Why Chemical Engineering Plants Need Asset Management to Maximise Production

The introduction of an asset management tool into a chemical engineering plant’s processes can not only enhance the reliability of equipment but also maximize the utilisation of assets and save businesses thousands of pounds in asset-related maintenance and insurance costs. The production of chemical commodities is central to the world’s economy, so much so that the chemical and pharmaceutical industry alone adds £18 billion of value to the UK economy every year. But, as demand increases, so do the strain on the usability of assets. This makes it essential to not only enhance the reliability of chemical equipment but to also maintain it in order to keep production running at an optimal level.

How Chemical Asset Management Can Close Reliability Gaps Within a Production Plant

An asset management tool is critical for any business that is reliant on the use of its assets for profit. Whether hardware or software, Asset Management Software collects essential performance data by tracking each asset’s complete lifecycle from procurement to disposal. Such data will include the usage, condition, maintenance, and average lifecycle of an asset.

The aim of asset management tools is to provide businesses with each asset’s overall return on investment (ROI). While helping to forecast and streamline the acquisition of future mission-critical equipment with greater accuracy.

But, that’s not all. Asset managers can also prioritise works orders, manager and automate inventory control, improve safety and compliance throughout the production plant, and build cost-saving preventive maintenance programs.

Through the gathering of asset data, admins can gain a greater insight into the usage and reliability of their key assets. And, in a multi-billion pound industry such as chemical engineering, the reliability and upkeep of chemical equipment is essential. Not to mention the handling of hazardous raw materials and inventory.

Common Asset Management Challenges in Chemical Engineering

With the global sales of chemicals amounting to a whopping $3500 billion in 2011, the demand within the chemical industry for basic, speciality and consumer commodities is increasing year-on-year. This demand puts an extra strain on production line employees and their work orders, effecting chemical engineers, technicians, operators, and scientists. Not to mention the increasing importance of keeping machinery and equipment in optimal working condition.

Global sales amounted to $3500 billion in 2011

By not ensuring asset reliability during a period of high demand, in which vital chemical equipment and production machinery could fail, businesses will experience delays in output along with a damaged reputation. Subsequently losing business to rival chemical manufacturers and missing out on higher profit margins.

There are many common challenges that chemical engineering plants encounter on a daily basis, including:

  • Unplanned downtime of mission-critical equipment
  • High maintenance and repair costs due to caustic substances
  • Safety issues around hazardous chemical inventory
  • High turnover of critical assets
  • Delays to material and inventory procurement
  • The inability to identify and track asset performance
  • Limited understanding of an asset’s ROI

The continual expense of maintenance and rising costs of materials has pushed many chemicals manufactures into the process of finding bleeding-edge technology to control, maintain, and improve production. One of the best solutions on offer for the chemical industry is Asset Management Software.

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Tracking the Lifecycle of Chemical Equipment and Infrastructure

Once the purchase of an asset has been planned and completed, it then begins its operational life within the production line. During this time, a chemical asset management solution will provide the tools necessary to track each asset’s lifecycle.

Most commonly, data is retrieved through the use of IoT (Internet of Things) devices that work on an automated trigger to measure usage and output. Collected data can collect include:

  • Operational output
  • Usage
  • Current condition
  • Assigned operators
  • Work order history
  • Maintenance and repair history

The lifecycle of an asset inside your chemical plant

With an overwhelming number of workplace assets, such as machinery and operational components, the ability to track and manage chemical equipment will result in an increase in the accuracy and quantity of performance data.

With this data, businesses are able to build proactive maintenance programs to decrease asset downtime, while also determining the value that each asset has on your overall production of chemical commodities.

For example, if a batch reactor is coming to the end of its useful life, businesses will have the data to gauge if it’s an essential asset that needs repairing or if its ROI is minimal and needs disposing of.

Identifying and Reducing Chemical Production Costs

Businesses will be aware of the high maintenance costs of deteriorating equipment that is taking a chunk out of their bottom line – mostly caused by the use of heavy and corrosive chemical compounds. But, repairs and on-going technician call-outs aren’t the only expense that asset management can reduce in a chemical plant.

Automating Inventory Purchases

The ordering and procurement of raw materials such as oil, gas, and air can come at a hefty price. That means businesses need to take as much caution as possible with spending to be able to keep profits high.

An asset management tool enables greater control when it comes to ordering materials, allowing managers to calculate the right amount needed to stop over-ordering and needless spending.

The same applies to the ordering of spare parts for equipment and essential machinery. With AMS, maintenance managers are able to build a maintenance schedule by collecting real-time performance data. In terms of a chemical plant, engineers will know when a component inside a reactor is wearing down before it fails.

This awareness allows businesses to have a spare part on order, even while the machine is still running, to have it at hand when it eventually needs replacing. If the spare component isn’t in stock when the reactor fails, it would incur unplanned downtime.

Through the use of IoT devices, the inventory ordering process can also be automated. By supplying the asset management tool with the correct information for ordering spare parts, these devices talk to each other and automatically decide when the part needs ordering. Completely removing human interaction from the process and streamlining inventory purchases.

Reducing Unplanned Downtime

Companies that rely heavily on their assets for production need to keep equipment in optimal working condition. This applies to industries such as manufacturing, oil and gas, and chemical production. With an asset management system and the subsequent asset performance data collected alongside it, businesses can build proactive and preventive maintenance programs.

These maintenance programs enable users to highlight opportunities for repairs and services while still in operation. By doing so, they’re able to avoid a large maintenance excess when an asset unexpectedly fails – causing equipment to be out of use and production to come to an unprecedented halt.

Bear in my mind that maintenance programs can be pricey to implement. For instance, American chemical producers spent more than $1.26 billion on planned maintenance in 2018. But, the cost for unplanned downtime can equate to as much as 2 to 5 times more than that.

Not only can effective asset management provide significant data to automatically alert relevant technicians when equipment is due for maintenance, but it also acts as a central system for storing relevant information for repairs. Such as manuals, previous operating statuses, documentations, and checklists.

This focused approach lets businesses make sure that the right technicians are attending to the right asset. For example, a technician may be more suited to servicing a fixed film reactor as opposed to a batch reactor. So, when a component of that fixed film reactor needs servicing, the asset management tool will automatically notify the right technician.

Calculating ROI for Asset Replacement

The cost of replacing assets can be eye-watering. But, if an asset has a high ROI within a production plant, then businesses will be at ease knowing the expense will level itself out in the long-term.

By collecting data and forecasting reports, stakeholders are able to calculate the ROI on all assets throughout the workplace. For example, if one reactor is critical to production, businesses will need to repair or replace it when it begins to deteriorate. But, on-the-other-hand, if that reactor has a low ROI and production can continue without it, it can be disposed of.

An asset management tool can not only help calculate the total cost of ownership and ROI for valuable equipment, but it can also apply to materials and employees, too.

How to Find Asset Management Software for Chemical Plants

Finding and choosing the right asset management tool for your operations can be tricky. Instead of selecting a product and vendor that claim to provide the ‘best’ tools, you’ll want to identify a solution that is a perfect fit for your plant.

We’ve identified a three-step process to help you with your search for the right asset management software.

Identify Gaps in Current Management and Maintenance Processes

Understanding the asset management challenges in your current setup is vital. Not only is this the first step to realising that an AMS tool is right for you, but it also gives you more focus as to what processes you need to improve. If you’re having trouble highlighting any gaps in your operations, ask yourself and your team the following:

  • Are you spending too much on the management and maintenance of assets?
  • Is downtime of assets continuously stopping production and costing money?
  • Are you aware of the ROI for all your assets?
  • Do you keep up with regular compliance standards and safety operations in the workplace?
  • Is reactive decision-making affecting your operations in the long-term?
  • Are you always over-stocked or under-stocked of inventory and spare parts?

Highlight Essential Asset Management Features Needed

By understanding what you need and what you don’t need to improve your asset management processes is a positive step in finding the right tool for your chemical plant. This can be achieved by simply separating features into two groups; Essential features and Non-essential features.

  • Essential features: These are made up of the core requirements needed to close the gaps in your asset management activities.
  • Non-essential features: These are features that are nice to have, but do not directly affect your current issues.

By using this method, you will then have produced a list of your core requirements. This list is essential to have when going into the final stage of your journey.

Shortlist, Compare, and Evaluate Asset Management Tools

Once you’ve scanned the marketplace and selected the asset management products to best suit your chemical plant’s operations, it’s time to compare and evaluate them against one another.

There are many factors to consider when comparing software tools. Like pricing models, deployment types, cloud-based, open-source and on-premise. But the key is to make sure they meet your core requirements. To help with your evaluation, ask yourself the following:

  • Does the product offer the features needed to match my core requirements?
  • Does the vendor offer a free trial or demo to try-before-you-buy?
  • Will this tool be easy-to-use for me, my workforce, and my technicians?
  • Can the product be integrated with other software and tools?
  • Does the vendor have experience in dealing with other companies in the chemical engineering industry?