Did you ever wonder where you fit into the entire hierarchy of a fixed equipment asset integrity management (FE-AIM) program? Or who is responsible and accountable for what aspects of FE-AIM at your site? All the way from top management down to those doing the work at the field level? That’s what I will try to address in this article.
First, let’s make sure we are all on the same wavelength with regards to what is entailed in a FE-AIM program. From my perspective, a FE-AIM program in a hydrocarbon processing plant encompasses all the activities, tasks, management systems, work practices, procedures, and standards that are necessary to initiate, implement and maintain the integrity of fixed equipment for the life of the facility. That’s a lot of stuff! And I’m not going to describe it all, as that would not be an article, but rather a relatively large book. What I will try to do here is merely show how it all fits together in a hierarchy. Having completed FE-AIM assessments at over 75 refineries and chemical plants, I have seen many different FE-AIM hierarchies and systems; so I recognize that one size does not fit all, but I hope this article helps you identify where you fit into the FE-AIM hierarchy described herein and relate it to the one at your site.
Figure 1 shows the five levels of a FE-AIM hierarchy that I most commonly see in refineries and other hydrocarbon process plants. This will serve as my model to discuss the topic, though I have seen more levels in some FE-AIM programs, and fewer levels in others, depending on the size and complexity of the plant. In this article, I will discuss what aspects of FE-AIM I envision fitting into each level in order for the entire work process to produce optimal results.
The upper levels of this pyramid are more FE-AIM leadership levels, while the lower levels of the pyramid are oriented more toward implementation of the specifics of the FE-AIM program. The upper levels provide more guidance and expectations and few details, while the middle levels provide more specific requirements and documented management systems, and the lower levels are the doers/practitioners who are more involved in implementing the FE-AIM work practices/procedures. In between the upper and lower levels, we have a blending of FE-AIM leadership, creation of FE-AIM management systems, and the implementation of those systems.
I venture to say that for the FE-AIM process to create the best results (cost effective excellence in FE-AIM), none of the levels are more important than the others. For example, if you have weak, ineffective FE-AIM leadership at the top, everyone below that level will be “pushing on the FE-AIM rope” with inadequate resources and a lack of real understanding of what management expects or needs. If you have poor implementation at the lower levels, it doesn’t matter how good your FE-AIM management systems are, the results will likely be poor. In other words, you cannot have a weak link in the FE-AIM chain or the chain will break, or in this case, a weak layer in the FE-AIM pyramid will cause the pyramid to crumble.
Additionally, I fully recognize that there is no fine line between the five levels. Rather, each level should blend into and integrate with the two adjacent levels. The lines between the five levels only serve for me to be able to describe what primarily needs to occur at each level for the FE-AIM process to produce excellent results. Now I’ll try to describe what should happen at each of the five levels to produce excellence in FE-AIM.