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Resolve Maintenance And Operations Conflicts

Oct. 22, 2019
Industrial IoT-enabled tools can help improve collaboration between the two groups in pursuit of common organizational goals.

A quick poll of the industry professionals attending the Maintenance & Operations: Better Together session at the 2019 ARC Industry Forum in Orlando last February revealed that conflicts between operations and maintenance groups remain the norm in many organizations. Operations are focused on short-term production goals while maintenance takes a longer-term view to help ensure asset reliability. This often leads to conflict between the two groups. But, as we learned, new Industrial Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled tools can help improve collaboration between the two groups in pursuit of common organizational goals. This is consistent with ARC Advisory Group research.

Several end-user presentations focused on this theme, with an emphasis on how the respective organizations overcame conflicts. This included a presentation by Jane Arnold, head of global process control technology at Covestro, a global provider of premium polymers.

Human And Machine Learning At Covestro

According to Arnold, Covestro is undertaking a digital transformation across the entire company -- operations, customer experience and business models. For example, the company now relies on fully integrated digital communication to strengthen its collaboration with its customers. Bidding chemicals on the Alibaba B2B sales platform, as Covestro currently does, is a vast departure from the company’s traditional go-to-market model.

Covestro is using digitalization to increase efficiencies. Production targets include no unplanned shutdowns due to process/equipment failures, optimized scoping for turnarounds and improved standard operation. At technology centers, the goal is easy access to data, efficient monitoring and continuous evaluation of process and equipment conditions.

Maintenance efficiency focuses on getting the right information at the right time for maintenance and outage planning purposes. Another focus is predictive process and self-service analytics with greater reliance on machine learning for predictive maintenance. Covestro’s culture embraces humans and machines working together. The ultimate goal is to have machines make recommendations and the humans do final interpretation based on the information available.

Lessons Learned

Other end-user speakers at the forum session included Rob MacNeil, senior technical advisor at Nova Scotia Power (NSP). MacNeil discussed how the changing landscape of power generation is driving the company’s strategic goals and objectives. This includes a holistic asset management program that encompasses operations and maintenance, as well as planning and engineering. A third presenter, Erik Olson, vice president technology ventures at Lloyd’s Register, shared how the company partnered with a technology supplier to leverage the benefits of connectivity to develop a bespoke intelligent solution for shipboard fuel consumption. (In the marine industry, fuel costs can account for 50 to 60 percent of ship operating costs).

The speakers shared the valuable lessons learned on their respective digital transformation journeys. The lessons in common include:

• Applying sophisticated tools is not an issue-free exercise. Select solution providers that will partner with you to solve your business problems and challenge each other to do more.
• Digitalization is disruptive, but common software is only half of the solution. The other half is effective work management systems that automate business processes, encourage collaboration, ensure task completion and measure performance.
• Successful management of asset performance requires vision and support at the executive level, but methodology and implementation requires grass roots intelligence and should occur at the plant level where the work happen.

Today’s IIoT-enabled technologies provide tools to improve collaboration between operations and maintenance departments in pursuit of common organizational goals. While selecting and implementing the right tools and obtaining the needed buy-in from all stakeholders can be challenging, the payback can be significant.

Paula Hollywood, Senior Analyst, ARC Advisory Group, focuses on Asset Lifecycle Management and Asset Performance Management, specifically Plant Asset Management and Asset Reliability. She also contributes to ARC's Process Automation and Field System teams. You can email her at [email protected].

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