How often does an opportunity come along to do something good for the environment and make a profit from doing it? We have just such an opportunity in front of us now.
To give you a lay of the land, let’s consider the 2017 case of a refinery that experienced an unexpected power outage — and over the following few days, the plant emitted more sulfur dioxide than it had in the previous two years combined. This is not an isolated case either; there are databases like the one maintained by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality that that store reports that detail such events, and there are plenty on record.
Beyond those emissions, you also have to factor in the increased flaring that accompanies these emergency situations. There are reports that claim the total CO2 emitted globally from flaring is equivalent to 77 million cars. And many of these emissions are preventable!
Fortunately, we now have predictive maintenance technology incorporating machine learning that can detect issues with production assets much earlier — providing weeks (and sometimes even months) of notice that a machine is likely to break down. That early warning provides an opportunity to work cross-functionally and find the optimal time to take the machine offline to perform the maintenance. That “optimal” decision is made considering the needs of the whole business: Production, Maintenance, Supply Chain and Process Engineering.
With predictive maintenance, we know we can achieve increased production, lower maintenance costs and increased asset life. But this is about more than just the money. By providing better warnings and avoiding emergency situations, we can actually realize a full “business trifecta” of benefits — increasing safety and reducing emissions while also making those key operational gains.
You may think, “Well, everyone claims health, safety and environmental benefits.” But consider this: at the annual conference of Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP), there was a presentation by Wim Vancauwenberghe, in which he presented data showing an order of magnitude decrease in the rate of accidents involving maintenance workers when the maintenance was planned vs. unplanned.
These are benefits we cannot afford to ignore! I believe the science is overwhelming; our environment is under siege, and the trend is clear and alarming. It’s time to look at new technologies like predictive maintenance through a lens that sees more than just the profit potential.
Yes, we have an opportunity to improve profits, but maybe of more importance, we can also make a significant impact on greenhouse gas levels. What if we could provide longer warnings for just 20% of those significant breakdowns that result in excessive emissions? What if we could convert just 20% of unplanned maintenance into planned maintenance?
When you look at the data and see the levels of emissions and accidents for unplanned downtime, it becomes obvious that this subset of events generates a significant portion of emissions and creates an environment conducive to accidents. But part of the solution is right in front of us.
We can achieve these benefits, starting today. We can improve availability-to-plan and do something good for the planet at the same time. It’s time to act!
Learn more about the far-reaching benefits of advanced technologies in our recent executive brief, Maximize Safety, Sustainability and Productivity by Turning Unplanned Downtime Into Planned Downtime.