with instrumentation, remains the most effective way to stay updated on the state of your equipment. But there’s room for improvement within this process.

When your data isn’t consistently managed, you just can’t trust it.

Currently, visible inspection information is typically collected by Field Operators on their rounds and recorded on paper round sheets. How much of your day is spent reading these checksheets—is it too much, or not enough? Or both? How many man-hours must be spent per week inputting this data into spreadsheets? Why? How accurate is the data? Do you trust the data? When your data isn’t consistently managed, you just can’t trust it. Doubt erodes confidence and undermines accurate decision making.

The valuable information collected from operator rounds can be streamlined by moving check sheets from paper and clipboards to mobile devices and tablets. Mobile electronic checksheets allow real-time feedback and historical trends on asset condition, if that condition is outside normal operating parameters, so you can take action on spot small oncoming issues while there’s still time to correct them. And by uploading information directly to a company’s server, redundant data entry is eliminated. Instead of having to sift through stacks of paper for a single digit out of place, software can generate reports that show you everything you need to know, when you need to know it.

The efficiency gains that modern software technology produces has the potential to ripple throughout your facility. Knowing that your assets are reliable allows you to confidently manage your production schedule much further in advance.

Using Asset Data Collection to Increase Operations Efficiency

It should never be forgotten that the purpose of Operator data collection is to increase the efficiency of plant operations. This comes down to keeping plant equipment functioning properly by appropriately assigning maintenance resources. Here are three steps to accomplish this:

  1. Establish routine asset usage and maintenance
  2. Monitor how efficiently assets are used
  3. Plan for unplanned repairs

Establishing Routine Asset Usage and Maintenance Best Practices

Your first step toward achieving and maintaining the highest asset function possible for your plant is to establish routine usage and maintenance guidelines—if they haven’t been established already. This typically comes up when bringing new assets online or during a yearly facility best practices review.

Information on optimal usage parameters and guidelines for upkeep will come from the equipment’s manufacturer, your experience with the equipment, and historical observations of equipment performance. Your Field Operators and Repair Technicians who work with the equipment day in and day out will have intimate knowledge of your assets as well.

Monitoring the Efficient Use of Assets

Once you know the laws of operation, then it’s time to play sheriff and lay them down. You’ll need to make sure usage and maintenance are done correctly, every single day. This is tough to do. As much as your Field Operators may believe otherwise, you can’t be everywhere at once, especially when your facility covers several acres.

By placing QR codes or barcodes on your assets, you can make sure your operator actually visits the asset in-person for their inspection—yes, even that one.

Modern technology can help, here, as well. Timestamped round sheets show you when a Field Operator input equipment data, and whether or not they’re on schedule. By placing QR codes or barcodes on your assets, you can make sure your operator actually visits the asset in-person for their inspection—yes, even that one. Information on preventative maintenance being performed can be collected the same way.

Insights gleaned from this information can help you more accurately plan your employees’ rounds and maintenance schedules, whether that means they need more time for certain tasks or whether there’s a little fat in the schedule to be trimmed.

Planning for Unplanned Repairs

The final step towards optimal plant asset functionality is, inevitably, planning for how to react to unplanned events. Something is bound to go awry every now and again. External events, like weather conditions, for instance, are beyond your control and can result in unplanned asset repairs.

Having an accurate, current set of data to work with in an unexpected event will help you best allocate repair resources. This is especially important when more than one repair must be made at once. Knowing what the downtime of each piece of equipment will cost, its expected lifespan, and the price of repairs will allow you to effectively prioritize your resources. When assigning resources, it’s important to focus on the assets which will have the greatest overall effect on your operation.

Each plant, in each industry, faces different obstacles in the pursuit of optimal production. But the basic duties of each Plant Operations Manager remains the same: You’re tasked with maximizing asset reliability by gathering all relevant operations information and assigning your resources where they will have the most profitable impact. As facilities grow ever larger and more complex, the speed and efficiency of modern data collection technology becomes more and more necessary to keep up with the pace of production.

GoPlant was launched with one idea in mind: to make mobile plant data collection powerfully efficient. Our tablet interface allows logs and inspection results to be input directly into a central database, eliminating redundant pencil and paper data entry. Our asset-centric organization system allows plants to collect the most important data for their specific needs.

To learn more about how GoPlant can simplify your plant operations and reduce operating expenses, request a demo. Or, contact our team to learn more how GoPlant can increase the reliability of your plant’s assets.

Image courtesy agnormark