In process manufacturing, established operating procedures describe tasks to perform, data to record, operating conditions to maintain, samples to collect, and safety precautions to take. But do you have the right data to get the key insights to act upon? Do you have access to all the data for a particular asset? And is that data current? In today’s digital revolution, cloud computing, improved analytics, and increased mobility are driving big data and productivity in the energy and manufacturing sectors. While more capable device/sensor technology and enhanced processes have improved the reliability and accuracy of data, organizations still struggle with how to leverage that data operationally and strategically—to better manage reliability strategy and operational risk. What is needed is increased connectivity and convergence of plant automation and business systems.
With increasing pressures to optimize costs and reduce the risk of industrial incidents, it is critical that inspection and maintenance efforts be streamlined for utmost efficiency. Balancing inspection costs with safety and regulatory compliance can only be achieved by understanding the risk that an asset poses to a manufacturing facility.
Similarly, advances in cloud computing, analytics, and mobility are also starting to change manufacturing operations. Recent advances have enhanced older processes and provided a new perspective to daily operations. The technological breakthroughs are creating new insights and operational efficiencies across the enterprise.
But with the proliferation of smart systems, connected assets, and mobile devices, there has never been a greater need for an integrated risk-based inspection (RBI) software solution to manage the overwhelming amount of data generated from these systems and for sound, comprehensive asset strategies. With the number of different systems and devices purchased from myriad equipment manufacturers, the problem can seem overwhelming for many organizations. This growing complexity contributes to the need for an integrated ecosystem to connect assets and enable better assessment and insights.
The convergence of these new connectivity options and data is driving the need for systems that show the enterprise a 360-degree view of its assets. Collaboration between organizations and providers is critical to advancing to the next stages of manufacturing software evolution. That is a main reason why strategic partnerships between industry vendors continue to grow, with technology providers in particular driving deep analytics for more informed decisions surrounding asset investment, maintenance, and operation. Capturing, analyzing, and turning data into actionable information in heterogeneous plant environments requires a manufacturer-agnostic ecosystem that creates measurable opportunities.
How inspection affects APM
Asset performance management (APM) software is all about connecting people, information, and devices to create a holistic view of plant operations. Organizations use APM to better manage operational reliability strategies and risk. And for any complete asset performance management approach, one step can be the most critical: inspection.
An effective mechanical integrity program has the necessary inspections for an overall asset performance management process. Inspection that uses risk-based strategies promotes the mechanical integrity of process equipment. In turn, that results in quick, measurable value through improved reliability, safety, and business profitability. Balancing inspection costs with safety and regulatory compliance can only be achieved by understanding the risk that an asset truly poses to an industrial facility. Safe, profitable organizations use risk-based inspection as the methodology to assess the probability of failures against consequences to optimize inspection activities based upon overall risk.
There are three important characteristics of inspections: internal inspections, the number of inspections, and confidence in the inspections.
Inspections for internal degradation mechanisms can be completed by visually observing the interior surface or by nonintrusive, nondestructive evaluation methods, such as eddy current testing. Each type of internal damage mechanism has a corresponding inspection strategy rule set that establishes the type and extent of the inspections required. Based on the risk rating, the internal corrosion probability category, and the type of corrosion expected, a percentage of the internal surface area of vessels containing pressure is visually inspected. If entry into the pressure vessel for internal visual inspection is not possible, then take thickness measurements on the head and shell courses and the nozzles. For vessels not in the high-risk rating, internal visual inspections may be reduced or eliminated if damage is not detected. For piping equipment, monitor the internal surfaces by taking thickness measurements. The thickness measurement locations depend on the configuration of the piping, and the number of locations is dependent upon the risk rating.
Number of inspections
An equipment item is given credit for each inspection performed to detect a particular mechanism. The total number of inspections for internal corrosion of pressure vessels is the number of internal visual inspections and the number of external ultrasonic testing inspections. For piping, it is the number of times the internal surface of the piping was monitored by taking thickness measurements. Under certain conditions, the results from an inspection performed on an equipment item can be representative of other equipment items that are within the same service, are exposed to the same operating environment, experience the same corrosion type, and are constructed of the same material. Therefore, if one equipment item is inspected, then the other items with the same conditions also receive credit for one inspection.
Michael Warren, senior consultant at Asset Optimization Consultants, Inc. He has more than 26 years of experience in asset management, mostly spent implementing, managing, documenting, and maintaining mechanical integrity programs. In Warren’s role as product manager for the mechanical integrity work process at Meridium, he has responsibility for risk-based inspection, inspection management, and thickness monitoring. Warren holds the following certifications: PMP, API 580, API 510, API 570, and API 653.