Reliability & Maintenance

Improve Your Plant's Performance

Heed some useful pointers to achieve and sustain better operations.

By Mark Rosenzweig, Editor in Chief

Chemical Processing doesn't publish "theme" issues, i.e., ones largely devoted to a single topic such as fluid handling or process automation. Instead, what links the content in every issue together is our founding credo of "practical usefulness," as I detailed in our 75th anniversary issue, "CP Celebrates its Diamond Anniversary." However, that doesn't mean certain articles can't share a common thread, as this issue illustrates. Three articles focus on different steps a plant can take to enhance overall performance.

Three articles in this issue focus on ways to enhance overall performance.

Our cover story, "Aim for Operational Excellence," by Bernard McGarvey of Eli Lilly demystifies what the term operational excellence means. It notes plants should pursue operational excellence while realizing it's never attainable. The quest can lead to higher levels of process performance. However, gaining and maintaining improvements depend upon organizational changes — and these require paying attention to seven elements. Focusing on only a few of these, rather than on all of them, will stymie success, he cautions.

The article provides tips for addressing four crucial aspects — the way to structure teams to implement operational excellence initiatives, the strategy to follow, the three types of skills people on the teams need, and appropriate systems to support the teams in their efforts.

Another important way to enhance performance is to prevent events that can lead to downtime or worse. However, many plants undermine their efforts to avoid future incidents by not analyzing near-misses appropriately, warns G. C. Shah of Wood Group Mustang in "Learn More from Near-Misses."

Not every near-miss deserves a root cause analysis (RCA) but engineers and managers at sites now generally only pick near-misses for further analysis based on their own experience and, usually, the severity of the potential incident without regard to its likelihood. This approach may miss some near-misses that, in other circumstances, could lead to moderate- or high-risk events, he warns.

A better tactic is to rely on a risk matrix (RM), in effect, extending the RM approach already used for process hazard analysis, he says. This semi-quantitative method can screen near-misses by likelihood and severity to identify those that really deserve RCA.

 Plants also should look to upgraded automation to enhance operations. After all, a modern control system can improve plant availability and reliability and also provide a more-flexible production platform, notes Christopher Peters of Honeywell Process Solutions in "Optimize Control System Migration."

However, making the most of a modernization demands detailed planning and a structured and organized approach to implementation, he stresses. This must involve clearly understanding the desired outcome of the upgrade, including the improved functionality wanted, and the migration activities' impact on the process, as well as properly dealing with a variety of hardware and software issues. Done right, the project will enhance the benefits of the new technology, reduce risks and preserve valuable intellectual property.

We often publish articles related to enhancing overall operations. For instance, if you go to and search "plant performance" 499 listings appear, "operating performance" brings up 508 entries and "process performance" yields 724! And we'll be adding many more in the future.

rosenzweigweb.jpgMARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can e-mail him at

Be sure to check out his page.