Operators may use a variety of tools and techniques – hardware solutions, software packages, sensor technologies – to monitor for and manage different aspects related to the performance of their plant. But are they compromising their pursuit of net zero goals or asset performance if they’re not integrating that effort into their overall management of individual assets? Oz Rodriguez of Lloyd’s Register explores the potential gains of a layered approach.
Everyone has an angle when it comes to managing critical pieces of infrastructure within a plant. The integrity professional is managing the asset from one distinctive perspective, while it’s likely that others will have a specialist focus on areas such as safety, reliability, productivity and environmental impact.
But if they’re managing their remit within a siloed structure – with no common platform where they can quickly share data to expedite decision making – then is each discipline operating under a degree of avoidable constraint? And does that in turn mean the asset itself is not being run at optimum efficiency?
Operators of course manage their plants in the round; every element of a system is part of an interconnected process and implementation of discrete maintenance and repair regimes for each of those in isolation would never prove successful. It makes perfect sense. If you go to the doctor with an ailment, they’ll check the bigger picture – medical history, other health issues, allergies – before prescribing a remedy that not only targets the problem but also factors in your overall wellbeing.
Those same principles should apply if you narrow the focus down to an individual piece of equipment. Each discipline with a stake in its performance and wellbeing shouldn’t be going about its work in isolation either. With access to all asset data, they’d be equipped to make fully informed decisions not only in the context of their specialist layer, but also in the best interests of the asset and the business as a whole.
This is a topic that’s interesting to us at Lloyd’s Register Software, not least because of how it has the potential to help deliver on global sustainability goals in the wake of COP26: An asset’s optimum working performance will embrace its energy consumption and emissions levels, among other factors that affect the overall asset health and support your key initiatives.
I stated at the outset that the integrity expert has a particular focus, but any integrity failure has potential consequences in a much wider context – across areas ranging from safety and productivity to environmental. Their counterparts in those disciplines, meanwhile, have their own specific responsibilities and indicators which constitute good performance. They’re all using specialist technologies and practices to deliver on their remit, but not necessarily as part of a complete plant strategy. They’re deploying the right tools and making the right decisions within their own scope of duty, but could they too be impacting the other areas of asset performance?
It’s a scenario that does present the possibility of wider challenges arising; of someone, at some point, missing something of operational or commercial significance.
It’s also why, along with our partners, we’re now exploring technology-led concepts, which could serve to underpin a new approach, allowing businesses to focus inspection and maintenance where they count and address risk beyond that of just what is known. You might call it a layered model, fully aligning the various disciplines, and offering a shared, centralized view of all areas of asset activity.
Creating a centralized view not tied to certain technologies or vendors that anyone in an organization can access at anytime and anywhere would eliminate the shortcomings associated with this form of tunnel vision, offering every stakeholder full and live visibility not only of their own data but also the changes and decisions others are making. An instant oversight of the impact – positive or negative – that production variations have on energy use or emissions management, for example, can only support optimum performance. Having full oversight enables people to make smart use of data, to speak the same language as their assets, and unlock their knowledge.
More broadly, it would better inform strategic business decisions on asset maintenance or replacement. Managers could better understand where their best long-term options lie. Do the prospects of much enhanced energy consumption and emissions performance, for example, outweigh the cost of investing to replace aging assets? Or is the current repair and maintenance program still the best route to take in efficiency terms? Through adopting a higher level of understanding of their assets as a whole, operators can identify and quantify opportunities for business performance improvements, as well as better, safer operations.
The concept of interconnected layers would also facilitate the introduction of new elements, if necessary, and that’s perhaps significant given that many operators are looking to introduce new emissions and energy consumption-specific tools in pursuit of net zero objectives, allowing them to drive better business value in both digital and energy transitions.
Bringing new technology onboard without integrating it into the full asset performance structure may undermine its power: Just another data point, not contributing to the complete asset strategy to its full extent because not every factor is being considered. Certainly, the new application might help in monitoring and controlling emissions, as an example, but the production regime, energy use, integrity programs – all these are part of the bigger net zero picture.
Lloyd’s Register is working with partners and customers to assess the layer concept for asset performance. The digital transformation journey has delivered numerous industry gains, but it’s our experience that people are still to a large extent working in isolation – albeit with more advanced solutions at their disposal. We believe there’s an opportunity to harness the power of digital to fully connect asset layers with their corresponding actors.
Headline photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
Oz Rodriguez joined Lloyd’s Register (LR) in 2006 as a software engineer. Having worked on various software solutions within the business, he was the lead product manager for LR’s AllAssets software, an asset performance and risk management solution allowing businesses to focus inspection and maintenance where they count. Rodriguez has been responsible for launching and commercializing the solution and now heads up Product GTM strategy at LR Software for three software solutions globally.
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