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When failure is not an option

23 June 2018

Andy Cruse says that the importance of asset management within a food processing and packaging line should never be underestimated. He provides his thoughts on what best practice should look like. 

As any maintenance engineer will know, there is a correlation between improving the reliability of critical assets, extending their mean time between failures (MTBF), and reducing warehouse costs. By bringing asset management into the equation, you can unlock a host of additional benefits, such as minimising unplanned downtime, rationalising spares purchasing, reducing the overall unit costs of production caused by energy and raw materials wastage, and maintaining adequate levels of hygiene and safety for consumable products.

The first step
The first step towards effective asset management should be to establish a condition monitoring strategy. You can then identify any potential asset failures and plan for repairs or swap-outs in a way that does not impact production. Identifying issues in their early stages also means that you can rectify them before a catastrophic failure occurs.

If, for example, you are monitoring a process pump and you notice that its performance is starting to drop off, you may simply need to adjust clearances. Early intervention on a leaking mechanical seal could save you from far more severe consequences. This is less costly and labour-intensive than replacing major components caused by catastrophic failure. It also prevents the faulty unit from compromising related equipment, or other parts of the process.

Getting the size and shape of your spares stock right can be difficult. No business wants unplanned downtime, but neither will it want its capital tied-up in spares that are only needed if a critical asset failure occurs.

Imagine that you have six rotary lobe pumps on site, all of which process paste for the production of cooking sauces. One unit failure may not impact the entire line – especially if you have a spare or a standby unit installed.

However, problems can occur if the Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) for that unit is excessive or finding a replacement, is difficult or costly. This is where your process can become vulnerable. You may find yourself covered, in the short term, by implementing the standby unit, but you will also have reduced cover until the repaired unit is returned. This is where the spares and stock strategies need to reflect the true criticality ratings of the installed base.

The solution to this, and similar problems, is to use survey data to develop a suitable asset management strategy.

Safety in statistics
Let’s return to our six rotary lobe pumps. In order to prevent any catastrophic failures, our hypothetical maintenance engineer would need to know the criticality, MTBF, manufacturing lead time, and MTTR for each pump.

Only when armed with these facts and figures would the engineer be able to develop a spares strategy that could optimise cost-effective spares coverage and minimise production losses from an unpredicted asset failure.

ERIKS recently conducted an analysis of the pumps, spares strategy and asset criticality at a beverage manufacturer’s UK production site. We started by producing a Pump Reliability Tracking Graph, which measured the number of failures, the monthly MTBF and the rolling MTBF over a period of five years.

Once this was done, we carried out a criticality analysis, in which we highlighted any pumps that required spares to be in stock. The analysis categorised each pump on a scale from one to five, which was as follows:

1. A  pump failure will not stop production because there is a standby pump.
2. A pump failure will result in the loss of production on a line, but a spare is in stock.
3. A pump failure will result in the loss of production on a line, and there is no spare.
4. A pump failure will result in the loss of site production, but a spare is in stock.
5. A pump failure will result in the loss of site production, and there is no spare.

This analysis allowed us to highlight any pumps that required spares to be in stock, thereby reducing the criticality rating of each pump from a five, to a one or two. The final step involved establishing the MTTR for each pump type and identifying the number of spares required.

From all of this information it was possible to define a spares strategy, which the manufacturer could then use to standardise and rationalise its spares stock. Together with process improvements and repair best practice, this project led to an improvement in the MTBF of the pumps, which now measure 100 months against an industry target of 60. The food manufacturer was also able to reduce its annual pump system maintenance costs from £250,000 to £100,000.

The roots of success
In my opinion, best practice in asset management involves a supplier that can advise you on the best possible purchasing and stocking decisions for sufficient coverage and reduced costs. In doing this, you can benefit from specialist knowledge of all critical food processing equipment, whether that be a pump, a heater, a mixer or a grinder, as well as the supplier’s close relationships with leading manufacturers of food-grade solutions.

Specialists in asset management also go beyond monitoring assets, predicting failures, and scheduling swap-outs and repairs. They maximise your MTBF by identifying the root causes of failures and mitigating the potential for any reoccurrences.

Furthermore, in adhering to best practice and partnering with a specialist, you are investing in the best-possible service for your plant’s best-possible performance.

Andy Cruse is technical director for Flow Control at ERIKS UK & Ireland.

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