The volatile share price of, and demand for, oil and gas over the past 10 years has required companies to operate at the highest levels of efficiency. But, there are many challenges that oil and gas organisations face during their production of energy and extraction of resources. One significant challenge being the management of their maintenance activities.
Used within many equipment-reliant industries, a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) is used to plan, track and enhance the maintenance activities of an organisation throughout its production processes.
A CMMS system’s popularity among equipment-heavy companies is largely due to its maintenance and cost-saving capabilities. The ability to increase uptime of production-critical machinery, reduce repair and replacement costs, and increase safety and compliance are just some benefits.
With a world-wide volatile oil share price, oil and gas companies need to operate at the highest level of efficiency. That means reducing costs, such as maintenance, as much as possible, while ramping up production.
As a maintenance manager for your company’s oil and gas production, you’re aware of the importance that your organisation plays within the world’s energy needs. From a consumer perspective, your resources will provide the majority of the world’s population with transportation, heating, cooking, cooling, and electricity. As well as raw materials being used in the manufacturing of plastics, fabrics and fertilisers.
But, you’ll also be aware of the damage that equipment maintenance faults can cause to operations, commonly leading to a loss of customers and a damaged reputation. These challenges can be devastating to your bottom line, which is why it’s important to set a good maintenance culture.
In episode 6 of the Comparesoft podcast, Konrad Ritter not only suggests how to set a good maintenance culture but also the importance of having one. Ritter, who boasts 20 years of experience as a maintenance manager in the Oil industry, explains:
“You need to make sure the people you bring have the ability to maintain the technology you have. And this planning, in terms of understanding your assets very well, [helps you know] what type of personnel you need to maintain those assets.
Then you blend that very well to you make sure your resources and spare parts arrive on time, and [then] it’s very easy to be successful in this field.”
Without a good maintenance culture, common maintenance challenges can occur. Such as:
Lengthy unplanned equipment downtime that affects your production
High maintenance and repair costs
Failure to meet regulatory and compliance standards
Not collecting essential asset management and performance data
Lack of work order management resulting in delays
Implementing a computerised maintenance management tool is important for any equipment-heavy energy company, particularly those in the oil and gas sector. In fact, through a preventive maintenance program alone, $243,000+ can be saved by the early identification of an improper control valve positioning.
As well as building an efficient maintenance program that could save you thousands of pounds in maintenance costs, there are other benefits to a CMMS; work order management, automated inventory procurement, analysing asset performance with IoT devices – just to name a few.
But, no matter what tool suits your operations best, a CMMS has one aim; to keep costs minimal and to maximise production.
Unplanned downtime can be disastrous for your production and the company’s bottom line; if the oil isn’t flowing, neither is the profit. With most oil and gas facilities anchored off-shore, unplanned maintenance and repairs may also take longer than expected. Whether that be machine failure on a drilling rig, a broken component on a pumping station, or a pipeline malfunction at a booster station.
In worst cases, failure and disruption to sensitive equipment can even become a safety hazard, leading to leaks, fires and explosions.
But, with a CMMS, the transition from a reactive maintenance approach to a more preventive program will improve the safety of equipment and uptime of maintenance.
By collecting essential asset management and maintenance data, you can begin to build a preventive maintenance schedule. The idea of this schedule is to be able to perform regular checks on equipment while they’re still in working order. With the aim of reducing the likelihood of equipment failure before it occurs.
Not only is a maintenance management tool able to help with keeping maintenance costs low, but it will also count towards the efficiency of your machines. By constantly gauging factors such as fluid levels and condition of components, your equipment will increase in reliability and overall usable life.
The need for maintenance can also work with condition-based metrics. This is possible with the use of trackers and other IoT-enabled devices that gather asset data in real-time. For example, if a fracking pump bearing begins to show signs of stress or wear-and-tear, a drilling engineer or technician can be alerted by the system before a serious issue occurs.
No matter what niche market you’re operating in within the oil and gas industry, the reliance on working equipment is huge. Ritter, who is the reliability and maintenance manager at Halliburton, shares his experience of how damaging failures and reliability issues can be to a large oil production company:
“We have very special equipment with hydraulics, electronics and all kinds of sensors you can imagine; radioactive sensors, and we run these in the wells. The wells are not very friendly. They are high temperature and there’s a lot of vibration.
…And as time is money, especially in [the] oil and gas industry, you don’t want to stop operation. It’s very challenging for us in terms of reliability. So we need to have a very strong team in the ground.”
Ritter went on to highlight just how important equipment reliability is for revenue when dealing with mission-critical and sensitive equipment:
“I don’t think any other industry spends so much money on refurbishing equipment [as the oil and gas industry] to make sure they are going to survive. And you don’t want to stop an operation which cost a million [dollars] a day so they have everybody be awake for you. Every hour here is a big impact for us.”
A CMMS allows admin to assign the right workers to the right jobs. This includes building maintenance work orders, either manually or automatically, for technicians.
With work order management in place you can generate, review, track, assign, and prioritise tasks all from one centralised system. Attached with each work order is the necessary information needed for each equipment. Including documentation, repair manuals, service history and checklists.
As it is crucial that the right technical expert is assigned to the right equipment, especially when it comes to business-critical heavy machinery for scenarios such as oil wells and compressors, managers need to know how capable each technician is. A CMMS will gather data regarding a technician and compile it into a centralised profile. This data includes equipment knowledge, hours available, skill level, and many other factors.
Once assigned, technicians can then be automatically alerted to new work orders. They can access the CMMS to mark jobs as complete, change a job’s status, and input their own notes. During this process, admin is able to track a technician’s progress through the pipeline in real-time and store the data for reporting purposes.
Keeping workers and their environment safe is an essential factor in the oil and gas industry. Although on-site injuries have reduced, the malfunction of sensitive equipment can be catastrophic. But, a CMMS can be a significant factor in helping to improve safety while also making sure all equipment is compliant with regulatory standards.
Through the use of tools that help to build preventive maintenance programs, equipment is kept in optimal condition. Your workforce can also have access to safety manuals, procedural guides and further documentation.
When it comes to finding the right computerised maintenance management tool, the process can be broken down into four steps:
Highlighting the gaps in your current maintenance processes is key to understanding the need for a CMMS. By identifying the maintenance tasks that need improving, you can gain a better understanding of the tools best suited to your own operations. A good place to start is to ask questions about your current activities:
Are you losing valuable production due to equipment failures?
Do you worry about the lack of safety and compliance of equipment in the workplace?
Do you need to start collecting asset management data?
Are you failing to re-stock your inventory with spare parts?
Having a clear understanding of your core requirements will lead you on the right path to choosing a CMMS. A useful way to highlight your requirements is to create 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 current maintenance activities.
Non-essential features: These are features that are nice to have, but do not directly affect your current maintenance issues.
Without a clear idea into the features you need, you may become bogged down in selecting a maintenance software tool that isn’t actually a good fit for your processes.
As with most crucial business decisions, there are factors to consider before implementing a CMMS. Oil and gas admin should consider:
The type of tool needed (e.g., cloud-based, web-based, on-premise or open-source)
The pricing models being offered by the vendor (e.g., one-off, subscription or monthly)
How much training floor workers, technicians and managers would need
The timescale of implementation across production lines including off-shore facilities
The need for additional maintenance hardware such as energy and GPS trackers
The need for a mobile solution to access off-shore data in real-time from anywhere
Once you’ve scanned the marketplace and shortlisted vendors offering the best maintenance management choices for your oil and gas operations, it’s time to compare them against one another. Remember, when doing so, to always keep your core requirements in mind and base your product decision around them.
When comparing your CMMS vendor and product choices, you’ll want to look for details that are going to directly affect your maintenance activities. Ask yourself:
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 operators, 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 oil and gas industry?