Flawless start-up for a factory

April 19, 2021

The start-up of a new plant has a typical pattern. The production volume does not increase exponentially during the first period, but has peaks and lows. “The production loss during a routine start-up of a new plant is around forty percent,” says Tewes Remge Zeef (Asset/Reliability Consultant at Bilfinger Tebodin). “This brings with it an increased risk of potential accidents and significant corrective maintenance. Eventually companies do get to that hundred percent production volume, but of course you want to get there as soon as possible.”

Asset Management by Design

With the Asset Management by Design method, you can realize a flawless start-up of a plant. Zeef: “We make sure that the right information is available for the maintenance management system, is delivered immediately in the right format and is available in the systems on time. This also applies to equipment data, preventive maintenance tasks and work instructions for operation and maintenance.” To achieve this flawless start-up, Bilfinger Tebodin goes through several steps. One of those steps is a RAMS study (Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety). RAMS provides an insight into the performance that the system must be able to deliver during its life cycle. Zeef: “It outlines a future image of a plant in terms of availability, reliability, maintenance and safety. We can also use a RAMS analysis to indicate what the critical spare parts are, so that they can be ordered in time.”

Asset Management by Production

Once a plant is up and running, the Asset Management by Production method (a continuation of Asset Management by Design) can be used to achieve flawless production. To do this, Bilfinger Tebodin uses the Plan, Do, Check, Act procedure. Zeef: “We use this to check whether our model is complete. Is all the data there and is the model working as predicted? Then we look at certain market changes, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. You can now calculate whether it might be useful to carry out maintenance then. Another example is to look at what happens if you replace a compressor with a more energy-efficient one that has less availability. You can calculate what that will mean for production in a year’s time, in five years’ time and beyond. For an older plant, a Remnant Life Assessment (RLA) can also be interesting. This is an analysis that determines the residual life of a plant or asset.”

Benefits

With the results of a RAMS analysis, an asset owner can decide to stay on course or to develop an improvement project. That improvement can be a modification, a different maintenance concept or making adjustments in production. Once authorized, stakeholders must be involved and a schedule must be created. Then the project can be implemented. According to Zeef, the best way is to apply the method to a plant that has yet to be put into operation. “Then it has a significant added value. It is more difficult with existing factories; you have already lost the initial costs. You also have to keep in mind that you cannot do everything at once with an existing factory. Even so, the method can still provide good insights and improvements. The benefits outweigh the costs of the Bilfinger Tebodin Asset Management by Design & Production method.”

From corrective to preventive maintenance

It is also possible to improve a plant’s operations based on an industrial benchmark and fault and maintenance data. Zeef gives an example using a customer. This company has an annual turnover of 200 million euros and maintenance costs of 6 million euros. The current availability is 90 percent. That is 5 percent less than the industry average. The company does 50 percent corrective and 50 percent preventive maintenance. On average, that ratio in the industry is 30 versus 70 percent. “If we analyze the maintenance and fault data, we can see where optimization is possible. Then we can review maintenance concepts or do a risk study to do less corrective maintenance.” Corrective maintenance is five times more expensive than preventive maintenance. That can add up in cost. “If we change the numbers to a ratio of 30/70, in this example we already save 1.6 million euros per year in maintenance costs,” explains Zeef. “We also save time, which ensures higher availability of the plan. With a potential turnover of 2.9 million euros per year as a result. After that, the investment and associated costs can be made transparent in order to maximize availability to 95 percent. This can lead to a potential turnover of 8 million euros per year. In total, this means an increase in turnover of 12.5 million euros per year. To go through the process, costs are incurred, but these are low compared to the revenues.”