Discover the Power of Connected Assets

March 5, 2018
Are your critical assets performing their best? Is unplanned downtime draining the bottom line? Has the organization been chasing asset and process efficiency improvements? Stop reacting. Start predicting. Re-examine traditional approaches to asset performance management.

We all recognize that asset availability and performance, balanced against controlling maintenance costs and planned downtime, are essential for better productivity. The real challenge is knowing what the right balance is.

Understanding your strategy is the first step. Having an asset performance management (APM) strategy is the right direction when compared with the traditional, reactive approach of “run to fail.”

Traditional APM has focused on asset risk, reliability and maintenance cost reductions—largely based on conventional methods of asset monitoring. Implementation of traditional APM is considered complex and expensive and, as a result, is typically deployed only on capital-intensive assets. In addition, keeping such a system up to date and secure requires a significant investment in both IT and operational expertise and often involves multiple vendors. Furthermore, despite the valuable data generated by these systems, they are often disconnected and don’t help plant managers make confident decisions about how to operate.

Smarter APM

Though most plants operate efficiently, there are opportunities for improvement, especially when production is asset-intensive or capacity-constrained, or margin improvements aren’t optional. To assess your situation, ask yourself these questions:

  • How easy is it to understand the economic impact of suboptimal equipment performance?
  • Is it better to reduce throughput to extend the life of critical equipment? Or should the equipment be stressed to maximize current production demands?
  • Is there excessive inspection of certain pieces of equipment that can be reduced to save maintenance budget?
  • Can the potential maintenance cost savings be offset by the expected (statistical) losses of possible unplanned downtime?

Connecting three technology aspects—enabling secure connectivity to a wider set of assets, continuously monitoring both asset health and process performance, and combining predictive analytics with industry expertise—results in smarter APM and assures confident decision-making. A digitally transformed and connected APM strategy improves production certainty and outcomes by eliminating silos and effectively closes the loop between operations and maintenance.

Increasing uptime requires asset data, process data and operational settings to be brought together in a connected, secure environment. In this setting, asset and process experts can use analytics to find better ways to eliminate unplanned downtime and optimize equipment maintenance.

While assessing your situation, it’s important to realize that process and equipment are inseparable. Equipment failures can’t be completely analyzed, predicted or reduced by just looking at asset measurement data. Reliability of an asset is dependent on understanding how a process is being operated and if that asset is being optimally maintained. After all, operation and maintenance-induced equipment failures account for the majority of unplanned downtime.

The best performance and equipment effectiveness comes from combining process knowledge with equipment expertise in a collaborative and connected software ecosystem.

Essentials of a connected asset performance strategy

There are several factors to keep in mind when planning a connected asset performance initiative:

  • Realize that APM is rapidly undergoing a digital transformation. Traditional APM capabilities need large capital investment projects, many handcrafted interfaces and duplicated data sets. They also are often accompanied by complex system administration, upgrades and lots of end-user training. This combination can be a deterrent to improvement and strain plant resources.
  • Leverage the simplicity and speed of connected software by working with a vendor possessing deep industry expertise to accelerate the APM deployment. Deployment time should be measured in days or weeks instead of months or years. Consider an approach that blends secure connectivity, advanced analytics and automated software configuration for a solution that is as easy to live with as it is to sign up for and get running.
  • Cybersecurity is not optional. Cybersecurity threats are pervasive and ever-growing. There can be no exceptions—every asset’s performance, operation or automation initiative must involve comprehensive and vigilant security methods.
  • People are your most important investment. The best APM software in the world can only guide you in what to do. Improvements don’t happen without supervisors, engineers and operators trained to maintain and operate the equipment. Our next generation of process industry professionals will manage plants very differently, leveraging connected software in new ways that improve operations beyond what could be accomplished until now.

The bottom line is that you can avoid critical asset failure and unplanned shutdowns and improve bottom-line results by implementing a connected asset performance management strategy. With the proper technologies in place, plant personnel can more effectively collaborate to monitor and proactively manage production. Deploying a smart and connected APM initiative simplifies implementation, eliminates silos and effectively closes the loop for optimizing operations and maintenance.

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