Apr 3, 2017 Go with the flow

Guest blog: Current and future approaches to maintenance

James Hoare
James Hoare
Editor at Valve World Magazine
I’m not sure whether I was simply paying better attention this year, but the number of commercials selling gym memberships, diets and healthy living seemed to have increased. At any rate, it got me to thinking about the topic of maintenance.

These days, operators are quite understandably looking more than ever at maintenance strategies as a way to get the most from their investments. Indeed, as I peruse back issues of Valve World Magazine I can see that this has always been a popular subject for many of our contributing experts. Over the years they have covered topics such as motor-operated valves in the nuclear industry, maintaining Christmas trees and performing essential repairs on trunnion-mounted ball valves, to name just a few. Of course maintenance is relevant to all applications and valves types but I'm struck by the number of articles we have in this respect that address control valves. Is that because of the specific job these valves perform in regulating flows, often at high differential pressures, I wonder?

So, how do we go about maintaining valves? In the past, it would seem that many sectors followed a more reactive maintenance schedule. A kind of "wait till it's broken" approach, which was characterized by unscheduled shut-downs and high overall costs due to the impact on production capacity. An evolution from here was preventative maintenance. However, the argument goes that preventative maintenance is still not the most effective solution, for how can we be certain that parts are not being replaced sooner than necessary? How do we truly know if valves have fulfilled their useful lives? Taking this further we arrive at predictive maintenance. But how to get there?

This obviously requires some old-fashioned communication between the customer and supplier. Can the client understand their diagnostic data? Are the parameters set up correctly? Does the diagnostic data support the end-users' current workflow and strategy? Should they hire an extra FTE to monitor it?

No doubt some operators will continue with preventative maintenance, but we live in an age where companies such as AirBnB and Uber have disrupted the hotel and travel business beyond our imagination just five years ago. New breeds of technology suppliers are starting to provide IIoT-enabled process analytics capable of reading and analysing vast quantities of asset data in near-real-time. I anticipate that these will become increasingly attractive, not just to the early adopters, but more widely as the flow control industry adjusts to a 'lower for longer' oil price and an aging workforce.

James Hoare is an Editor at Valve World Magazine. The Valve World blog hub is here.

A discussion on this interesting topic continues from the Metso point of view in a series of blog posts. Read about using accurate device data for decision making , the importance of installed base data and about the difference that well-planned shutdowns do for plant reliability. More posts are coming, so stay tuned.