Asset integrity - how it has distracted from everyday reliability
Updated: Jan 12, 2022
Asset integrity should be understood as something that applies to the integrity of the asset throughout its life cycle; no matter what asset we are dealing with. This would be in terms of the asset running effectively within its set parameters, while considering the environment and the safety of the people who operate it. What's happened is organizations have spawned areas of responsibility that deal with regulated equipment exclusively and have broken the understanding of asset integrity as it applies to all assets. Most asset integrity groups focus only on these regulated items nowadays and are not interested in much else beyond this. When we hear asset integrity we think typically about tanks, pressurized vessels and safety equipment that take the front seat, while support systems, involving rotating equipment or other non-regulated equipment are in the back seat or have no seat at all. Instead of an overarching Reliability Group, we see an Asset Integrity Group and typically a Maintenance and Reliability Group.
We see prioritization driven by the threat of regulation instead of fulfilling our responsibility to focus on the requirement, function, and operating parameters of all assets. Meaning if we included and understood all the known parameters for our asset(s), then we could plan prioritize and schedule based on that. (Parameters should include what we have developed in-house for equipment reliability as well as regulatory requirements.) These asset parameters are based on the requirements to successfully operate a plant, and in-turn we are mindful of them as we develop our operating, maintenance, and reliability procedures. We don’t see prioritization to support the integrity for all assets as equal anymore, or at least viewed through a lens that they all have a purpose. We see turnarounds planned based on regulatory due dates, and a lot of the time reliability events outside of the regulated equipment are not even considered. We may have a vessel that if we do not perform work on it within a set scheduled time frame, we could be fined and because of the fine associated with it, we place a huge emphasis on its importance; but conversely, we may also have a sump pump located below a Control Room that if it does not function when needed, could flood the Control Room. It seems we determine priorities on the basis of regulated versus non-regulated instead of understood operating context and purpose.
If we truly look at how asset integrity should function, it should support things like design integrity, operational integrity, enhancement, or engineering integrity and most importantly this all should be supported by a Sustainability Strategy. It seems when there is governance outside of our organizations threatening with fines or other actions, we tend to support it and place better planning around it. There seems to be an organizational culture nowadays that views Asset Integrity groups as the ivory tower, and it seems as though Reliability groups that focus on non-regulated assets have become less significant. All assets should function under one Core Reliability Group.
We should also consider that if the whole asset integrity thing was done right it would all fall under the responsibility of a Chief Reliability Officer who ensures asset integrity is applied to all assets. This would drive a top-down emphasis on the importance of all assets, regulated or not. Organizations would be able to plan, schedule and execute better because we have a much clearer understanding of the purpose of each asset.
In reality, regulation is just a component of the operating context of an asset. It is no different than the reliability inputs we use to determine when to overhaul an engine. We need to really see the impact of creating this industry silo and recognize that we now have two separate groups that literally do the same thing but to very specific assets. We need to revitalize the importance of overall asset integrity instead of it only being used within an exclusive club involving regulations. We need to put emphasis on reliability; overall reliability as it pertains to operating context and our purpose to operate.
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