All of industry relies on properly working equipment and well-trained staff to operate and maintain their facilities. However, when staff relies on outdated information or incorrect tagging, the risk of serious safety and reliability problems increases as does the cost of doing business.
Anyone who has provided valve repair services for any amount of time will have run into situations where certain elements necessary to complete a job were missing. It might be that an unknown safety factor for the removal of a piece of equipment did not come to light until the start of the job.
Another possibility is that there is incomplete information from the user that factory parts necessary for the proper repair of a specific valve have a long lead time. Without accurate histories of repaired equipment, engineering or maintenance planning personnel may often need additional time to come up with correct solutions and a proper path forward. The importance of having complete documentation and histories for all equipment cannot be overstated.
Accuracy and Safety
The electronic mapping process (EMP) was developed by Darrell Roberts and Steve Rowell, each 25-year maintenance planning veterans. Throughout their careers, they saw a need for accurate equipment records for planning, safety, and reliability.
A survey was conducted of several plants in a variety of industry settings to see how they maintained and accessed their equipment data on a daily operational basis. It was discovered that each plant had its own process for service and a very specific way of doing the business of repairs and maintenance. Because of that unique approach by users, it was apparent that a standard or generic mapping process would not work to solve the real issues within each site; there were just too many variables between each location and the decision makers. Each situation needed to be treated as a separate, stand-alone process in order to meet individual long-term goals and objectives. This was the only way an effective mapping program could be designed and implemented to be truly useful in the plants.
A format was developed to encompass the basics for all needed or required equipment information. Complete and accurate specification information on designated items was the first of these basics. This would help the user reference the item by type, number, or location. Every piece of equipment had to have the requisite documentation, which would include source and repair history.
The next area to be addressed was safety issues surrounding the mapped equipment. This proved to be a largely overlooked area. Operators, planners or engineering staff often look at the same job, reviewing and evaluating each point numerous times during any given year. There might be hot areas, areas with chemical components, piping hazards and so on, but they are not documented and because they are seen so frequently, aren’t necessarily noticed. By creating a clean, mapped-out program, the likelihood of creating “at-risk” areas is reduced along with the time in man-hours that would otherwise be needed to evaluate any risks.
Lower Maintenance Costs
The final step in the process was acquiring the proper tooling and adding material data needed to perform services. This includes all tools, gaskets and studs—in fact, everything related to the future service of the mapped equipment. Sending a worker to a repair site without the correct tooling leads to additional lost time and additional at-risk opportunities.
With the basic template, users can complete their own EMP database. Each operator has a choice of up to six data-boxes to add information on their specific units. This helps them customize and detail information to be used as a random access library via corporate drives, desktops, or even with something as simple a company iPhone.
This makes the equipment mapping process flexible with the kinds of information documented and the capacity to catalog all equipment throughout a plant site.
In many instances, the EMP is used strictly for valve outages and location identifications while others use it for their maintenance on turbine ID fans, compressors, boilers or larger stationary equipment. Many of these larger stationary units may be serviced by a variety of providers. It’s not uncommon for one of these service providers to issue a handwritten report on service. These descriptions can easily get misplaced, but with the EMP, all data is important. To ensure that nothing is left out of the equipment mapping process, these handwritten notes are scanned and converted into PDFs, which can be included in the digital file. This allows a history to be built and evaluated over time. For strong asset management companies, the work provided by all vendors is critical to budgets and forecasts for the future.
In today’s world we see many long-term employees taking retirement packages or working diminished roles. This is not an overnight process; it’s just how business has been evolving over the last decade. But if you factor in employees that stay at a site for less than 5 years, that means there is a lot of transitional experience that leaves the business. It is for this reason as well that equipment mapping is essential. By fully mapping a site and using it as a reference library for a sundry of different uses, a company can better cope with the constantly changing business environment and not be caught with a lot of questions never to be answered.
An example rests in a refinery that had start-up issues for over 20 years. The root cause of many of these issues was incorrect or insufficient information on valves that were swapped out during turnarounds. Using the equipment mapping process, they were able to plan and document all procedures in the plant, a process that was key in solving their issues. With the recent implementation of the EMP into their outage planning module, the site has been successful in starting up each year without issue.
In summary, everyone can benefit from the equipment mapping process. Having correct and accessible equipment information creates a domino effect of savings and reliability that shows up on the organization’s bottom line.