New concept for remote working
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic one of North America’s leading integrated petrochemical facilities was in the midst of an on-site improvement project with T.A. Cook to enhance the reliability of their aging utilities infrastructure. Utilities are critical to the operation of every industrial facility and ensuring maximum uptime is of utmost importance, especially during a global crisis. The unanticipated health concerns, rapidly changing safety regulations, and intensive travel restrictions created an immediate need to reconsider the methods for accomplishing the goals of this project.
Late in 2019, a team of experts from T.A. Cook started the process of validating equipment in the field and collecting manufacturer’s nameplate data. This was to support the bigger goal of preparing detailed, RCM-based equipment maintenance strategies which were deemed critical to the uninterrupted operation on this multi-plant site. A previous evaluation of the risk exposure due to equipment failure provided a multi-million dollar business case to install robust maintenance plans for this critical equipment.
The key step of evaluating equipment criticality and ranking it using a fit-for-purpose risk matrix started in the weeks before a near nationwide lock down. In mid-March when severe travel restrictions were being put in place, the chemical industry was deemed critical by the US Department of Homeland Security as their products are essential to continued daily life and also vital in the fight against the the new Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
For this reason and to ensure the continued mitigation of critical risks to this client’s operations, it was unanimously agreed by both teams that the project must continue. Within a five day period site leadership and project managers on both sides brainstormed a remote approach which the project could follow and take in its stride the new ways of doing business resulting from the changing rules and safety mandates. Using secure web conferencing software already in place, the teams tested out the remote workshop approach.
Once implemented with the right structure and mindset, the client team successfully realized the benefits and in some ways improved efficiency of facilitating workshops remotely. With these initial results, the team confidently continued the facilitation of Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) using remote web conferencing. These workshops were time-limited to 120 minutes and included frequent breaks.
After several weeks, these collaborative workshops resulted in the completion of the desired equipment strategies and prepared the client to implement the identified recommendations and improvements to ensure effective risk mitigation. The outcomes included engaging cross-functional groups including operations, maintenance, asset management, site leadership, and engineering to implement routine condition monitoring, time-based operator inspection and functional testing, as well as improvements to existing predictive maintenance practices to reduce the risks of unforeseen equipment failure.
The project team’s commitment to staying on track with risk mitigation and a structured approach to workshop facilitation, including routine breaks and engaging attendees in individual conversation beyond work, were some of the key success drivers in this. Given the results so far, risk evaluation and mitigation strategies were completed successfully and the teams continue to keenly work together on further risk mitigation across the remainder of equipment.