Knowing the actual asset life cycle
Sometimes, it isn’t necessary to replace assets at the manufacturer's end of life. Asset owners struggle with this continuously as they think "do we pay now or later?".
We consider the five Ws when installing equipment and guess "how" the asset was operated over its lifetime. With digital power systems, we gain a centralized interconnected source of reliable information on how that asset performs within its connected system. This has some real benefits, as we can get an accurate snapshot of the equipment's history, which will influence its end of life. Here are some examples that I’ve seen firsthand:
- If a breaker hasn’t failed or has had minimal routine operations, why are staff members taking it out of service for maintenance?
- Alarming differential instrument sensors may show a system problem, not a calibration issue.
- When an online dissolved gas analysis (DGA) is performed, the transformer load is minimal and there are no historical faults. Is maintaining this transformer a priority while other OPEX issues are emerging?
- The frequency of predictive maintenance routines needs to be considered if we see motor or pump units with multiple starts due to operational events outside the staff's control.
This information can be used to target OPEX dollars on emerging issues and to better understand potential problems in an asset’s operations. For example, if the equipment works flawlessly with minimal process or system risks, why fix it? On the other hand, if an asset has experienced unpredicted events, you’ll have the information to confirm what that field may be telling you: to maintain the equipment that needs maintenance.
If increasing preventative maintenance routines or hours is a recurring theme, this will influence the equipment's end of life. If the maintenance cycles are affected by continual event-driven maintenance, the asset owner now has a custom-made source of information based on their own maintenance. This creates a need for investigation, replacing an asset with a more significant system investigation that may fix the root problem, which in turn will drive down OPEX costs. But if that transformer still has great DGA analysis, with minimal faults and loading, it may not be a priority.
Data analytics in power systems
Data analytics from actual field values can be used in various ways to determine exactly how the asset is reacting under different operating conditions. With this information, companies can then decide where they need to spend money now and in the future. There are some real benefits to this approach:
- Digital power system installations allow for a centralized, easy-to-use database of information for all company groups to use. So, don’t rely on the people in the field to get your data.
- Multiple streams of data are concentrated into one source, one truth. There’s no longer the need to graph numerous platforms, timescales or measuring methods to identify events in the overall system.
There are some long-term benefits to these systems that, at first, may not be clear. For example:
- System issues may occur in the future. If alarms or data can be validated, asset owners can confirm previous operating values from the past, which can confirm current and future values.
- The influence on long-term replacement and maintenance plans is more accurate and validated, instead of using industry-standard timelines. An actual snapshot of the operations can be taken to identify a need. There are always improvements to be made and lessons learned about an old process.
- Having that historical information in an easy-to-use database is a great way to share old ways of operating with the new generation of asset operations staff. This is internal, not classroom, training, which significantly decreases the gap between the qualified younger generation and expert operations staff.
- There may be unforeseen problems 5–10 years down the road. A data archive to confirm operational controls can prove an equipment or process problem, creating specific lessons that are custom-made for the owners' operations. Maybe it was an old way of operating or new equipment that caused the issue. Take the information and learn from it.
All of these points combined allow for a dataset over multiple devices that enables professionals to interpret necessary information, which in turn helps them understand their assets and create better plans, OPEX spending and eventual CAPEX spending plans.
Safety with operational field risk
We must all create value for our end users. We see this in the industry, where most companies are moving toward a performance-based asset management model. This evolution confirms that, by allowing all information to move more efficiently, digital power systems are a solution that can be used by all parties and will decrease operational field risk.
Safety is a priority for everyone. Removing people from potential hazards in the workplace is top of mind. Having individuals working hands-on in the field—physically touching and feeling equipment—is how operations have historically been performed. It’s how all field-based employees learn and how the industry creates experts. Still, we all need to make informed decisions about putting our specialists in harm's way and receiving higher quality and substantially more data.
Digital power systems and their available tools that we can integrate can help with this. For example:
- They gather more data in an easy-to-use manner, without having a highly skilled workforce in the field performing meaningless work.
- They shift staff focus to create a higher skilled workforce using information that can identify how equipment is operating.
- They also have the added benefit of decreasing human error when entering information into a maintenance management system.
Get more data to make better, more informed decisions with a higher skilled staff who is more engaged with asset operations. These are all wins in overall equipment operations. Above all, this creates alternatives to having a team in high-risk hazard areas.
Digital power systems are a tool
As we continue this journey together, we see the benefits of up-to-date connected and integrated devices that can aid in the shift to the digital age. While using these digital power systems that are interconnected as a tool in our tried-and-true systems, everyone sees this as a significant benefit in influencing equipment routines and allowing owners to make smarter, more informed decisions. The benefits result in data that helps make well-versed decisions about the life cycle of their assets, understanding their equipment needs and creating value for everyone.