How to Optimize Your Power Plant Asset Management System Using Mobile Data Collection

July 12, 2018
Data is king—a universal truth in any power plant. The data collection process is the most important aspect of an effective power plant asset management system. That’s because, without detailed asset readings and action-oriented data analysis, Plant Operations Managers aren’t able to make critical decisions relating to the health of the plant’s assets. As an Operations Manager, you need a reliable way to take readings from assets and track trends over time.

When it comes to managing your assets, though, paper forms no longer cut it. A paper-based collection system is often outdated, inconsistent, messy, and immensely time-consuming to analyze and incorporate into your decision-making process.

Instead, consider switching from paper forms to a mobile data collection system for tracking the health of your power plant’s assets. Mobile data collection eliminates many of the common flaws that you’ll find in paper systems, allowing you to fully optimize your power plant asset management process via actionable information. 

Why Power Plant Asset Management Systems Rely on Accurate Data

To understand why the data collection process is so crucial to power plant asset management, first consider the role an effective management system plays within your plant. 

An asset management system is a step-by-step method that Plant Operations Managers use to: 

  • Monitor and track the health of the plant’s assets over time
  • Create daily Operator rounds and schedules
  • Identify assets in need of repair or maintenance
  • Prevent asset downtime
  • Improve overall asset performance management

A power plant asset management system is only as good as the data it’s based on, though. In order to create a management process that truly works for your plant’s needs, you have to analyze real data collected from the field.

This is critical because your power plant is completely unique—you can’t use a cookie-cutter management template to track the health of your specific assets. Instead, you have to understand exactly what your assets need to function at their best. You can only get this information from a combination of reliable, accurate mobile data collection and your Distributed Control System.  One without the other only tells half the story.

How to Optimize Your Power Plant Asset Management System

To optimize your power plant asset management system using mobile data collection, follow these three steps: 

  1. Gather detailed data from your Field Operators
  2. Create new and improved Operator Rounds and maintenance schedules
  3. Focus on corrective actions and results

By following these three steps, you’ll ensure that your power plant asset management process is perfectly aligned with your plant’s needs. 

Step 1: Receive More Detailed Data from Your Field Operators 

To optimize the efficiency of your power plant asset management system, start by collecting more detailed data from your Field Operators when they make their rounds. A mobile data collection system will give you the greatest accuracy and flexibility in this regard. 

Your Operators can make detailed observations of every asset in real time if they have access to a mobile system. Using detailed and timely data analytics, you’ll know where to focus your attention and efforts in order to improve asset efficiency at your plant. 

A mobile data system can support your asset management process by: 

  • Giving your Field Operators more asset observation abilities, including the option to photograph the asset if the Operator finds something unusual
  • Providing you and your team with real-time readings and notifications that empower you to take immediate corrective action in the event of asset failure or other emergencies
  • Showing you graphs of historical trends that can help you track the health of your assets over time
  • Making the data input process faster and easier for your Operators to manage on a daily basis (which will also make your Operators more likely to record every detail of their observations)

By contrast, if your Operators use a paper-based system, they’re limited to written observations and can’t give you vital readings in real time. This could negatively impact the power plant asset management process in three  ways: 

  1. First, if you don’t have the most detailed information about the health of every asset, machine downtime and failure are much more likely to occur. Not having all of this crucial data is like viewing only a few centimeters of a painting at a time—you’ll never get the full picture of what’s happening in your plant on a daily basis.
  2. Second, a paper system isn’t able to send you notifications immediately after your Operators make observations in the field. This inhibits you from taking immediate corrective action, if necessary.
  3. Third, a paper system promotes inconsistency.  Where one Field Operator might input a numeric value for a reading, another Field Operator might input a check mark or “okay” for that same reading.

For these reasons, a mobile data collection system is superior to a paper-based system, and could dramatically improve your overall power plant asset management process. 

Step 2: Create an Improved Power Plant Asset Management Schedule

Another way to improve your power plant asset management process is by refining your Operator Rounds schedules and identifying the best times to perform routine maintenance or repairs on your assets. 

A mobile data collection system can improve the scheduling process at your plant in a number of different ways, including: 

  • Storing historical records about asset health: The digital log will show you which assets have been observed recently, as well as which assets haven’t been checked in awhile. This allows you to plan your Operator schedules so that these neglected assets are checked more frequently. You can even assign specific assets to specific team members directly from your mobile data collection system’s web browser
  • Reorganizing Operator shifts: The data log will show you how productive all of your Operator shifts are, and whether one shift experiences a greater number of asset failures than another. Knowing this, you can shuffle your Operator schedules around so that your most experienced and knowledgeable Operators can handle your most complex or failure-prone assets.
  • Timing important repairs: Occasional asset repairs are absolutely essential, but they’re also inconvenient for most power plants. You might have to wait hours for a boiler drum to get replaced in your steam turbine, and, in the meantime, the entire system has to shut down until the repairs are finished. Using mobile data logs, you can prevent this by identifying the least productive times at your plant and choosing to make essential repairs when it will be least disruptive to your operations.

By switching from paper to mobile data collection, your power plant asset management process will become much more streamlined because you will have identified the absolute best times to perform each task, from routine rounds to crucial asset repairs. 

Step 3: Encourage Corrective Action in Your Power Plant Asset Management System

When a gas turbine engine’s firing temperature suddenly drops, you want your Field Operator to record the reading right away. But what good is recording a dramatic decrease in temperature if no action is taken to correct it? 

One significant disadvantage of a paper data collection system is that important readings like this can easily get stranded out in the field. Even if the Operator knows that the reading is unusual, he may not know what steps to take right then and there to fix it. Moreover, you may not receive the troubling temperature reading until your Operator returns to the control room. 

Using a mobile data collection system, you can take more immediate corrective action in a situation like this. The key to an effective power plant asset management system is not only being able to diagnose the health of your assets, but also to take action when that health is threatened. Mobile data logs provide real-time updates on the health of your assets, which gives you the opportunity to decide on the right course of action, right away. 

Mobile systems can also present  your Operators notifications containing specific instructions while they’re out in the field. So, in the case of the sudden drop in temperature in the gas turbine engine, your Operator may receive a digital notification telling him to adjust the firing temperature control and then contact the on-site Manager. 

Using a mobile data collection system, you’ll not only be able to manage all of your assets more easily on a daily basis, you’ll also be able to act more quickly in the event of a safety emergency or asset failure. 

The Best Way to Improve Your Power Plant Asset Management System 

A mobile data collection system can improve the quality of the data that your Operators collect in the field, assist with asset maintenance schedules, and give you the tools you need to take immediate corrective action in an emergency. These three benefits combined are the building blocks of an excellent power plant asset management system. By following these three steps, you can dramatically improve the health of your assets and overcome any future challenges you might face. 

Request a no-obligation demo of our GoPlant system to get a firsthand look at our power plant asset management features. The GoPlant software system can help you track the health of your assets over time, schedule and assign Operators to specific tasks, and create automatic notifications whenever a reading falls outside of the normal range. Connect with our team today to find out more about how the GoPlant system can help your plant run more efficiently.