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The Eight Pillars of Excellent FEMI Programs

By Steven R. Bolinger, Mechanical Integrity Expert & Chemical/Materials Engineer at Becht Engineering. This article appears in the November/December 2019 issue of Inspectioneering Journal
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Introduction

A refinery or chemical plant Fixed Equipment Mechanical Integrity (FEMI) program consists of eight basic categories or “Pillars” that are fundamental to achieve FEMI excellence. While every refinery or chemical plant has some form of these Pillars in place, they are often inadequately implemented or have significant gaps in the key elements that make up a complete Pillar. This paper describes these Pillars in detail and suggests what distinguishes good Pillars from those that are less than adequate. 

The Eight Pillars of FEMI are :

  1. General and Organization
  2. Resources
  3. Corrosion Management
  4. Inspection Planning and Scheduling
  5. Inspection NDE
  6. Records
  7. Recommendations
  8. Information Technology

Typically, when a FEMI audit is performed for a refinery or chemical plant, each one of these Pillars is reviewed and scored. The following sections provide an overview of the elements each Pillar should contain, as well as criteria for assessing the Pillars in your FEMI program.

I. General and Organization

This Pillar is a high-level category that establishes how a pressure equipment integrity (PEI) department functions and is organized. The Pillar is important because it establishes the program culture and demonstrates how much influence the PEI department has within a site. The primary elements of the General and Organization category are organization structure, leadership, working relationships, and standards. Each category will be discussed in detail below. 

Organization Structure

Organization structure describes the department in which the pressure equipment inspectors, corrosion and materials engineers (CMEs), and pressure equipment engineers reside. At some sites, these subject matter experts (SMEs) are all in the same department, while at other sites, the inspectors reside in one department and the engineers in another. Typically, the most effective sites have all the SMEs in the same department – but not always. Neither approach prevents a facility from achieving FEMI excellence. Regardless of how department(s) are set up, the defining element of an effective organizational structure is that the groups function as one team, especially when solving problems. 

Organization

The PEI department usually reports to maintenance or technical. Either reporting relationship can be effective. The most important issue is the working relationship between the PEI manager and the maintenance or technical manager. The maintenance manager may have a conflict of interest when considering PEI issues. Since maintenance controls the budget and is accountable for the spend, they might not think the value of certain FEMI initiatives outweighs the cost. Whereas, the technical manager isn’t responsible for the overall budget and, as a result, does not usually have the same conflict of interest. However, the maintenance manager usually has a mechanical engineering background, while the technical manager typically comes from the process engineering side. More often than not, the maintenance manager’s background in mechanical leads to a better understanding of PEI issues. To remedy these issues, some companies have made the maintenance manager own the integrity of the equipment, which usually minimizes any conflict of interest. If maintenance does not own equipment integrity and PEI works for maintenance, conflicts of interests will arise.

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