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HomeOEM/ODMOutside Equipment ManufacturingFront Cover: Strategic equipment upgrade playbook for enhanced asset management

Front Cover: Strategic equipment upgrade playbook for enhanced asset management

In the world of power generation, refining and chemical production, maximizing efficiency and minimizing downtime is paramount.

It is no secret that equipment fouls, wears out, fails and eventually needs to be replaced as a result of high temperatures and pressures, corrosive environments and long run times. Persistent problems can severely hamper performance, resulting in increased operational and maintenance costs; decreased productivity limits revenue. When the time comes to replace equipment, seize the opportunity to consider small upgrades that can significantly enhance your asset’s longevity and performance. Often, the equipment trains in plants consist of multiple large assets that work together as a complete system — furnace, boiler, reformer, distillation unit, catalytic cracker and others. Over time, equipment begins to wear, become dirty and does not operate quite as well as it did when it was new. Cleaning may be effective for a short time period. Sometimes, repair decisions are made for short-term commercial reasons rather than long-term reliability reasons. Process needs may change over time. When one element does not function as it should, it can influence the performance of another element and shift it off its design points. However, when it comes to aftermarket replacements, you do not necessarily have to live with problems.

Reassess operating conditions

Start by reassessing your plants’ current operating condition. Over the years, operational parameters may have deviated from the initial specifications. You may find that original assumptions about how the equipment would be operated do not match current or future needs. Understanding these changes is essential for optimizing your system. Replacing equipment in kind, just because a component has reached the end of its life — even if it’s been a long and useful life — may not be the best option. Review downtime/outage triggers and collaborate with operations and maintenance departments to gather their input. It is possible that a slight design change can be incorporated into the replacement equipment, allowing for enhanced operations and maintenance.

Action item: Conduct a thorough analysis of your plants’ operating condition and compare it to the original design parameters to identify any discrepancies. Work with all departments to develop a wish list for replacement equipment.

Partner with OEMs

Knowledge evolves, and therefore, new best practices emerge. It is likely that modern designs will offer improved performance, efficiency and reliability compared to older models. These new designs may incorporate materials that weren’t previously available or allowed by codes when the equipment was first fabricated. New designs may incorporate lessons learned throughout design, fabrication and operation of past units, which improve the equipment’s performance. In a competitive bid situation, you’re likely to get what you specify on your own, which can leave best practices on the table. When the clock is ticking to submit bids, there is usually not enough time to explore ideas that are not in the specification. It is one thing to identify problems but another thing to solve them. How do you track down all the latest design information? How do you use lessons learned if you only have one piece of equipment and it’s all you know? The answer is: don’t go at it alone. When your job is to operate or maintain your plant, staying up to date on the latest developments can be a tall order, given all of the information available from publications, conferences, forums and other sources. But it may not be your job to design the solution. Instead, seek help from OEMs to understand what can and can’t be done and how to implement changes. Provide them with problems experienced and share your ideas and input into solving the issues.

Action item: Strongly consider partnering with OEMs to identify design features that can enhance your equipment’s performance and reliability. Leverage insights gained from their broader industry experiences and advancements and work to tailor that information to your specific needs.

Small upgrades, big impact

Recognize that small upgrades can have a significant impact. A retrofit project may have space constraints, but that does not mean small changes cannot be made within the existing footprint. Often, an internal change not even visible outside the equipment can be implemented to relieve some mechanical stress in one area, or a slight reconfiguration of a section might open up cleaning access in another area. The impact may not be just on future performance and lifespan but on the retrofit equipment construction as well. Discuss handling and installation challenges with your fabricators and contractors. For example, oftentimes, an extra set of handling lugs can be added, or the orientation changed from the original, to facilitate a different installation method than when the equipment was brand new. A thoughtful, incremental approach to equipment replacement can lead to substantial gains.

Action item: Consider making incremental upgrades to improve efficiency, reliability and maintenance ease, focusing on areas with the highest potential impact to your wish list from the reassessment stage. Do not neglect installation challenges, as features incorporated during the design and fabrication phases can create safer lifting/working conditions and ease onsite equipment handling.

Early design involvement in aftermarket projects

Engage with engineering professionals early in the equipment replacement process. Their expertise can help you identify opportunities for upgrades and improvements tailored to your specific needs. Explore analysis projects in order to work through design iterations and options. Even when a plant experiences unexpected failures that require equipment replacements with fast delivery requirements, there might be an opportunity to benefit from small design adjustments. Unfortunately, due to the commercial wrangling that takes place in order to win projects, competitive bid situations typically don’t have much of a two-way informational flow or relationship component to them. You’re likely to get what you specify on your own, which can leave best practices on the table. When the clock is ticking to submit bids, there is usually not enough time to explore ideas that are not in the specification. Investing early in an analysis study will provide information so that you can make better decisions on features to incorporate into your aftermarket project.

Action item: Collaborate with engineering firms from the project’s inception to ensure that equipment replacements are optimized for your specific needs.

Involve an OEM early in the process

Work hard to not make capital retrofit projects transactional, where your supplier is only an order taker. It is likely not what the supplier, or you, want. Through a collaborative partnership with an OEM, multiple design iterations and solutions can emerge. By involving an OEM early on, you can consider installation logistics, modifications to right-size your equipment and incorporate tweaks to work issues out of the design rather than simply replace in-kind. This approach provides you with customized retrofit equipment that not only enhances performance and efficiency, but also ensures operations with reduced downtime and maintenance costs, moving your company ahead.

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The information provided in our posts or blogs are for educational and informative purposes only. We do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness or suitability of the information. We do not provide financial or investment advice. Readers should always seek professional advice before making any financial or investment decisions based on the information provided in our content. We will not be held responsible for any losses, damages or consequences that may arise from relying on the information provided in our content.


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