The Benefits of Software-Based Asset Inspections for Efficient Plant Operations

July 17, 2018

Asset inspections keep the wheels turning at your plant, day in and day out. Routine inspections help you catch potentially dangerous hazards or defects in your assets, ensuring the health of your plant’s equipment so that everything remains running smoothly. This is a crucial element of your asset performance management process—and of keeping your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) low. Not all asset inspection methods are created equal, though. A paper-based system for inspecting and tracking the health of your assets is inherently flawed in a number of ways:

  • Manually transcribing data from a paper-based system to a database or spreadsheet  is very time-consuming.
  • Important, actionable data can be uselessly stranded in a filing cabinet, or never collected in the first place..
  • Your Operators may not have the most up-to-date version of the paper inspection protocol, which can lead to inconsistencies in your asset inspection process.

This is why software-based asset inspections are far more beneficial for your plant compared to a manual, paper-based system. Mobile asset inspections allow you to continually and efficiently refine your asset inspection process, dramatically improve plant safety, get data into the hands of decision makers, and can lower long-term asset repair expenses. Here are the top three reasons why you should implement software-based asset inspections at your plant:

Software-Based Asset Inspections Make Better Use of Your Operators’ Time

The first reason why you should use software-based asset inspections over paper-based ones for asset reliability management is that digital data collection systems respect your Field Operators’ limited time and resources. Software-based asset inspections increase your Operators’ efficiency in the field in three ways, including:

  1. Eliminating the need for manual data transcribing and uploading: When you use a software-based inspection system, your data will automatically sync to a searchable, reportable database—there’s no need for your Operator to hand off the inspection paperwork to someone in the control room. And your Operator will never have to manually input data from a paper-based system into a database . This can save them hours of unnecessary work every month.
  2. Encouraging Operators to take immediate action: Digital asset inspection software can be programmed to prompt your Field Operators with immediate corrective action instructions and/or send alarms up the management chain when an asset isn’t performing at peak efficiency. If a vital pump at your chemical plant fails inspection, your Operator will know exactly what to do to prevent the asset from failing completely or putting staff members in danger. For example, the software may alert him or her to shut down the asset immediately and contact their supervisor. By empowering your Operators to take immediate action, not only do you improve safety at your plant, you also prevent your Operators from wasting precious time out in the field. When an Operator delays taking action, it can make the situation more dangerous, or increase your plant’s risk of costly machine downtime.
  3. Streamlining your Operators’ schedules: A software-based asset inspection system makes it perfectly clear which Operator needs to check which asset, and at what times throughout the day. The software can be configured to assign certain Operators to certain tasks, and the system will update as soon as that asset has been inspected. This saves Operators time—and makes your plant run more efficiently—because your Operators won’t have to ask you what or where their next assignment is. They also won’t accidentally inspect the same asset twice.

These three benefits of digital equipment maintenance checklists and inspections will make it easier for your Operators to inspect every asset at the plant routinely, which in turn will improve the safety of your plant, and the overall health of your assets.

Digital Asset Inspections and Data Collection Improve Safety and Compliance

Every single Process industry, from wastewater management to power generation, leverages the use of asset inspections. This is because asset inspections play an important role in overall plant safety. Without routine inspections, crucial pumps, generators, or transformers may fail. If this happens, it could cause a number of safety problems for your staff. Even something that appears minor, like an asset that has a small leak, could pose a threat to not only the health of your equipment, but also to the safety of your Field Operators. If the asset doesn’t have enough lubricating oil, it could overheat and cause severe damage. Moreover, oil that spills on the floor could make working conditions unsafe for your Operator, as the floor may become slippery. Software-based asset inspections ensure a safer working environment because routine inspections can help you catch many potential risks before they become liabilities. A digital inspection and data collection system will:

  • Immediately notify you of any minor changes or anomalies in your assets, allowing you to take corrective action right away.
  • Ensure that inspections are performed consistently—and according to exacting inspection standards by every single Operator on your team.
  • Keep a thorough log of every inspection performed on every asset. This will help you prove safety compliance if your plant is audited, or when you renew your plant and machinery insurance contracts.

When you have a reliable, consistent set of asset inspection standards, it’s much easier to prioritize safety at your plant without disrupting daily operations.

Improved Asset Inspections Lead to Lower Repair Costs

One final reason why software-based asset inspections benefit your plant is that digital inspections and data collection ultimately lead to less downtime and lower repair costs. How does a software-based system accomplish this? By emphasizing routine equipment maintenance. When you have a paper-based inspection system, nothing is prompting you or your Field Operators to inspect a particular asset on a particular day. You usually need to keep your own separate scheduling system for your Operators, and you have to manually assign each of them to inspection tasks (often times a dry erase board in the control room). In this kind of a paper-based system, an asset may be unintentionally left out of the Rounds—weeks might go by before one of your Operators remembers to inspect it. If this happens, that asset may be at higher risk of failure because you may be unaware of operational problems creeping up. This, in turn, may lead to higher repair costs, since it is almost always cheaper to fix a problem as soon as it can be diagnosed. With a software-based system, you can easily resolve this issue. Your digital data collection system can automatically schedule recurring inspections at intervals you define once based on your Operators’ schedules and the needs of particular assets. You can even set up different inspection frequencies for different assets, checking some daily and others monthly. This allows you to catch potential problems early and make essential maintenance repairs while they’re still minor.

Implementing Software-Based Asset Inspections at Your Plant

By making routine asset inspections a priority, and streamlining your inspections process via the digitization of your data collection, you’ll make better use of your Operators’ schedules, improve plant safety, and lower asset repair costs. A software-based system is the best choice for your plant because it can automate much of the inspection process for you. Plant Operations Managers won’t have to repeatedly schedule inspections manually, keep track of a messy paper trail, or oversee major repairs that could have been prevented with routine maintenance. With reliable software supporting your keen-eyed Operators, you’ll ensure that your plant runs at peak efficiency year after year.

Request a demo of the GoPlant system to find out more about our asset management and inspection features. The GoPlant software system can help you schedule Operator Rounds and keep close track of the health of your assets over time. Connect with our team today to find out more about how the GoPlant system can help you improve your asset inspection protocols.