T.A. Cook has identified annualized improvement potential gains of between $40 million and $53 million that can be made by a refinery and chemical plant located in Houston, Texas. Within this, the biggest gains that can be achieved by far are in digital solutions that will impact overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) – a measure of return on assets.


Benefit potential that can be gained by implementing new digital solutions


Annual benefits achieved from OEE improvement


After being approached by the site to look at automating and improving the efficiency of processes, T.A. Cook carried out a digital maturity assessment, alongside a maintenance and reliability analysis. Its research found that hands-on tool time was approximately 45% due to poor planning techniques, behavior patterns of the front line technicians, and lack of job site preparation for repair jobs.

T.A. Cook also discovered that leadership style was predominantly reactive, with only 10% of front line supervisors’ time spent proactively supervising their team. Instead, the bulk of their time, about 57%, was spent carrying out admin tasks.

The study further revealed that while the company’s reliability program had good processes and documentation, it wasn’t being managed or executed effectively. This has subsequently resulted in major corrective maintenance work and unplanned shutdowns.

Additionally, the analysis found that the site was failing to take advantage of many prime opportunities provided by its maintenance system, SAP, often because employees didn’t know they even existed. It was also using other systems that weren’t fully integrated with SAP and so disparate that there was no single source of truth. And because maintenance and cost data were fragmented across multiple systems, it lacked transparency.

After the initial analysis was completed, the results were discussed with the company’s maintenance team and levers for improvement were agreed on. An evaluation of the benefit potential was also conducted, with concrete recommendations given to achieve them and the implementation project was drawn up.




The outlay for upgrading existing equipment, systems and software is estimated to be around $5 million for the initial recommendations. However, the financial benefits it brings are tremendous ($20-24million). Of that, approximately $19 million annually can be delivered through online condition monitoring and automated predictive analytics. Around $13 million in annual benefits can be achieved through improving OEE alone and by expanding the program further across the site, the benefits will continue to grow.

While the analysis identified significant maintenance and reliability benefits of $5.4-10 million and $15-19 million respectively, the biggest benefits that can be derived were digital.

To achieve these benefits, four key levers for improvement were agreed on. They include implementing a real-time monitoring solution with autonomous predictive models used to examine pre-defined failure modes and determine the current and future condition of assets.

Another lever is digitizing work order management by using an integrated mobile solution, and recording maintenance work and reliability data, thus reducing admin work and enabling supervisors to spend more time in the field. It was also agreed to automate reporting by using bots to populate information and strengthen integration between maintenance applications to create a single source of truth within SAP for maintenance information.

A preliminary timeline for achieving these levers was estimated to be 18 months.

“By implementing digital solutions and automating processes, you can handle complex tasks more easily, remove human inefficiencies and drive improvement. Whether it’s using a mobile solution rather than documenting something on a piece of paper or generating real-time automated reports that took days by hand, it makes everything so much more efficient.”

Tim White, Principal at T.A. Cook

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