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Breaking from a Vicious Cycle of Maintenance Strategy

The oil and gas industry is going through a tough period and many companies are downsizing. Oil and Gas UK reports that jobs in the North Sea have been reduced by 1/3 over the last three years. Unfortunately, we can see this trend all over world for the oil and gas industry. This reduction in staff has a major impact in the maintenance strategy.

How can downsizing impact the maintenance strategy?

The main problem is that we still need to maintain many assets. Clearly, limited number of maintenance resources implies you can only perform a limited number of maintenance tasks. The result is in a growing maintenance backlog since we do not have the required number of resources to take care of all the work.

To add to this challenge, companies might enter a vicious cycle of maintenance strategy. A reactive maintenance repair, triggered by equipment failure, gets priority over a routine maintenance. This delay is added to the growing maintenance backlog. Being unable to perform planned maintenance means that the condition of the systems cannot be captured. Not knowing the condition of a system, decreases our ability to identify an issue earlier, increasing the probability of unplanned shutdowns which then will cause more delays to routine work.

The Vicious Cycle of Maintenance Strategy: Unplanned failure occur >> Unplanned repair prioritized >> Planned Maintenance postponed >> Unplanned failure occur

Breaking the cycle!

To break from this Vicious Maintenance Strategy Cycle companies need to ask:

  1. Do we need to perform all planned maintenance activities in our maintenance backlog? Can we reduce the number of low-priority planned maintenance given our limiting number of resources?
  2. Do we understand the impact of postponing certain Planned Maintenance work?

Understand the risks involved with delaying maintenance work is fundamental to ensure the health of a business. This can only be achieved using strategic analytical methods such as Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM), Risk-Based Inspection (RBI), Performance Forecasting (RAM analysis) and Safety Integrity Level (SIL). With these methods, companies can easily identify what to prioritise and when to do the work. In addition, combining these methods to a Plan-Do-Check approach (PDCA) provides a powerful platform for making informed decisions about the risks involved in delaying planned maintenance work – an evergreen Asset Performance Management.

Being able to answer these questions will ensure the right resources are placed to the right maintenance tasks.

2 Comments Add your comment
Avatar Carlos Viloria says:

Thank you for this post. Just knowing what DNV pioneering background on Mintenance&Reliability data exchange gives me confidence on the effectivity of this product. My biggest concern is how long would it take for an organization who never has used SINERGI to really reap the benefits of using it for adapting its maintenance strategy to the conjuncture you are pointing here (I’m referring to the ‘tough period’ you mention at the beginning). Could you give me some estimations based on, maybe, requirements (ability to effectively learn to use the software , in terms of relevant expertise of their staff and quality of their Maintenance and Reliability data? thanks

Victor Borges Victor Borges says:

Hi Carlos, I see your point. I am sorry but I have to be really academic here and say it depends! Most of the methods mentioned above could be used taking a qualitative approach – this means that knowledge is transformed into risk matrices that will help companies identifying the components/systems of highest threat. That said I like to think about another (and more positive cycle), the Virtuous Cycle of Data Collection. If a company start seeing the value of performing this type of analysis, it will also start seeing the value of acquiring data of quality in a systematic and well-defined form. This will loop into more and more data becomes available until reaching a tipping point where a company can move from qualitative to more quantitative method.

To answer your question directly, I think it depends on what stage the company is. The application is a great enabler for implementing this mindset, for companies that are in an immature state to companies that are advanced in some these methods.

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