Roxann West
Water Engineer

Time- and usage-based maintenance plans pale in comparison to the power of predictive analytics. Organizations that embrace advanced asset management can reduce critical failures, enhance decision-making and more.

Whenever I hear about aging assets, my mind goes back to one of my first projects as a process engineer. I was working for a material science company when water hammering (a sudden change in flow resulting in a pressure surge) ruptured a pipeline in its network.
This network, which spanned across cities, was built before the implementation of water hammering studies. So, this scenario went from completely overlooked to forcing us to change how we managed an entire network of aging assets.

To prevent future ruptures, investments were made in a first-of-its-kind hydraulic model and thorough evaluations of pipeline integrity. Staff received tools that provided visual representations of the network, allowed them to easily track the integrity of pipelines and process modifications, and gave insights for scenario planning. After the upgrades, facility reliability was higher than ever, and leadership realized significant value from their investment.

That was four years ago, but I am still drawn to conversations around asset management technology and methodologies. When my colleagues Jim Cooper and Kevin Slaven hosted a webinar to explain the ways advanced asset management can help municipal water utilities optimize aging infrastructure, I was eager to learn what it could mean for industry. 

As they dove into their research and case studies, I saw a few opportunities for industrial organizations to realize value from advanced asset management:

  • Using a better understanding of system reliability to reduce critical asset failures. Data from asset-intensive industries is proving the financial and operational benefits of condition- or reliability-based maintenance regimes compared to more conventional time- or failure-based approaches.

    Research cited in Jim and Kevin’s paper shows that only 18% of industry asset failures follow preventive maintenance regime’s simple time- or usage-based patterns. And the repair costs for unexpected failures dwarf planned maintenance spend: unplanned maintenance costs 1.5 times more, and emergency maintenance costs 3 times more.

    Using predictive or prescriptive maintenance driven by real-time asset condition and performance data, organizations can proactively avoid failures and create substantial OPEX savings. Studies focused on the energy sector suggest that predictive maintenance can produce 10-30% savings relative to preventive maintenance and 25-50% relative to reactive maintenance. For airlines, data-driven predictive maintenance could reduce total maintenance budgets 30-40%, aircraft breakdowns 70-75%, and aircraft stationary time 45%. If your company is looking to maximize cost-effectiveness, it must embrace data-driven decision-making.

    ► Pro tip: Implement a reliability training program for maintenance staff to create a substantial return on your advanced asset management investment.

  • Empowering decision makers with digital solutions that use predictive analytics. Unexpected incidents can jeopardize the safety of your workforce, compliance with regulations and the health of your bottom line. Knowing when, where and how to invest optimizes spend and can help your organization avoid incidents (i.e., leaks, spills) that result in workplace injuries, regulatory compliance issues and/or costly repairs.

    ► Pro tip: Adopt products like enterprise decision analytics to help your organization optimize expenditure for smarter, data-driven planning.

  • Keeping process models and facility records up to date, especially for facilities with increased demands and aging infrastructure. Not all aging facilities keep thorough, up-to-date records. Without them, facilities maxing out production capacity might not realize the equipment and infrastructure is getting overworked, increasing the risk of a costly asset failure. Keeping your facility models and records current using live data feeds can give you foresight into when upgrades and replacements are necessary. 

    ► Pro tip: Leverage the capability of a digital twin to plan, design, operate, and optimize your physical assets and processes so that operational anomalies are ready to be addressed with minimal business disruption. 

  • Gaining the ability to operate your facilities remotely. Every organization is learning a lot about the resilience of their assets (especially employees) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Digitalized tools are helping some organizations keep the lights on and people safe. Unfortunately, many facilities lack the systems, tools or processes to do either confidently. Remote management tools and processes can minimize or eliminate the need for staff to be physically present in facilities and maximize their ability to keep production flowing.

    ► Pro tip: Use industrial control systems (ICS), of which SCADA is a subset, to enable remote operations. A critical success factor is making sure ICS and IT are supportive of each other. 

    The upfront investment in implementing these opportunities might seem substantial. However, the long-term benefits are far greater, not just in terms of costs but also the integrity of facilities and, most importantly, the safety and wellbeing of the workforce and surrounding communities.

About the author:

Roxann West is a water engineer with a background in Chemical Engineering in the Water for Industry group at Arcadis. She has six years’ experience in process and equipment designs and managing projects for chemical manufacturing, industrial wastewater treatment and construction industries.


Roxann West
Water Engineer