Updated: May 2021, August 2021, March 2022
The chemical engineering industry relies heavily on the efficient management of its manufacturing plants and fixed assets, which is why chemical asset management tools are essential. These tools not only help to enhance the reliability of equipment and machinery but also maximise the utilisation of assets. Helping businesses to save 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 improve the reliability of chemical equipment but also to maintain it. Helping to keep assets running for as long as possible at an optimal level. The best way to do this is by utilising digital tools and technology like Asset Management Software.
Common Asset Management Challenges in Chemical Engineering
With the global sales of chemicals amounting to $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, affecting engineers, technicians, operators, and scientists. Not to mention the increasing importance of keeping machinery and equipment in optimal working condition.
By not ensuring asset reliability during a period of high demand, in which vital chemical equipment and production machinery could fail, businesses can experience delays in output along with a damaged reputation. Subsequently losing revenue to other chemical manufacturers and miss out on higher profit margins.
There are several challenges that chemical engineering plants encounter on a daily basis, including:
- Unplanned downtime of mission-critical assets
- 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 manufacturers 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, which can improve chemical asset management in three unique areas.
1. How Chemical Asset Management Software Improves Reliability Within a Manufacturing Plant
An asset management system is crucial for any operation that is reliant on the use of its assets to generate profit. Whether hardware or software, Asset Management Software collects essential performance data by tracking each asset’s complete lifecycle from procurement to disposal. Data includes the usage, condition, maintenance, and average lifecycle of an asset.
The aim of asset management is to provide you with each asset’s return on investment (ROI). While helping to forecast and streamline the acquisition of future equipment with greater accuracy.
But, that’s not all. Asset managers can also prioritise works orders, manage 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 key assets. 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.
2. Improving Asset Life Cycle Management 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 includes:
- Operational output
- Current condition
- Assigned operators
- Work order history
- Maintenance and repair history
With an overwhelming number of workplace assets, such as machinery and operational components, the ability to track and manage chemical equipment will increase the accuracy and quantity of performance data.
With this data, businesses can build proactive maintenance programs to decrease asset downtime. Whilst also determining the value that each asset has on your overall production of commodities.
For example, if a batch reactor is coming to the end of its useful life, you 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.
3. Using Chemical Asset Management to Reduce Engineering and Production Costs
Businesses will be aware of the high maintenance costs that deteriorating equipment can have on their bottom line. These are mostly caused by the use of heavy and corrosive chemical compounds. But, repairs and ongoing technician call-outs aren’t the only expense that Asset Management Software can reduce.
Automate Equipment & 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.
Asset Management Software 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 can 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 allows businesses to have a spare part on order, even while a machine is running, to have it at hand when it eventually needs replacing. If the spare component isn’t in stock when the reactor fails, it will incur unplanned downtime.
Through the use of IoT devices, the inventory ordering process can also be automated. By supplying an asset management system with the correct information for ordering spare parts, devices can talk to each other and automatically decide when a part needs ordering. Completely removing human interaction from the process and streamlining inventory purchases.
Reducing Unplanned Plant 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 maintenance teams 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, documentation, and checklists.
This focused approach lets businesses make sure that the right technicians are attending to the right assets. 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, an asset management system 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 manufacturing 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 for 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.
Asset Management Software can not only help calculate the total cost of ownership and ROI for valuable equipment, but it can apply to materials and employees, too.