Your wish as an ‘asset owner’, certainly in the chemical industry, is to show that your factory complies with the laws and legislation with just one touch of the button. This is impossible if the Plant Asset Management depends on Excel sheets, post-its, or on information in the heads of employees. Is digitally copying factories the solution?
What is Plant Asset Management (PAM)?
PAM is all about managing factories that are located on a plant, the assets of an industrial enterprise. The management also focuses on factory parts, such as pipes, pumps, and pressure vessels. This entirety is known as an ‘asset structure’. Effectively managing this asset structure should allow for safe factories with as few shutdowns as possible, and with operational expenses that are as low as possible.
Is Plant Asset Management gaining in importance?
There are in the chemical industry most certainly developments leading to an increasing gain in importance of effective asset management. There is an overcapacity, and margins are under pressure. Companies are seeking cost savings more than even before, for instance by the smartest possible planning of asset maintenance, which decreases the number and duration of stops. A factory standstill costs money. It helps if you can predict maintenance, and are able to very accurately determine the best moment for replacing a part.
Asset managers are also obligated to show that they obey the laws and regulations on safety in factories. They have to report to the regulator, among other things, when inspections have taken place, which parts have recently been replaced, signs of corrosion, and other planned maintenance. The company can only qualify for a ‘license to operate’ when the maintenance and inspection obligations have verifiably been met. It is in this case beneficial when the required information can be collected by just one touch of the button.
Can many companies do this, and reveal the status of the factory at the touch of a button?
Unfortunately not. Dutch factories are relatively old, and the same applies to their IT landscapes. Information on assets is scattered across numerous different systems, so there is not one version of the truth. Part of the information is not even digitally available, but is scribbled on loose papers, or is in the minds of individuals who have been responsible for maintenance for decades, and are about to retire. It is difficult to find young people to transfer the knowledge to.
Are there ways to improve Plant Asset Management?
More and more technologies are becoming available for improving asset management. An example is creating a virtual copy of a factory by means of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform from Dassault Systèmes. This model reveals where all assets are located, along with their specifications, when the last maintenance was carried out, and any interdependencies.
What are the benefits of a virtual copy?
A virtual copy offers one single version of the truth. You will find everything you need for a sound asset management in one central place, without depending on knowledge in people’s heads. There is at all times insight into the factory’s performance. With just one press on the button, you can demonstrate your compliance with laws and legislation. An additional advantage is that maintenance training no longer takes place in factories, but within the virtual environment.
With an improved overview, you can also take the step towards predictive maintenance or risk-based inspections, in which the inspection frequency depends on an asset’s risk. The virtual model quickly reveals pipes that have only water flowing through them, and pipes transporting toxic substances. In the latter case, a frequent inspection is desirable. Using real time data, you can also better predict when an asset breaks, and adjust the maintenance planning accordingly.
Are there companies that already have experience with Plant Asset Management based on a digital copy?
Absolutely. Various enterprises do not only use the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to design and construct assets, but also to manage them during the entire lifecycle. An example is American enterprise McDermott International, contractor and engineering firm in offshore, electricity generation and nuclear power plants.
Leading Dutch and Belgian companies within the chemical and petrochemical industry now also have digitally copied factories. They use the copies for optimising inspections.
Is the step towards Plant Asset Management based on a digital copy an easy one?
It takes a while before the organisation is used to the fact that asset management fully takes place via the factory’s digital copy. This requires a transformation of both people and processes. There should be more focus on change management in particular. To obtain one single version of the truth, all changes should be registered in the system. Using a post-it when replacing an asset is no longer permitted.