Technology-driven Asset Integrity Management Perspectives

  • By Sugata Bandyopadhyay, Shalini Bandyopadhyay
  • Process Automation

Sustainable business model for age-old assets in the present decade.

Business in the twentieth century was driven by unprecedented challenges from continuously changing requirements, more competition, and enhanced regulations for health, safety, and the environment. Thus, aging assets require a recasting of the retrofitting methodology to achieve sustainability. This methodology requires a structured approach toward defining the process in line with the new opportunities rolling out. Today is characterized by concepts adopted from Industry 4.0 and 5.0, which have defined the use of a technology-driven methodology to configure the way a sustainable business works. Adopting the best practices and redefining the asset configuration and health is the requirement of the day.

Defining a proper understanding of an asset and addressing approaches for a long-term sustainable business, ISO 55000, 55001, and 55002 have come out with a structured process of managing risks, plant availability, safety, environmental regulations, and financial returns. The standard advocates requiring:

  • considerations for continual management of the asset across the life cycle
  • risk assessment and management of risk for sustainability
  • creating increased value for investment and ensuring financial returns
  • creating visibility of the asset across the life cycle
  • asset availability and efficient operation
  • compliance to regulatory standards
  • improved branding.

To ensure a sustainable solution, Industry 4.0 and 5.0 have introduced a package of cutting-edge technologies, providing visibility across the operation and connecting the plant process, logistics, and supply chain, so all the stakeholders can make proper decisions and act at the right time.

The various approaches introduced by Industry 4.0 and 5.0 may be summarized as:

Cyber-physical systems that connect the world: Connecting people, machines, information, and the organization for integrated operation.

New technology: Adopting disruptive technologies to help adapt products to changing requirements.

Digital twins: Simulation and testing before actual implementation to ensure precision in products and services and faster execution without bottlenecks and delay.

Asset performance management: Used for real-time plant and equipment diagnosis to predict and plan convenient maintenance schedules and eliminate unplanned shutdowns for visibility of the process and equipment.

Product life-cycle management: Integrating and simulating the compatibility of all components/stages of a value-added product in real time and planning for a successful launch. On the other hand, management of an asset from conceptualization, planning, construction, operation and maintenance, upgrading, and demolition, are planned with total visibility across the life cycle.

Total automation driven by Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): Integrating plant, logistics, and supply-chain management with the process to plan and produce optimally, matching the supply and demand without creating surplus unsalable products.

Human-machine collaboration: Collaborative robots enable better precision, faster execution, personalized products, and minimized waste.

Cybersecurity: Ensuring a risk-free cyber-physical platform with continuously upgraded and strong security standards for data integrity for individual organizations and secured data access from public domain or paid sites.

Digital transformation: Enabling a connected process between plant, supply chain, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), customers, and all other stakeholders to ensure quality, availability of products, a proper feedback system, and customization of products, so there is continuity and a sustainable process with visibility throughout.

Industries need to head toward digital transformation within the footprint of Industry 4.0 and 5.0. The transformation then creates more opportunities in other emerging domains, like industry upgrades by customizing the production path to address better safety, reduced labor, better environmental standards, improved energy efficiency, benchmarked utility consumption, eliminated leakage losses, and 360-degree automation with robotic process automation. Thus, organizations need to focus on asset integrity management to create a sustainable business from all the operating assets by addressing customized requirements; rules for safety, health, and the environment; and other regulatory compliances.

Because greenfield projects require big funds and the volatile situation in the market is delaying long-term forecasts for sustainable business, there are fewer decisions for greenfield projects. On the other hand, investments are being pumped into the operating industries. They face challenges from nonperforming assets, unsafe conditions, the introduction of more stringent environmental standards, energy efficiency needs, the plugging of leakage losses, etc., which adversely affect technical and commercial viability. As a result, there are enormous opportunities for asset integrity management (AIM) of old assets to create more value.

Goals and objectives of asset integrity management

To establish a structured approach for AIM, the following considerations are necessary, aligning with the guidelines spelled out in ISO 55000, 55001, and 55002:

  • asset management across the entire life cycle with total visibility of the asset
  • improved availability and elimination of unplanned downtime
  • reduced environment, health, and safety risks and adherence to stringent regulations
  • enhanced sustainability
  • energy efficiency, elimination of leakage losses, and a better bottom line
  • better branding.

AIM for plant equipment

Many plants are not performing at the best efficiency, due to issues like aging and using phased-out technology, which cause uneconomic consumption of power and utilities and unexpected trips that disrupt production. The other challenge faced is the requirement of new environmental emission standards, which put an embargo on the operation of much of the polluting equipment and lead to the adoption of changes to combat the same. Through AIM, planned and phased engineered solutions are implemented to address these issues to make the process sustainable from techno-economic considerations.

Apart from refurbishment by adopting technical replacement, AIM adopts an IIoT-based solution, with asset performance management (APM). APM ensures the plant and equipment are more available, with visibility into the health and performance of the whole plant and its equipment and utilities. This makes the plant not only viable but also more predictable and future proofed.

The APM is IIoT enabled and works on a special algorithm to consolidate disparate data, building a data analytic model and executing condition monitoring of a variety of mechanical equipment and processes, resulting in:

  • Web-based access for visibility of the process condition and the asset health and performance of all equipment.
  • Asset reliability by analyzing asset status and the evolving maintenance strategy to eliminate unplanned shutdown.
  • Working on big data analytics and risk-based strategies to identify critical assets, identifying areas of improvement on the chain of assets based on past trends and minimizing leakage loss, reducing production loss, and ensuring improved efficiency.
  • Elimination of human error and equipment malfunction by using expert system tools.
  • Root cause analysis on all events applicable for production, environment, health, safety, security, quality, and customer feedback.

Often the process modification is done to adapt to the latest process technology for better performance and sustainability, and adoption of APM creates more predictable performance and availability.

The culture brought by APM creates enhanced product quality, improved efficiency, minimized downtime, better reliability and safety, an improved environment, and customer delight. 

AIM through automation

Today, reduced human intervention has become the driving factor when configuring the automation system. For this, more visibility into the process is needed, including the health of the equipment, the inflow and outflow of raw material, and intermediate and final products, to optimally run the plant. Thus, IIoT-driven, web-enabled field instruments (edge devices), communication media, a secured cyber-physical network, the creation of big data, and a data analytics–based approach give both predictable and the most-efficient plant performance, ensuring better returns.

Introducing a robotic interface for carrying out plant operation and construction activities brings better precision, faster operation, and less human intervention. Presently, collaborative robots (cobots) are gradually being deployed across the industries with remarkable results. The construction approach is further automated using laser precision, automated welding, testing, and CCTV-based monitoring of the process and operation. Technology-driven investigations also limit human interventions with lesser execution time.

While designing plant automation, considerations are for a holistic approach for total connectivity, remote control and monitoring, inbuilt fail-safe conditions, and predictability. Plants want to create improved operation with benchmarked data for all plant and equipment through cloud-based access to big data, data analytics from OEMs, and other similar models. Automation also integrates the in-house process, plant logistics, supply chain management, customer connections, demand-supply analysis, and optimized operation.

The integrated network ensures plants meet all safety standards, environmental guidelines, and applicable statutory processes. Further, automated event reporting and autocorrection are implemented for any deviations from the benchmarked data based on artificial intelligence–enabled expert systems with continuous machine learning by tracking the ever-changing process and requirements.

Thus, AIM is a necessity and not a choice in the present competitive environment. The most pressing challenge is for personnel to have an ever-changing mindset to stay ahead of the changes. The workers need to upgrade themselves with newer technology-relevant skill sets to create better opportunities. Continuous training and workforce development will bridge gaps between available talent and the most pressing requirement for skilled resources.

AIM for civil and structural assets

The civil and structural part of an asset does not contribute directly to daily production and, as a result, does not receive as much attention for continuous maintenance. During their life cycles, these assets pass through cyclic or continuous stress, corrosive and dusty environments, and often face accidental impacts, causing issues such as corrosion-driven section loss, delamination of structural elements, damaged sections, spalling of concrete, and deterioration of base plates and foundation bolts. This renders the overall asset risk prone. Depending on the severity of the risk, classification of risk becomes necessary to ascertain whether immediate or delayed action for corrective measures is necessary.

As information about the old running plants is not always available, companies are adopting a technology-based approach to capture data and transfer it to a digital platform. A 3D-based engineering solution is carried out for the retrofitting work.

Strategic approach for AIM work process

While deciding on the work methodology to retrofit an existing asset, the stakeholders need to evaluate the asset with respect to its present health conditions, its ability to perform with the planned upgrade (maintaining safety and abiding by all environmental and regulatory compliances), and its ability to generate sustained revenue. If the asset does not meet any of the above requirements, considerations to adopt alternative technology by upgrading or replacing some part of the main equipment may be necessary. The stakeholders need to evaluate the investment versus return for sustainability. Further, while planning for the work, issues like constructability, occupational safety in a running plant, deployment of specialized construction tools, hazardous waste detection, and management need to be given prime attention.

AIM work methodology

Phase 1: Comprises inspection of assets, identification of defects based on the severity of damages, classification of risk, and the creation of a risk register.

Phase 2: Includes hazardous material (e.g., asbestos, lead) identification and creating a process for elimination.

Phase 3: In addition to physical surveys, includes a detailed investigation based on 3D-laser scans, drone-based data collection for unapproachable areas, and underground mapping. The information is transferred to the “as is” condition of the asset (digital twin) in a 3D-engineering platform. For major plant equipment, evaluation of performance, efficiency, reliability, and trip history are analyzed to classify the type of retrofitting to be done. There is also a study of the visibility of the process operation and major equipment health monitoring, level of automation, and possibility of introducing advanced automation to minimize human intervention and increase efficiency. Equipment and devices using phased-out technology and those with the possibility of introducing energy-efficient processes are also explored.

Phase 4: New constructions and items to be retrofitted are identified by color based on the “as is” condition and the risk register report creation of an engineered solution in the 3D platform. The temporary works, such as scaffolding, crane access, safety netting, safety fencing, electrical isolation, and grounding, are all depicted.

Phase 5: The 3D model depicts the completed status of the asset. Also, the construction drawings, including the structural fabrication drawings and the reinforced cement concrete bar bending schedule, are created. The mechanical, electrical, and automation construction drawings are also formulated. The 4D sequencing video is to align stakeholders with the sequence of execution of the job in an audio-visual platform.

Phase 6: The documentation part of the project submittals includes the project overview, various site investigations, all safety risks, asbestos or lead-based paint identification and isolation, enabling activities, waste management, instruction to the bidder and also to the selected contractor, cost estimate, project execution schedule, the deployment for construction equipment and tools, requirements for personal protective equipment and safety gears, and the construction sequences and maintenance regime.

There is a Quality 4.0–compliant checking process at each phase that adheres to regulatory provisions and safety, health, and environmental regulations to ensure international standard compliance. This gives construction agencies a comprehensive roadmap for retrofitting the damaged assets.

The entire conglomeration of project submittals creates visibility into the tangible and intangible investment benefits and the roadmap for project implementation.

Acknowledgement: Thank you to Tata Consulting Engineers for giving us the platform to carry out the work.


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About The Authors

Sugata Bandyopadhyay, consultant and engineering manager (asset integrity management), Tata Consulting Engineers Limited, has 41 years of experience in automation and multidisciplinary project management and execution. He holds BSc, BTech, and ME degrees, is a Fellow at Institute of Engineers (India), and is a Senior Member of ISA. Bandyopadhyay is a visiting professor and member of board of studies in various engineering colleges. His interest areas are Industry 4.0 and 5.0, IIoT, and digital transformation and application.

Shalini Bandyopadhyay, senior manager (civil), Tata Consulting Engineers Limited, has primarily worked as a civil and structural engineer for the past 13 years. She is the lead engineer in AIM assignments and holds a B.E. (civil) from Jadavpur University, an MBA (finance) from ICFAI University, Tripura. She is presently pursuing an MTech (environmental engineering) from BITS Pilani.