Developing a Maintenance Management System Requires Reliable Data

Issue 11 and Volume 107.

By: Andy Carroll, Black & Veatch Corp. and Ken Wilmot, Interstate Power & Light a division of Alliant Energy

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) implementation does not end when the software installation is complete. To gain the full value of a CMMS, a core foundation of trusted data must be available each and every time the system is used starting from day one. Striving to have high data integrity from the outset of their CMMS implementation, Alliant Energy, an international energy holding company, determined that it required external support and expertise to properly complete its project in a timely manner.

The primary benefits gained from a well-implemented maintenance management system include improved overall maintenance efficiency and plant availability. For Alliant Energy’s plant personnel to extract maximum value from their CMMS investment, the integrity of plant equipment data needed to be very high. Building a reliable knowledge base of equipment and engineering data requires significant man-hours, specific skills, timing and project teams.

When the Burlington Generating Station, a facility owned and operated by Interstate Power and Light, a division of Alliant Energy, realized that they did not have the available resources required for the implementation of a CMMS, they turned to Black & Veatch for assistance.

To achieve the maximum return on the plant’s assets and increase shareholder value, Alliant decided to implement a CMMS. In today’s competitive power market it is paramount that power plant personnel be able to predict equipment failures and understand the corresponding impacts on load and revenue to the plant. One of the first steps to achieve these goals was updating the critical plant drawings and revising the master equipment list.

Project Support

To support Alliant Energy’s CMMS and lockout/tagout implementation projects, Black & Veatch assisted with the re-establishment of databases for all plant equipment at the Burlington station, totaling nearly 7,000 records of equipment data. With teams of specialists walking down each plant system, the project updated critical piping and instrumentation drawings and electrical one-line drawings. The updated drawings are in full vector AutoCAD format. The Burlington station is more than 35 years old and many of the drawings and equipment lists have not been updated in years.

Like most facilities, the Burlington station did not have the staffing and/or time to complete an extensive review of their facility. Traditionally, plants have had a difficult time keeping their plant information current, even though it represents one of their most important assets. Maintaining this information requires proper work processes to capture, approve, update, track and post revised information. This is something many utilities are recognizing as critical to improving plant efficiency, compliance and safety.

The Alliant project was expected to improve maintenance efficiencies in the areas of reduced rework, quicker job set-up and execution. Reduced outage durations improve plant availability numbers, and beginning with a trusted core of maintenance data, foster a greater investment in its upkeep.

Project guidelines were developed during the project kickoff meeting. This is a critical stage for establishing mutual expectations, introducing project engineers to plant staff, establishing daily lines of communication with plant leadership and collaboratively establishing the in-scope/out-of-scope boundaries.

In this case, three days of project scoping discussions were held. All standard conventions were documented, including abbreviations, equipment naming rules, equipment numbering schemes, plant equipment classes, system names, plant orientation, database field widths, system lists, location ID and physical location.

Following this was a one-day trial run and the issuing of project guidelines to the Black & Veatch project team. Trial run results generated a lot of useful clarification issues and provided the first opportunity to measure project team productivity. Early returns revealed that nearly 80 pieces of mechanical equipment were surveyed per person, per day. However, this number quickly rose to more than 120 pieces per day. Electrical equipment collection rates were much higher, as this equipment is more closely arranged and repetitive. The Burlington staff worked daily with the Black & Veatch team to answer questions and oversee safety.

Significant consideration was given to project safety. Data was collected from grating level, or from a six-foot ladder. In addition, it was agreed that field staff would not be allowed to open any equipment enclosures or electrical or control panels.

In plant data collection. Photo: Courtesy of Black & Veatch
Click here to enlarge image


Equipment Specifications

Establishing plant equipment classes, or spec templates, was a separate project by Alliant Energy. This provided the team with more than 100 equipment types and attribute sets for each piece of equipment. These were to be the basis for matching equipment data to attributes, and conform to a standard attribute list across all equipment. For instance, a power attribute would be problematic downstream if some ratings were captured as HP while others used horsepower.

With the fleet using the same general equipment naming and specification templates, the plant operators are able to report on what type of equipment works well and what types do not. At a glance an operator can determine if a 25 HP motor, in a particular situation, is not doing well across the fleet. By looking at the data, the operators are able to make educated decisions and plan accordingly. Additionally, the fleet now has greater accuracy in the information used for centralized stores and procurement.

With well-designed field forms, cheat sheets of equipment templates and naming rules, the field staff captured data quickly. There were no reboots and no lost data. Since field-work requires the skill level of domain specialists who understand the parts, equipment, systems and safety issues, it was very important that once data collection started there would be no technical delays. When the data was delivered and training conducted, the staff was working on a complete equipment database of nearly 7,000 records of data. “The trust in the new system was immediate,” said Kelleher.

Since Alliant was tackling two projects at once, a CMMS system and a new lockout tag-out system, the scope encompassed collecting all equipment nameplate data for all potentially energized equipment. In some cases, skid mounted systems were specified as one asset. This routinely included the main breaker, vents, drains and isolation valves as unique assets.

Early in the Alliant Energy project, various approaches to building the database were tried. Most were centered on the use of in-house labor, a decision that inherently has a schedule impact to project deliverables. Alliant Energy’s first attempt in creating the equipment list was a drawing takeoff exercise. Using a maintenance professional, the individual developed a database from detail drawings. This included the equipment name, asset number, P&ID number, drawing coordinates and location ID.

In many cases, this can be an excellent starting point, but plant drawings miss many important assembly and sub-assembly details. They also lack the important OEM nameplate, procurement data and location details. Having a pre-developed database that can be loaded onto a hand-held computer is an excellent option when there is sufficient pre-existing data that merits this approach.

Data collection performed using hand-held computers and/or pen and paper are both appropriate methods depending on the circumstances and cost. The ultimate decision is primarily driven by whether the project is a data validation exercise or one of data creation.

In the case of the Burlington station it was decided that the existing databases were incomplete and the information they held could not be trusted. Instead, existing data would be used more as a Quality Assurance (QA) check, rather than as a data source for a new equipment list. Alliant decided that careful development of data rules was required up front, followed by a rapid execution of information gathering, QA and final delivery.

For this project, it was decided that field personnel would be provided hard-copy field forms and use pen and paper to collect all new data. Low-cost data entry services were used to transcribe the data. A Black & Veatch programming engineer, who also managed the data entry activities, added some QA and data entry monitoring routines.

The more important features included ones that constrained any assumptions that a data entry clerk could make. For instance, when a clerk determined that there was missing data or had unreasonable data, they were instructed to flag the record, create a trouble log entry and move on. The log was then reported back to the field for investigation or for reconciliation during final punch list activities.

AutoCAD Conversion

A second major deliverable for this project was the conversion of approximately 80 plant engineering drawings to full vector AutoCAD format. The AutoCAD conversion project included all P&ID and electrical one-line drawings. However, all of the remaining drawings continue to be scanned to either a TIF file or CAD overlay. All files are managed in Alliant Energy’s corporate document management system.

Considering that the database is the most critical issue when implementing a CMMS, it is paramount to understand that the database is only as good as its plan for ongoing development and upkeep. Having a good database to start with is important; however, as maintenance is performed and changes to the operation occur at the plant, it is important to revise any affected documentation, including engineering, OEM and operational procedures. At the same time the CMMS database should also be updated. Drafted prints are the link between the CMMS database, plant staff and engineering.

Through improved access to complete, reliable information and improved work processes and technologies to maintain the CMMS, Alliant Energy has increased O&M efficiencies and personnel safety at its Burlington plant.

Author bios:
Andy Carroll has been consulting to the power industry in asset management services since joining Black & Veatch, and has over 18 years of fossil power plant experience. Mr. Carroll is a Mechanical Engineering graduate of the University of Illinois, at Urbana.

Ken Wilmot is a plant manager for Interstate Power & Light’s Burlington Generating Station. Mr. Wilmot has a B.B.A. in Accounting from Iowa State University in Ames, IA and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.