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Best Year Ever!

The numbers for last year had come in and it was official.

“It was the best year ever!” proclaimed the plant manager. The facility had set a new bar for plant throughput in a single year. Celebratory hats, water bottles and pens were distributed. Meanwhile, another wash water supply valve failure occurred. Once every week or so, one of these thirty plus valves would fail. These valves are only accessible via a crane basket and one associated process train must be off-line during the repair.

The emergencies had not gone unnoticed. The monthly emergency work order reviews highlighted the problem. A reliability engineer had performed an RCA and found that water hammer was the main root cause for the valve failures. Several different options were discussed and presented to the operating manager. The options varied from a wholesale piping redesign to component changes. The electrical and instrumentation (E&I) department supervisor desperately wanted this issue resolved as it was his resources that had to maintain these valves.

The area manager had reservations about making any changes, stating: “We are coming off our best year ever. If we were able to do that with what we have, why should we change anything? If we go through the effort of doing this and throughput doesn’t go up, this will be a reason why.”

“The point of having these meetings to review emergencies is to find issues,” said the area planner.

“We’ve been able to come this far by doing this. Why would this be any different?” the reliability engineer chimed in.

"The top brass is ecstatic about what we’ve accomplished. This amount of production hasn’t been achieved in the history of the plant. They would continue to be ecstatic if this level of performance continues. Let’s take a little more time and really consider if we need to continue to make any further adjustments to the process,” the manager stated and concluded the meeting.

A couple of weeks went by and a couple more wash water valves failed. The various supervisors, planner and reliability engineer would continue to push for the concept of continuous improvement. The operating manager’s resistance toward making any further process improvements held firm. The planner and the reliability engineer continued to collect data on the impact of the valve failures. The financial information was presented at the next review meeting.

“The combined operational and maintenance costs of the valve failures over the past month more than justifies the cost of the proposed changes to the process,” the planner presented.

“Even if the changes are only fifty percent effective, we’d still be out ahead,” the reliability engineer added.

Eventually, the area manager conceded after reviewing the failure impact data. A few pilot valves were selected to apply the RCA’s findings, monitored, and then applied to the rest of the valves in mass.

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Brendon Russ

As the Lead in the Americas for Reliability and Asset Management, Brendon’s responsibilities include oversight of Reliability Engineers and work with leadership to demonstrate the value of Reliability and Asset Management. Over nearly 20 years, Brendon has developed and overseen programs such as preventive maintenance, root cause analysis, condition-based maintenance, reliability focus design, capital projects, CMMS implementations, SAMP development, cross industry baseline/gap assessments, and OT/IT convergence projects. Brendon has received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, a Master of Business Administration, a CRL-BB, and various certifications in various condition-based maintenance and non-destructive technologies.

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