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Not Just Another Asset Reliability Text

By: , Posted on: December 8, 2016

petrochemical machinery insights

First, a bit of history. By about 2014 I had received many requests to update and publish a collection or synthesis of the 700 publications I had authored (or co-authored) in 54 years of professional experience. Solely reaching back to my previously published 19 books was not one of my choices. The world already suffers from too many pages of legislation and generalization without me repeating any of it. Instead, my writing project had to be tackled by re-reviewing the many folders and files containing background material to my monthly “HP in Reliability” columns. Another potential pool of source material would be some of the hundreds of articles I had compiled and issued in the years since 1989. In that year I had finally obtained a word processor with adequate storage capacity to file away thousands of pages.  Wading through these accumulated pages and the associated stack of personal material, I tried to be mindful of its relevance for an audience concerned with equipment reliability; it would be an audience made up of many job functions, skills, age groups, backgrounds and talents. A relevant compilation had to be mindful of the task of future translators who surely would not want to waste time struggling with, or deciphering, fuzzy or hidden messages.

In view of the above, “Petrochemical Machinery Insights” became an unusual collection of relevant material.  It became a guideline text that explains how asset management, to be useful, must be further separated into application and implementation details.  I view the book as a deliberately crafted synopsis or anthology of reliability improvement matters.  The various themes are both stand-alone and interwoven; either singly or collectively they give insight into certain maintenance details and reliability concepts. For a certainty, these concepts and details reach far beyond the endless consultant-conceived generalities which one finds in some publications—publications that often try very hard to please their advertisers.

This text does not imply that true reliability professionals must shun or disregard consultants’ input. However, I wanted to convey that the greatest benefits are usually traceable to dependable, highly motivated home-grown Subject Matter Experts. These SMEs must be enabled and empowered to spell out and pursue actionable detail.  I’m not alone in observing that industry’s training needs very often remain under-appreciated or go unacknowledged. The unintended consequence is lingering issues with budgets for grass-root and existing plants.  For lack of training we still accept cost estimates that cover only the outlay for cheapest, potentially maintenance-intensive equipment. As these cost estimates then become rigidly frozen allocations and appropriations, all hoped-for future reliability achievements are doomed. By mistakenly accepting the notion that all assets can be improved once the plant is running, the uninformed decision makers frequently lock asset owners into a cycle of unprofitability and downtime risk. I liken this pathway to the foolishness of attempting to turn a low-cost two-seater sports coupe into a safe and solid school bus. No amount of wishful thinking will let you do that in a profitable manner.

Examples are most useful

A simple example of an actionable detail alludes to lubricant delivery flaws in thousands of process pumps. Process pumps in the (primarily) 10 kW to 200 kW size range usually incorporate rolling element bearings and the overwhelming majority of these bearings fail long before they have reached their published design lives. Planning and carrying out Machinery Quality Assessment (MQA) is important in this regard; properly carried out, MQA will point out why equipment fails prematurely and often randomly. MQA incorporates the review of component design details early in the project. With MQA one visualizes probable installation and maintenance practices that will likely prevail once the equipment is delivered or after the plant is commissioned. During MQA a Best-of-Class company identifies and finds risky elements or issues that usually culminate in repeat failures.  So why do so many bearings fail early? Why do some process pumps fail repeatedly, or randomly? We should care about the matter and focus intently on the explanations found in “Petrochemical Machinery Insights.”

User questions on why pump bearing lubrication providers do not offer answers need to be explored. By being observant and applying the right failure analysis approach we will learn more about why industry often struggles with elusive failure causes. Answers can be found if we work with manufacturers that have, and will share, application engineering know-how. This text provides ample detail on how we can benefit from working with the right manufacturer. In other words, Best-of-Class performers enlist competent suppliers and use them as technology resources.

Another example of an actionable detail is found in text segments that deal with pumps and other fluid machines. There are a number of pages on well-represented process pumps that deserve to be upgraded. Again, the details on how and why certain parts should be upgraded are discussed and brought to the readers’ attention in this text.  Without overarching candor, discussion and explanation, my narrative would risk being classified as simply more consultant-conceived generalities. Because I did not want this to be the case, I give you the details.

The book’s segment on Root Cause Failure Analysis makes a point made often before. It alerts readers to the fact that thousands of process machines are plagued with repeat failures. I follow up by again bringing a bit of simple common-sense logic to their attention: There are only two possible explanations why a facility experiences repeat failures. Reason (1) might be that the troubleshooters or failure analysts involved have not found the real cause of the failure or, reason (2), the root cause of a failure is in fact known, but nobody cares to address it. Long-held biases and unspecified agendas get in the way. That said, I wanted readers to consider a sobering definition: A mistake repeated more than once is called a decision. There are only two types of decisions: Good ones and bad ones.

In essence, this book tries to teach how mistakes can be remedied or avoided. As readers grasp the underlying principles and come to appreciate the near-impossibility of fully separating the multitude of interwoven reliability topics, they will understand how and why so very many topics cross over or overlap into different subject categories. That understanding will get readers well on their way towards making good decisions, the right decisions. Summing up: I took much time to collect, condense and update what I had published in the years since my first article appeared in a Processing Journal in 1974. That task culminated in synthesizing both facts and underlying principles. I related and commented on what I learned from, and during, my long and rewarding employment by a multi-national petrochemical corporation. In this book and whenever possible, I also expressed what I had absorbed while teaching over 500 workshops on six continents. The reader is given full access to it all and will be enabled to act with the same insight.        

About the Author

heinz-blochHeinz P Bloch is the owner and principal of Process Machinery Consulting Co, and has been the reliability editor of Hydrocarbon Processing Magazine since 1990. He is the author or co-author of over 650 technical papers or articles, and 19 full text books. He was a founding member of Texas A&M University’s International Pump Users Symposium.

About the Book

Petrochemical Machinery Insights is a priceless collection of solutions and advice from Heinz Bloch on a broad range of equipment management themes, from wear to warranty issues, organizational problems and oil mist lubrication, and professional growth and pre-purchase of machinery.

petrochemical machinery insights

The author draws on his industry experience to hone in on important problems that do not get addressed in other books, providing actionable details that engineers can use. Mechanical, reliability, and process engineers will find this book the next best thing to having Heinz Bloch on speed dial.

The book is available now on the Elsevier store. Enter STC215 at the checkout for 30% discount!

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