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A Quest for Defect-Free Plant Operation - Part 2: Implementing a Fully Integrated Management System

By Satwant Rakhra. This article appears in the March/April 2019 issue of Inspectioneering Journal
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This article is part 2 of a 3-part series.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (coming soon)

Editor’s Note: It has often been stated that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The following series of articles covers practices that aim to eliminate the potential for creating defects in equipment by identifying conditions leading to defect creation and eliminating them in a proactive manner. Hence, practices such as IOWs, inspection, and QC will be familiar to the Inspectioneer. This is the second part of a multi-part series. Part 1 appeared in the January/February 2019 edition of the Inspectioneering Journal.

Introduction

Faulty management thinking regarding systems, processes and staid practices continue to lead us into building process plants which start to experience failures soon after they are commissioned. A quest for a defect-free operation requires an effort to systematically and effectively reduce the current equipment failure rates. The proposed 5-prong business strategy discussed in this series of articles is, in the author’s opinion, an antidote to these issues. The strategy enables:

  • A management team to adopt new thinking
  • Develop an enlightened workforce
  • Utilize a comprehensive management system (MS)
  • Implement better processes
  • Instill a culture of continuous improvement

The strategy is a unique combination of critical concepts and systems, the implementation of which will help a management team significantly improve its operational performance. Up to this point, these concepts and systems have only been discussed in isolation, and thus it’s been difficult for any organization to make connections and apply them effectively to its operations. The application of this lean way of thinking and Shingo’s Zero Quality Control (QC) methodologies that proactively help discover and eliminate conditions that may lead to errors and defects, are the hallmarks of this strategy.

Zero QC methodologies are described herein, and their application is explained using industrial examples. A table is utilized to help personnel analyze the conditions that may lead to the creation of errors, occurrence of the errors, and subsequent effects. A plan to mitigate each error is developed and timelines specified to ensure that no error is permitted to mature into a defect. A key element of the strategy is the implementation of a structured, comprehensive, and integrated mainstream MS. The development of a mainstream MS and the integration of various activities, requirements, and guidelines are reviewed in detail to enable any management team to develop and implement a MS that is suitable for its organization. A comprehensive and fully integrated mainstream MS that is capable of providing systematic and detailed guidance, fully supported by effective work processes, increases the probability of achieving defect-free designs, procurement, fabrication, construction-installation-commissioning, operation, and maintenance processes. Throughout the application of the MS to the plant processes, recommendations are made, and a review of the industry-wide gaps that were discovered by the author and other field associates over a period of two decades of inspections and auditing experiences, are presented.

The aspects of an operation, such as the process itself, personnel safety, product quality, the integrity of the equipment, and the protection of the environment are intertwined and inseparable from each other. The systems and the processes implemented throughout an operation are woven through the thread of a comprehensive MS that is at the heart of any operation. The achievement of a defect-free operation is an extraordinary result which can only be achieved through an extraordinary effort (i.e., the implementation of the 5-prong business strategy articulated in this article). This article was written by the author upon his retirement and is based upon his lifelong industrial experiences, the study of the works of many reputable writers in the field of quality, pressure equipment integrity, the lean way of thinking, ISO practices and RAGAGEP (recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices).      

The author proposes that defect-free plant operation can be realized if the most senior leader and his/her executive management team implement this 5-prong business strategy:

  1. Develop a transformational understanding and appreciation of ‘lean thinking,’ amongst the management team and create an environment in which the ‘lean way of thinking’ is adopted throughout its organization;
  2. Transform the entire organization by providing awareness training, systems training, and skills training;
  3. Implement a fully integrated and documented management system through which the ‘lean way of thinking’ strategy can be successfully deployed;
  4. Continuously improve and ensure that work processes are capable of producing the specified quality, safety, production and environmental protection objectives; and,
  5. Instill an autonomous culture of improvement throughout the organization to enable continual improvement of the capacity, safety, quality, performance, and for sustaining the gains made.

Equipment either fails due to reasons unknown to the industry or because of defective management thinking, processes, management systems, designs, procurement, construction, installation, operation and/or maintenance practices. All failures attributed to the defective practices are preventable and will be investigated and solutions proposed in this series of articles. In Part 1 of this three-part series, the author focused on describing the ‘lean way of thinking’ and what that could potentially mean for your operation. In Part 2, the author will lay out strategies operators can implement to reduce failure rates, eliminate wasteful activities, reduce costs, increase capacity, improve safety, and achieve the goal of defect-free operations.

Understanding the Lean Way of Thinking

So just to recap, in the context of a process plant, defect-free operation status is said to be achieved when an organization successfully implements the 5-prong business strategy outlined above, prevents damage to or failure of its equipment, performs activities that consistently meet its quality criteria, and produces a product that meets its specifications.

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