In the oil & gas sector, improvements have been made to on-site maintenance procedures as a matter of necessity. Improving preventative maintenance and reducing reactive repairs has also made a significant impact on production efficiency. A major challenge is to eliminate breakdowns altogether, and the next stage is to minimize any downtime from repairs. If specialized equipment such as pumps, motors, and generators break down, it often falls to an external supplier to make the repair and return the equipment to service. In many cases, this type of equipment plays a vital role in production and is supported by standby facilities that allow repairs to be made with minimal impact on productivity. The use of redundant or standby machinery has a significant impact on capital expenditure that in the current economic climate may not be sustainable. Therefore, the removal of primary and standby equipment can lead to a reduction in performance and consequently a loss of revenue.
The follow-on effect of removing a single pump or motor can be substantial, so the onus is placed on those responsible for the repair to return the equipment to service as soon as possible. This requires expertise and experience to provide a realistic timeframe for the repair and the skills and equipment to deliver the repair.
Sulzer Ltd.’s lean principles have reinvented the way service work is performed. From the initial inquiry, through the repair and overhaul process, electrical testing, and final dispatch of the product back to the customer, every aspect of a repair has been scrutinized. This has created the most efficient use of labor and resources while maintaining the quality and standards expected by customers. This is exemplified by a service center that was recently opened in Perth, Western Australia, which has state-of-the-art repair facilities designed to optimize repair procedures. Offering 24-hour, year-round support service enables Sulzer to deliver expertise in the most time-efficient manner, keeping operations running with minimal delays – achieved through applying lean principles within the workshop environment combined with a policy of continuous improvement.
Lean operations look at eliminating any form of waste in the repair process, and in this case the most important aspect is time. So, the key lies in refining the various repair processes to minimize any delays while ensuring quality. A great deal of equipment used in the oil & gas industry operates in potentially explosive atmospheres, so a crucial aspect of any repair is making sure that the correct documentation is created and available. However, preparation of this information is time consuming, and this process could be improved by applying lean principles.
Sulzer Service Centers in Australia are certified to ANZEx or IECEx or both, and in the past, each service center kept its own library of technical documents. During an internal review, it was discovered that some projects had been delayed because of a lack of documentation, and there were also cases of duplication documentation and processes.
As part of the continuous improvement process, standardized Sulzer documentation has been created, consolidating the technical documentation into a common library that all sites can access quickly.
The improvements also included the use of online electronic standards; whereas previously service centers were reliant on hard copies sourced by each site. This allows access to the latest information through a common platform and ensures each project meets certification and quality procedures.
At the end of a project, a comprehensive standardized dossier is created which has greatly sped up final checking and auditing as all the key information is compartmentalized, labelled, and approved prior to completion.
For larger projects that involve a number of suppliers and contractors, Sulzer manages these on behalf of the end customer, allowing clients to reduce their supplier base. This also passes the onus of project completion to the prime contractor and reduces the amount of client resources engaged in the project.
Main contractors need to show good working practices and skill levels to comply with many clients’ qualification standards, often requiring certifications including ISO 9001, 14001, and OHSAS 18001.
Employee training is crucial to delivering projects on time; expertise and experience can save considerable time during a repair project, which has led Sulzer to instigate in-house training that ensures all new employees, many of which have been previously trained, achieve the skill level required within the Sulzer organization.
The employee skill matrix supports lean repair by ensuring the most-suitable, best-qualified staff are available for various stages of the project. Industries such as oil & gas use a considerable amount of ATEX-certified equipment, and those involved with any repairs need to be suitably qualified to complete the work.
Meeting the needs of the oil & gas industry is a complex and evolving process. However, time is certainly of the essence and the reason why one of Sulzer’s corporate key performance indicators (KPIs) demands that projects within Sulzer must be delivered on time. This means managing the project you set out to do while being prepared for changes that are often revealed during the disassembly and re-fitting process of pumps, motors, and generators. These core values drive the individual service centers and their staffs to deliver the expectations of the industry.