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Saudi International Petrochemical Company Ups Maintenance Reliability Performance

Saudi International Petrochemical Company Ups Maintenance Reliability Performance by Jean-Paul Sacy

Saudi International Petrochemical Company Ups Maintenance Reliability Performance

by Jean-Paul Sacy

In consultation with DuPont, the Saudi International Petrochemical Company (Sipchem) establishes a transformation program to deliver significant and sustainable improvements in business performance.

Starting from humble roots in 1999, Sipchem is now a globally recognized chemical manufacturer and a Saudi stock company, employing more than 1,100 people from all around the world. Today, it produces around 2.6 million MT of basic, intermediate and polymer products every year at 10 integrated plants in Jubail. With a host of complex production processes, maintenance reliability is key to ensuring safe and efficient operations. One of the plants had to undergo a major unplanned outage in 2014, which required extensive maintenance and repairs and resulted in significant production losses.

Sipchem had already spent a lot of time working with a number of different consultants over the years to improve plant reliability. “We had seen some good results, but never sustainably,” says Ibrahim A. Al-Rushoud, Vice President - Operations, Manufacturing Services. “We really wanted to improve efficiency and quality to achieve excellence throughout the organization. That meant establishing a defect elimination culture to allow us to realize asset optimization.”

Determined to avoid a recurrence of unplanned outages and improve maintenance reliability in general, Sipchem decided in late 2014 to call in DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS), the safety and asset management consulting arm of DuPont, to conduct a focused, four-week assessment of Sipchem’s M&R function.

Focusing on Proactive Prevention

The assessment shined a light on all aspects of the M&R function, analyzing performance data, carrying out benchmarking and observation studies, conducting focused interviews with the managerial team and mapping processes.

The existing M&R culture at Sipchem was mainly reactive, with the emphasis on completing urgent actions. That generated constant stress and tension and hindered the organization from focusing on prevention and developing a system based on proactive intervention. The result was a high level of fixed costs, which negatively impacted the company’s competitive position, particularly in view of the recent shift in oil and gas market conditions.

The proposed solution was to design a transformation program that would prevent reliability problems, solve existing reliability issues, improve planning and scheduling, and boost uptime. The consultants identified a range of significant and sustainable improvement opportunities that would be achievable within a three year time span of implementing the transformation program by reducing the frequency and severity of reliability incidents and their impact on productivity.

Mr. Al-Rushoud explains: “We selected two pilot sites with different plant processes to trial the transformation project, allocated two dedicated, full-time resources, and put together an experienced project team.” Sipchem named the program SMARTO (Sipchem Maintenance and Reliability Transformation for Operations).

Project Objectives

One of the first things the SMARTO project team did was to have all members play the Manufacturing Game®. Far from being a children’s board game, this game, developed by a small team of ex-industry inventors, helps players understand the role of other manufacturing functions by having them take on different positions within the fictional organization.

Figure 1: Project structure diagram

When it came to clarifying roles and responsibilities for core processes and interfaces between reliability, maintenance and operations – one of the project’s objectives – the game experience helped people gain a better understanding of others’ functions.

As part of the new safety program, management systems were established to enable Sipchem to make more fact-based decisions. Performance dashboards were displayed throughout the sites so everybody could see the benefits of SMARTO and, in this way, drive continuous improvements.

Proactive communication and behavioral change were also vital. A two-day leadership workshop was held for 25 senior managers who signed up to eight key commitments, ranging from doing a minimum of two line walks per week to increasing the number of times they give and receive feedback. Afterward, they each had one-on-one coaching sessions to take them through the whole M&R methodology.

The aim was to set up a management system that would ensure sustainable results through daily, weekly and monthly review meetings. Tracking and reporting daily metrics put Sipchem in a better position to monitor overall performance. To this end, Sipchem also agreed to measure new key performance indicators (KPIs):

As it progressed, the SMARTO project progressively put in place corrective actions to deliver major improvements in the KPIs. The main project objective, however, was to design, develop and implement the four core processes of M&R: planning and scheduling, solving reliability issues, preventing reliability issues and improving uptime.

Figure 2: The effect of the SMARTO program over time

Project Design and Development

During the design phase of the transformation project, a series of workshops were held that focused on the four core M&R processes and capturing best practices in associated process manuals. A software program for tracking production efficiency was used in the two selected pilot plants to achieve effective and consistent measurement of plant uptime and correctly allocate production losses and causes.

At the end of the first year of the transformation, the program is already showing tangible results. Sipchem has changed the way it measures performance and, instead of only focusing on lagging indicators, is now taking a much more proactive approach.

Another change is that recommendations are now acted upon, whereas previously they often stayed on paper. Implementing recommendations from a root cause failure analysis (RCFA) led by the SMARTO project team has made it possible to eliminate a recurring overheating problem at one of the plants, allowing full production capacity to be maintained during the summer months.

Figure 3: The extended SMARTO project team and all involved stakeholders

“Our aim is to be one of the top petrochemical companies in the region in terms of safety, reliability, efficiency and quality,” Mr. Al-Rushoud concludes. “People are now more engaged because they see results. There has been a positive change in culture, commitment, accountability and compliance. We have seen a 20 percent cut in maintenance costs without compromising output. Our efficiency has improved and that has also started to reduce our contract costs.”

The next step for Sipchem is to ensure full sustainability of some of the early impacts of the SMARTO program, build on the lessons learned and achieve further continuous improvements by rolling out SMARTO to its remaining plants.