Maintenance & Operations: how integrated planning could transform a love-hate relationship


Maintenance and Operations: both have diverging goals and poor plan attainment 

With apparently conflicting agendas and objectives, Maintenance and Operations teams often perceive each other as competitors – if not rivals. While Operators are rewarded for their ability to maintain stable production at its optimal level, Maintenance is held responsible for executing a demanding plan on time, regardless of equipment isolations and other potential production disturbances.

Many organisations attempt to improve the situation by simply delegating some of the first line maintenance tasks to the Production Operators (including monitoring of operating parameters, equipment cleaning, activities of lubrication, etc.). However, this has not solved the bigger problem of adequate planning. Maintenance often collides with needed Operations requirements, including isolation processes.

Bain & Company reports on an example of an oil and gas company where actual operations and maintenance hours were triple their original estimate. This was due mainly to:

  • a high level of urgent, corrective, and breakdown work – which is an inefficient use of resources
  • poor planning, including a gap between the planner’s estimated work hours and operations’ ability to execute the work
  • a lack of coordination – with Production Operators unavailable to perform the isolation steps needed by Maintenance

As many companies begin to see the benefits of digitalisation, they seem to struggle to determine the right path to get there. According to part 2 of Petrotechnics 2017/2018 Operational Excellence Index survey, 19% of companies say a “steep learning curve” is one of their top challenges to digital adoption. But what if a simple change of mindset was all it took to begin the digital transformation journey to achieve better plan attainment?

Integrated Planning and Operations technology: how it relates to Isolation Management 

Over the last few quarters at Petrotechnics, we have witnessed significant interest in Proscient’s Isolation Management solution, coming from Operations Managers all over the world. After discussing their project drivers, we identified a hidden value in their requirements for a slick solution to replace their paper-based processes and boost efficiency and safety. Gartner describes this in their 2017 Hype Cycle for oil and gas technologies report as the adoption of Integrated Planning and Operations technology.

Gartner defines this as the “comprehensive, planning, optimization and execution of operational and maintenance activities from concept to implementation”. The expected “transformational” benefits from this technology include a reduction in unplanned outages and improvements in safety and workforce effectiveness. In other words, it offers a giant step towards Operational Excellence.But where is the connection to Isolations Management?

An Isolations Management System requires three elements to be effective:

#1: A robust, user-friendly and flexible isolation tool, which complies with international safety standards

#2: Some technology alignment – in order to leverage existing systems often owned by other departments. An example, P&ID diagrams which are maintained by the Engineering team but used daily by Production Operators

#3: A clear connection to maintenance systems and the production plan and target: both maintenance and production must deliver equal weight in the decision-making process and the execution of the different activities must be managed in a collaborative way.

While the first two elements of an effective isolations management system are often part of the core expectations of any Operation Manager, the third is often ignored. While it requires a real change in mindset, the benefits of maintenance management system integration are enormous.

Planning solutions on the market today reflect the compartmentalized structure of organisations. Even if traditional vendors understand this critical issue, they struggle to deliver a comprehensive, integrated offering. But to be fair, any solution encouraging close collaboration between Maintenance and Operations is faced today with cultural resistance to integration.

The isolations process generally requires the Maintenance team to request approval from the Operations team who must,

  • “approve” the production disturbance coming from the planned maintenance work
  • analyse, schedule, and manage the equipment isolation required for executing the maintenance work

The Maintenance team can generally rely on their management systems [ranging from traditional Material Management System (MMS), such as SAP PM or IBM Maximo, to state-of-the-art Asset Performance Management systems (APM)] to identify and break down their work. However, Operations team usually do not have a proper planning system to schedule and resource their tasks, including isolations. As a result, most operator scheduling is done in an ad-hoc way, juggling inspection tools (like Intelatrac, Honeywell, etc.) and scribbling on work orders and permits printouts. On top of that, neither Maintenance nor Operations teams have a way to verify an isolation is in place before the maintenance work begins. No wonder there is a constant tension between Maintenance and Operations teams because of conflicting priorities and demands!

This is where the value of an Integrated Planning and Operations system proves to be massive. Imagine a planning meeting where Operations and Maintenance teams use a common tool to balance the workload over the coming days. Imagine having the Operations team approve maintenance work on the same screen, where they see the breakdown of the schedule alongside the required operational activities to support the isolation and additional inspection-related tasks.

The reality

With the help of our clients, we have implemented this vision through our Proscient platform. By integrating with SAP PM, Primavera P6, and Schneider Electric’s Intelatrac, we can now bring all the data in one easy-to-use tool that enables Maintenance and Operations teams to make joint planning decisions.

Gartner predicts it will take ten years for companies to adopt integrated planning and operations technology. But what if your Isolation System project could kill two birds with one stone, and deliver today the benefit of integrated planning through the use of Proscient?

I look forward to hearing from YOU.

Sophie Menard is Petrotechnics’ Partner Solution Manager. She is in charge of identifying synergies with technology partners and system integrators to deliver high-value solutions for Petrotechnics’ Proscient customers. Sophie is deeply involved in transforming the Proscient platform to address the current and future needs of the hazardous industries.

Sophie joined Petrotechnics in 2013, and has spent the last 12 years in the software industry, implementing and designing solutions in various verticals, including oil and gas, automotive and retail. Sophie’s earlier experience included being SAP consultant at Accenture and as a project manager, deploying Oracle retail solution.

Sophie is a graduate of ESCP Europe.

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