A Gap Analysis: Process Plant Maintenance Management Systems

Five Big General Requirements for Plant-wide Asset and Work Management


  • Integrate with condition monitoring (CM) systems
  • Manage the entire work cycle and associated data
  • Manage all asset history and provide reliability calculations
  • Manage general and specific plant information
  • System support and configuration of the MMS to suit evolving needs

We now discuss each of these requirements in more detail. First we state why these are crucial to the operations of the plant, and then we perform a comparative gap analysis to point out the issues that may exist in your operations and maintenance environment.

Integration Links to Condition Monitoring (CM) Systems

A process plant’s assets are the core entities that must be kept in top working condition in order to ensure that the returns on the investment (ROI) of the company, and its investors, are maximized. This means that maintenance work, which ensures the long term viability of each asset, is a core function that must be managed. For this reason, each plant has a number of systems that monitor the operating conditions of assets. Vibration monitoring is used to monitor the performance of rotating equipment such as compressors and pumps. Leak measurement systems are used to measure leaks of hydrocarbon gases from valves and fittings. Corrosion measurement systems help the engineering department to ensure that the piping and vessels maintain a thickness that allows them to operate safely and efficiently. Inspection systems provide a means for recording salient operating factors associated with each asset. An effective work management system links with each of these (CM) systems and provides a means to readily initiate the work cycle by creating work requests for review and approval by management.

Work Cycle Management

The work cycle that starts with a work request and finishes with a satisfied customer (in Operations, Safety or Inspection) is seamlessly managed in a single, user-friendly system. This means that proposed work is:

  • Reviewed by supervision – if it is approved, then it is
  • Planned by planners, after which it may be
  • Scheduled to be worked, unless it is waiting for
  • Materials procurement based on plans and estimates, after which it is
  • Executed by the field, then
  • QA’d (Quality-Assurance) by Inspectors, and if OK then
  • Accepted by Operations or Inspection. During this entire process,
  • Costs are tracked, including the estimated, budgeted, committed, expended, incurred, planned, earned and forecasted costs.

Each of these critical facets of the work cycle, including change management, must be managed. This management should occur naturally within a single continuous work flow system. Documents, communications and approvals associated with the work should, likewise, be monitored and tracked.

Asset Reliability and History Management

The work management process ensures that work is defined, tracked and accomplished in an efficient manner. The data collected during the work cycle must be analyzed constantly using statistics-based analytics. The results of these real-time analyses provide management with a believable and sustainable basis upon which they can make their decisions. Such as: Should a heat exchanger be replaced during the next turnaround, or should it undergo repairs? Is a pump that routinely suffers from cavitation incorrectly designed for its task? Should it be replaced?

Plant Information Management

The engineering data that is necessary for maintenance and operations analysts to make quick, informed decisions should be available quickly to all people who make decisions in the plant. This includes the most recent design calculations, specifications, documentation and drawings for each asset and process system in the plant. A complete plant management system provides an object-oriented documentation management system. This system ensures that asset-related data is always available to the planners, the field personnel, the inspectors, operations, etc.

System Maintenance and Support

The computer system (in this age of the web, this sounds like an archaic term, does it not?) that you use must be responsive to your needs. This is an often-overlooked, yet extremely critical, aspect of managing your plant. The long-term impact and cost of not paying due attention to the capability and capacity of your MMS tool as well as your solution vendor to meet your needs is measured in the millions of dollars. Study a few of the root causes of unexpected plant equipment breakdowns. They can often be traced to the fact that inadequate attention was paid to the warning signs that were being collected in the work cycle. Many CMMS vendors are companies with thousands of disparate customers in different industries. They maintain a wish list of improvements. Your foreman’s great idea has to percolate through many internal levels of corporate bureaucracy, in your company, to the IT team that has access to the wish list. The IT folks dutifully add the requests to the list, but do not have the passion to explain the reasoning behind or the need for the wish list item. Sadly, the people that should have input into the improvements in an MMS are often the ones that are ignored and told to ‘just use the system’. If they complain, they are branded as non-team players and troublemakers. Our experience is that these are the people that we should be listening to. These are the folks that are on the front-line and that are intimately familiar with the processes, good and bad. These are the people that we ignore, and then wonder why we need to replace yet another system.

In order to enable users and system designers to interact with each other, your software supplier must have people ready to work with your users. This often means having someone on-site with your people on a daily basis to better ‘feel their pain’. This is a, seemingly costly, process that pays great dividends in user satisfaction, as well as more complete usage of your system. A quick review of the number of spreadsheets in use at your site is a good indicator of the sheer volume of data that is NOT being managed in your system. Too often, corporate system managers simply ignore these compelling facts on the ground and take cover behind the products and services of big-name companies like IBM, SAP, Oracle and others. Not only is the product and service package from these companies expensive, they simply serve the needs of the system managers. Business users get the short end of the deal. Try to avoid this when selecting your vendor. Ensure that they have a proven track record of customer support – in your ‘trenches’. They should be familiar with your business processes. That should be the overriding issue––as opposed to their claim to being a CMMS or an ERP.

How are your processes managed? What gaps must be bridged to deliver more streamlined processes?

The main issues, that we have discussed: Integration of CM Systems, Work Cycle, Asset and Reliability, Plant Information Management and System Maintenance and Support, are all so core to an operating plant that they are all being done in your plant––using a variety of tools. We now briefly review the typical scenarios that we have encountered and suggest a better way to streamline each of these processes.

Smart Linking to Condition Monitoring (CM) Systems

Many specialty system vendors specialize in the supply of a variety of CM tools. You probably have vibration analysis systems, leak measurement systems, inspection system in your plant already. These systems are supplied by companies that also provide the hardware that generates the actionable data. However, look a little closer. Is the data from these systems processed automatically? Will the results of a leak detection process, for instance, automatically trigger the creation of a work request to fix a valve? Typically, this process is heavily manual. The results of the leak detection are sent to the Planners. Planners create a spreadsheet that is then reviewed. Then the planner creates a work plan in the planning system. These are three steps that require three human interventions in what could be a simple and streamlined, business-rule driven process.

Your MMS could be configured to poll the CM systems and, based on actionable thresholds, be able to produce work requests that are the start of your work management cycle. In addition, your MMS should alert your engineering and reliability people if any work request has been created for an asset on a frequency that is greater than the PM frequency. This gives them a heads-up and an opportunity to review and analyze the issue.

What is the cost of manually bridging this gap in information flow? What are the consequences or errors due to re-entry of asset information?

We’ll leave that analysis to your business processes. What we can say is that TeamWork Group’s TeamWork Solutions has been designed with a strong awareness that the systems operating in your plant should work together, like a team. TeamWork Solutions‘ Integration Manager provides many tools that help to integrate data flows between these systems and your primary work and asset management system. Your business rules for managing the flow between systems are also easily integrated into these processes. Imagine the convenience of having your major data islands all connected with each other. Of course the security concerns associated with regulatory programs such as SOX and TSX are addressed. In addition, we ensure that a security framework ensures that each member of your team has access to data that is appropriate to their (business-rule based) position.

Teamwork Solutions is a great addition to the tools that you already use, and will help you to replace scores of spreadsheets and ad hoc databases by consolidating their data into a single, user friendly database that is accessible by a web-based interface.

Cradle to Grave Work Cycle Management

Current MMS systems come in similar flavors. They have data stored in a database. Work orders (or notifications) are the typical mode for tracking work. As work progresses through its various phases, it is left to the user to manually change these phases. Scope change management is not an automatic process – rather, it relies on users to state that a change is occurring.

A business rule-based system that automatically changes the status of work orders should be implemented. This would ensure that arbitrary changes in status based on the data entry person’s limited perspective will not skew the data in the system. Likewise, business rule based change management system is a huge benefit, as it enables automated tracking of changes, without imposing an additional burden of data entry on your users. This data is collected, and analyzed, automatically.

The typical work cycle weaves its way from initiator to supervisors to department leads to planning to field execution to QA and customer acceptance. Each of these points should have opportunities for the recording and storing of pertinent comments as well as attached site photos, equipment drawings, sketches, faxes, videos, etc. An audit trail of the decisions made during any aspect of the work cycle should be readily available to your team for review and analysis.

Intuitively, we know that scheduling of work is a critical component of the work cycle. However, systems currently in use are woefully lacking in this area. Typically, the solution is an add-on scheduling system that is not an integrated component of the work management system. While these are scheduling tools are admirable in their own right, badly designed ‘bridges’ and data transfers to and from these systems from current MMS’s result in poor models of the maintenance backlog. In addition, the use of these scheduling tools means using schedulers, which means more cost to the maintenance budget. This is a very expensive way to go. Especially when one understands that scheduling is heavily rule-based. If these rules are built into your system, this results in a streamlined component of your work flow process. Your planner’s plans simply flow into the schedule when they are completed, approved and materials and resources, human and equipment, are ready to perform the work. Your work execution staff will now get the work done as scheduled!

A huge asset in your maintenance management team is your Execution staff. These people are your best source of excellent and timely field data. The three things you want to know each day are:

  • Are there any problems, especially safety issues? This includes reasons for delayed work.
  • Who did what and for how long? Another word for this is timekeeping. They can dramatically improve the accuracy of this process.
  • What progress was made? This should be reported as a remaining duration for the task at hand. This leads directly to an evaluation of earned value.

Too often, during the execution phase, all of the details that the field provides are lost because there simply is no workstation or process available to foremen and craftspeople to report their knowledge back to the system. We see this as a major disconnect. So many decisions are based on the situation at the ‘work face’ that collecting information directly from it should be a major priority. We seem to be afraid of involving field personnel in the data gathering process, while we completely depend on them to do the work efficiently. The prevailing approach seems to be: Give them just the information that they need to do the work. Our experience has shown that involving the field simply helps you to improve the opportunities for more successful outcomes.

TeamWork Solutions is a work management system. You can estimate, budget, plan and schedule your work––starting from drawings or from issues encountered in the plant. Once the work is being executed, many tools within TeamWork Solutions enable your workforce to provide timely feedback. When this feedback is processed and presented to, or accessed by, the management team, it becomes a solid basis for decisions that affect the project, maintenance plan or turnaround.

TeamWork Solutions provides a real, cost-saving, opportunity to bring all of the work management cycle into one, efficient and focused, process.

Reliably run your Assets

Your inspection department collects information about the rotating and fixed equipment in the plant. This information should constantly be processed to ensure that there no hidden patterns that are leading to nasty surprises. Currently, you depend on the re-entry of this information into Excel spreadsheets in order to produce Reliability data that provide your engineers that data that they need to recommend appropriate solutions.

TeamWork Solutions produces Weibull and other asset KPI calculations for each asset based on data that is collected within the work management process. This ensures a timely and more accurate process for managing, computing and reviewing reliability data.

Conclusions: i could well help to reduce the number of data islands that exist. Reliability calculations can be modeled within this work management system.

Plant Information Manager––your PIM

Where is your plant engineering specification data? Is the electrical, instrumentation, piping, rotating equipment all in one system? This is likely not the case. Typically, we find this data in different Excel spreadsheets and Access databases. These are disjointed methods for managing this critical data. Line lists may exist in an Excel spreadsheet. Likewise, your electrical line data is also in spreadsheets. A disparate and department-focused system for managing these critical plant data elements is a recipe for ongoing problems.

TeamWork Solutions, flexible database and consistent reporting framework can easily be made to replace these disparate systems – or integrate seamlessly with them. In doing so, your data is available to the people doing the work. This ensures a more efficient workplace and a huge cost savings for the plant.

Consider TeamWork Solutions your work management system as the repository for all of your plant information – including OEMS, electrical, instrumentation, piping, rotating equipment, etc.

Software System Management

Observe your current ERP and CMMS systems. Are they responsive to your day to day needs? Things that we hear often are that they are simply not responsive at all. It takes years to implement these systems. When the budget for deploying these systems runs out, the expensive consultants are sent packing. The result is that the systems are left with little support. As these systems are not work and asset focused – usually, they pay more attention to accounting issues – they are not appropriate for managing work and assets. Each plant has its own work culture, jargon and other ‘hot button’ issues. These expensive ERPs and CMMSs are not easily modified to adhere to the plant’s needs. Instead, they are deployed in a way that attempts to change the business process of the plant.

TeamWork Solutions is developed with the knowledge that each client user has a business process that has kept them in business for a long time and that is generally sound. TeamWork Solutions can easily be configured to assimilate the business rules of your plant and to be an asset to the work management process, as well as your tracking of compliance and other maintenance measures. Add to this the fact that all of this functionality resides in a single system and the benefits simply continue to mount.

TeamWork Group also provides a complete hosting service for the software that you need. This means that you can have complete access to all of these tools and features without the need to install the system on company computers. What does this mean for your users? Here are a few benefits:

  • Complete and constant vendor support
  • Reduced need for long upgrade and update cycles
  • Hugely reduced cost of management of the system
  • Web-based access
  • More robustness and constant availability than when using in-house resources.