Equipment integrity and reliability programs are essential for refinery and chemical facility operators. The processes of the programs are developed to ensure safety, optimize component life cycles, and promote smooth and economical operations. Yet, before such programs can be correctly built or optimized, a mechanical integrity and reliability assessment can serve as a powerful tool for improvement.
Assessing: The Greater Context
Assessments should not be confused with audits. An audit is characterized by pass/fail, it must be enforced, requires documented proof, and demands actions from findings. An assessment, on the other hand, aims at sustained improvement, taking input as fact, and ensuring that findings lead to solutions.
Overall, the purpose of an assessment is to evaluate how inspection, reliability, and all relevant parties effectively manage the integrity and maintenance at a facility. However, the assessment should never be executed without a greater understanding of program vision and implementation. As an example, if an assessment is being used to drive a significant gap closure plan, then the overall process should look as follows:
- Develop Vision: Clearly define the desired state of a future program, including targeted metrics and goals.
- Assess Current State: Assess the current state of the program when compared to the vision. This should be done at an effective set of representative sites, if possible.
- Close the Gaps: Build and execute implementation roadmaps to close the gap between the vision and the current program.
- Change Management: Administer effective change management to ensure the newly implemented program is effectively transitioned to the onsite personnel.
- Evergreen Program: Manage the program using strategic key performance indicators (KPIs) that are set up to quickly identify deviations from the vision and empower targeted correction.
An assessment that neglects this wider context as listed above, will never realize its full value potential.
Before starting the actual assessment, cascading the sponsorship of the wider plan across the company is crucial. This includes not only the assessment itself, but also the vision and the follow up gap closure plans that are linked to specific gaps found through the assessment.
If the assessment involves multiple sites, there needs to be sponsorship and alignment not only within the current facilities, but also properly broadcasted through the appropriate channels. This typically involves healthy collaboration between corporate stakeholders and the individuals at the site. It is often wise to bring representative site managers, engineers, and technicians into the assessment process as early as possible.
Typically, success cannot be obtained if there is not appropriate corporate and/or facility sponsorship vertically (from top to bottom) and horizontally (each site should be properly represented and incentivized). The assessment might be ineffective if any layer of the organization does not invest the time and effort to incur collaborative interaction through the entire process.