Four Steps For Unlocking Truth About Plant Performance

To unlock the truth about manufacturing performance and to reap the benefits of the Industrial Internet, organizations should consider these four steps.

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According to GE, the Industrial Internet could add $10 to 15 trillion to the global GDP by 2030. So what can organizations do to take advantage of that growth opportunity? Specifically, how does an organization operationalize and benefit from the Industrial Internet and use big data to uncover asset performance improvement opportunities? Asset Performance Management (APM) leverages the Industrial Internet by organizing big data into a single software database and puts that data to work to give it context and highlight areas for improvement.

Despite growing pressures from investors, regulators and consumers to optimize performance, many organizations haven’t integrated critical non-financial performance indicators into how they regularly track and communicate their success. Coordinated buy-in across the organization for implementing APM is pivotal to fostering a robust program. The task of data integration, training and attaining buy-in can be daunting. But with a solid integration platform and a team willing and focused on a common goal, the benefits are plentiful. If people can go to one place for information, they will quickly find that they’re more efficient and effective in their job.

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To unlock the truth about manufacturing performance and to reap the benefits of the Industrial Internet, organizations should consider these four steps:

1. “Baseline” your assets. Many successful organizations don’t even realize that their assets aren’t performing to their maximum potential or even on par with industry averages. To understand whether manufacturing assets are functioning at ideal performance levels, operators must first establish a baseline. Scaling software across an enterprise is no easy task, but having an accurate understanding and benchmarking your installed asset base is a foundational element to any APM initiative.

2. Perform rapid assessment. Since asset uptime is a priority for manufacturers, operators must quickly identify any bad actors that are limiting performance or putting facilities at risk for shutdown or an accident. To conduct ongoing rapid asset health assessments, companies should track a set of standard key performance indicators (KPIs) focused on cost, reliability and availability, and constantly be monitoring for assets operating outside acceptable parameters. By instituting a comprehensive APM program, one oil and gas company saved $8M USD in maintenance and downtime; prioritized maintenance for more than 100,000 assets; and avoided a $4M USD spend on inspections and lost production savings.

3. Gain insights internally and against peers. The next step in managing performance is to benchmark with internal comparisons. Operators can’t manage what they can’t measure, so companies should use all the data coming from assets and monitor performance on a consistent basis. Once all assets are being monitored, companies must cleanse and aggregate data from multiple sources, and then they can draw comparisons across equipment within the plant or even across plants within the organization.

Clean, accurate data is critical to asset performance management, while “dirty” data will quickly result in bad analysis and hinder improvement efforts. This data should then be organized and transformed into actionable, decision-quality information. With data from multiple sources, organizations have access to an “apples-to-apples” analysis and can rectify any data quality issues within their own organization. For example, one organization merged seven instrument databases into one APM calibration management system covering more than 4,000 assets, which enabled its technicians to be more productive, and saved the company $20,000 annually and cut failures by 10 percent.

The insights drawn from the baseline and internal comparison data can be critical for not just the organization, but also for comparison against the rest of the industry. Uploading data into an anonymous database — allaying any competitive-intelligence concerns — allows organizations to understand how assets are performing across different companies and operating environments. Leveraging insights from a comparative database gives all members a competitive advantage by allowing them to understand how their assets are performing compared to industry data.

4. Drive continuous improvement. APM software platforms enable businesses to capture, analyze and act on performance data with the goal of creating and continuously updating intelligent strategies to manage production assets. APM technology turns data and analytics into meaningful performance information and key insights to drive strategic business outcomes, operational excellence and continued success. Establishing a baseline and continuing to benchmark assets across the organization and industry helps organizations identify assets with chronic failures and drive failure elimination efforts to improve their reliability and availability while optimizing costs. For example, one power company used APM to improve availability, cost and compliance, and ultimately saved 10 times the cost of unplanned outages by scheduling, planning, and optimizing the outages using more informed decision-making driven by APM data and analysis.

Top-performing organizations are now integrating APM into their enterprise operational excellence processes and information management systems to ensure performance can be consistently monitored and improved. When an organization follows these four steps, they can discover opportunities around their production assets to reduce failures, maximize uptime and optimize costs, which is essential under any market circumstances.

Mike Matlock is Senior Vice President of Customer Sustainability at Meridium; Jeffrey Ladner is Senior Director of Operational Excellence and Risk Management at IHS

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