Read part 1 of this series here.
Instrumentation and monitoring technologies have become instrumental in improving plant productivity and efficiency. While these tools provide great value to the industry, the importance of the field workforce in the overall effectiveness of a plant's reliability strategy cannot be dismissed. Instrumentation and remote monitoring software must be combined with tools that empower employees to manage and maintain systems reliably and efficiently. This comprehensive strategy can help field workers increase their knowledge of system processes, analyze equipment data, and make well-informed decisions.
Remote access to standard procedures is something every field worker needs, whether he or she is an operator, mechanic, inspector or other facility employee. Employees may not know they need a specific procedure until they are at the equipment that needs immediate attention. One procedure may reference several more procedures that need to be used. Employees cannot be expected to carry a library of paper binders every time they are in the field. In these situations, mobile decision support software can provide the correct information in real time while helping gather data, identify defects, predict impending failures and capture predictive maintenance (PdM) related activities. This is often far more than paper- or experience-driven tasks could accomplish.
Remote access to standard procedures also heightens situational awareness by providing focused advice or guidance of the corrective measures that must be taken to prevent failures based upon the asset's "as found condition." For example, operators cannot remember every safe operating range of every gauge they have to monitor, where each step change in severity level is or what corrective action is required depending on that severity level. If forced to act upon experience, an operator will likely make a bad decision at some point because they lack all of the needed information to make a well-informed decision.
Advanced scheduling offers users the ability to schedule tasks such as reliability programs. Some of the input sources for task frequency include the following:
- Failure history
- Condition monitoring history
- Vendor recommendations
- Industry specific best practices
- Regulatory requirements (commitment tasks)
- Asset specific design and/or operating parameters
- Planned outages (to asset, system, operating area)
- Accessibility to the asset
- Field worker's ability to execute task
- PdM monitoring
- Environment that asset is installed in
Different tasks must be scheduled at different frequencies. Likewise, tasks may be considered conditional, meaning they are only needed when a certain condition or event has occurred in the field. This cannot be done without mobile decision support software applications and is a critical component to ensure an efficient field workforce.
Visibility to the non-instrumented data benefits the organization in several ways. At each point that must be monitored or inspected, the field user has access to historical readings, trends and notes. This information helps workers make well-informed decisions about the equipment. This visibility also provides access to gathered data through emailed reports, desktop-based data review and auditing applications. By pushing data to subject matter experts, supervisor and managers, plants and facilities are able to shorten the time it takes for information collected in the field to be reviewed. This visibility also provides integrations to other systems, including the following:
- Process historians
- Manually collected data is sent back to the process historian where it is made available to trend along with instrumented data.
- Centralized maintenance management systems (CMMS)
- Mobile work order execution (preventive maintenance and corrective)
- Automatic updates to work order history, time and status
- Laboratory information management systems (LIMS)
- Positive sample identification and accurate sample times are sent back to the LIMS system. This ensures samples were not mislabeled.
- Reliability management systems (RMS)
- Manually collected data is sent back to the RMS where it can be used to analyze and predict failures.
- Other systems including custom built applications.
While this only scratches the surface of what a mobile decision support application can do, the return on investment can be significant. By empowering the field workforce to make better decisions faster, plants and facilities can reduce safety incidents, maintenance costs, unplanned shutdowns or slowdowns, backlogs and inventory levels.
Modern remote monitoring technology can also improve health, safety and environmental compliance, plant and asset availability, maintenance efficiency and reliability, and knowledge retention.