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Asset Management: A Plant Manager’s Best Friend

vmfall11_maintenance_tabletInformation about the performance of a facility’s valves has never been more readily available—or more important. Digital positioners and distributed controls can provide valuable data about the operation of the overall system. At the same time, the growing complexity of today’s facilities, increasingly stringent regulatory and reporting requirements, and growing pressure to improve plant performance have combined to make that valve data more vital than ever.

But how can an operations or maintenance manager get the best information? To be useful, the data must be readily available and presented in a user-friendly manner. Asset management systems can fulfill this need by providing easy access to a database containing details of the history and health of every valve in a plant.

WHAT IS AN ASSET MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

An asset management system is the valve equivalent of the electronic medical recordkeeping systems used by hospitals and clinics. For medical applications, the patient’s electronic record contains such information as test results, prescription history, diagnostic images and notes on previous appointments. The physician can access this data with just a few clicks of a mouse, no matter the time of day or night or whether he or she is in the office the patient typically visits, or at a sister facility. Having this complete record helps the physician identify any changes in the patient’s health over time, make accurate diagnoses, alert when routine tests and procedures should be completed and properly bill the insurance provider.

Similarly, an asset management system for valves stores performance data, maintenance records, test results, piping and wiring diagrams, photos and other vital and diagnostic records in a simple and logical manner. The information can then be easily retrieved for use in tasks such as performance analysis, outage and maintenance planning, inventory management, validation reporting to inspectors and loop analysis. An asset management system also can help plant personnel see trends in valve performance over time, diagnose performance problems, determine whether a valve should be repaired or replaced, streamline plant turnarounds and other maintenance activities, and more easily meet documentation and reporting requirements.

Various types of asset management tools are in use today, ranging from spreadsheets and other user-designed tools to sophisticated Web-based programs. The following are key factors to consider when evaluating the options and choosing the right solution.

RANGE OF CAPABILITIES

A key objective of implementing an asset management system is to simplify and streamline processes. To aid in this goal, plant personnel can choose a single tool that will meet all of the plant’s needs, rather than juggling multiple tools to accomplish different tasks.

This single tool should be able to capture data about all types of valves in a plant—control, pressure relief, line, gate, motor-assisted, etc. It also should record information about a valve and all of its accessories, not just an individual component, such as a positioner.

SUPPLIER SUPPORT

It also is important to have confidence that the system’s developer will stand behind the product and provide ongoing support and service, including adding new features and modules. The college student next door who is home for the summer may be a software development whiz; but he or she is not likely to be available come fall, let alone years down the road, to field technical questions and ensure a tool meets evolving needs. A wiser move would be to choose a strong provider committed to its product.

DATA INPUT

Because asset management is about the quality of data, the old adage “garbage in, garbage out” holds true. Data input and maintenance must be regular and accurate if a tool is to provide expected benefits. Some plant operators prefer to handle these tasks in-house. Those who do not have on-staff resources to accomplish these tasks faithfully, however, should consider other options. Some valve service providers offer managing their customers’ asset management systems as a value-added benefit at no additional cost. The end user still owns the data and links to that information, but the service provider handles the data entry and system maintenance.

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