Saving of the Green

Good Asset Management Yields Both More Uptime and More Efficiency, but It Also Can Be a Big Contributor to Your Energy-Saving and Sustainability Efforts

By Nancy Bartels

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Actual results achieved in less than six months are on track to save almost four times the original projections. Energy consumption has been reduced by 100,000 KW in the first half year, leading to $20,000 in savings already.

"What amazed us is that we had it in a test environment for five months, so when we fired it up it instantly showed us which were our most energy efficient assets," says Bill Miller, CMM, MMC, MRO, ASE-EAM system administrator, facilities management, City of Des Moines WRA (www.dmmwra.org). "We had about a $15- to $16-dollar-an-hour spread between our most and least efficient blower fans. Once we identified our energy hogs, we quickly switched over to 'data diggers' to find out what was going on."

Data Diggers

Making the system a success required a big pile of data to dig through and some serious back-end analysis tools. "We needed a reliability-centered maintenance program, so we reconfigured our EAM system to support this. We added 'causes for failure' fields to be completed by the craftsman. These were based on root-cause failure analysis. We checked oil analysis, vibration analysis, preventative maintenance (PM) programs and the event history for years back in the EAM system. We started to find out why there was such a wide range of efficiency. In some cases, it was simple. PM frequency might need to be adjusted. A component, say a bearing or a belt, might have needed replacing. Some had more run-time than others because of more use. Buy switching to more efficient assets, we started getting immediate returns—$200,000 in energy savings"

The second practice Miller initiated was facility condition assessments (FCA). "You go out and inspect and rate your assets, your buildings, your critical assets in terms of how much life they have in them. We have an annual report that shows what we need for replacement this year, next year, etc. We configured our EAM system to handle these assessments. We identified all the critical assets that we wanted included. We go into the field and we dig out histories on assets, run lifecycle reports, put all the data together, and compare and come up with an index rating. We have a drop-down menu with four or five fields. We fill them in, and the system calculates that index rating."

They also mined that rich source of data, the SCADA system. "We took our SCADA programmers and brought in a consultant and Rockwell, who helped us connect the SCADA system to the EAM and the historian," he says. "Most companies are keeping some kind of data logs. The Infor asset management system identifies the most efficient assets. If nothing else, send somebody out to look at your own maintenance. [Ask] 'what am I doing with more efficient assets that I'm not doing on the others?' Once you find those and make the correction, it doesn't take that long to see results."

Miller adds, "We're one of the first in the nation to do this in an industrial environment. This strategy has been more used in facilities management."

The strategy earned the Des Moines WRA the 2010

Governor's Iowa Environmental Excellence Award with special recognition in energy efficiency.

This story is one of an overnight success years in the making. Miller says that first there had to be a change in the culture. "Management began to realize how important this data was and the changes that could result. That was when I got permission to do all this stuff," he says.

Once Miller demonstrated the nexus between asset management and sustainability, he also needed to change the focus in IT. "Our program had been set up by IT. What do they know about maintenance, processes and practices? Nothing. I talked them into letting me reconfigure the program. That's when I started using maintenance best practices. Then we went to a web-based service provider that could do monthly vibration and oil analysis inspections. Then we decided to [aim for] asset sustainability."

Lessons Learned

Miller has suggestions for anyone wanting to implement the same kind of asset management system.

First, go about it incrementally, he says. "Pursue a strategy similar to the Des Moines WRA and integrate SCADA and EAM applications while implementing dashboards to identify asset performance related to energy usage. Identify key integration points and upgrade software to the most recent versions. Also, focus on the largest opportunities first, and then on progressively smaller opportunities. Success breeds support. Set objectives at clearly achievable levels that adequately justify the investment and over-deliver."

Being able to detect process deterioration is also of very high value. Establishing a dashboard of key performance indicators (KPIs) was essential to understanding which assets to focus on next.

Don't obsess over the optimum, says Miller. "Just getting all assets to perform at the level of the currently best-performing asset is often enough to produce results sufficient to gain buy-in," he says. "Once parity is achieved, start working on continuous improvement. Finally, invest in internal skills development. Des Moines was able to complete its project in less than a year after grant approval due to its strong internal skills base. Where skills do not exist, be prepared to invest in appropriate skills augmentation by external service providers, but make it a learning opportunity." 

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