The design phase of a capital project has a lasting impact on the total life cycle costs for a facility. On average, facilities spend about 80% of their total life cycle costs on maintenance costs, many of which become fixed during the design phase of a project. Facilities and assets need to be designed with reliability and maintenance in mind to minimize preventable future maintenance costs caused by poor design.

Designing for reliability in capital projects can help facilities reduce costs by minimizing design limitations, improving inherent reliability, and improving the longevity and performance of long-life assets. Additionally, designing for reliability also reduces the maintenance, repair, and staffing requirements often needed during the design phase. As a result, facilities can realize costs savings after startup.

Companies looking to make capital improvements to their existing facility and companies building a new facility can benefit from designing for reliability in their capital projects. There are four main questions facilities should ask themselves to evaluate the maturity of their reliability centered design (RCD) process:

    • Does my facility have inadequate design or maintenance considerations that could cause reliability issues and associated downtime prior to our first turnaround?
    • Has my facility experienced improper metallurgy selection during the design phase which has resulted in elevated corrosion rates and higher loss of containment risk?
    • Are my maintenance costs higher than anticipated after startup because maintainability was not considered during the design phase?
    • Did we properly account for tank buffering during the design phase? If not, have we experienced increased downtime at our facility?

After evaluating the current state of their RCD process, facilities need to identify their plan to incorporate it into their capital projects. Whether a facility is re-designing an existing asset or building a new facility, there are a few critical RCD principles they need to incorporate.

First, the design needs to be driven by consequence of failure and acceptable risk prior to startup. Facilities need to focus on mitigating the effect of the failure modes of their assets.

Second, the critical failures and operational parameters must be clearly identified and understood by the operations and maintenance (O&M) team. Operators are the front-line defense of the facility and they need to understand operational parameters such as the safety critical limits and the actions they need to take to reduce those limits. The more information operators have access to, the more equipped they’ll be to intervene when an asset begins to fail.

Third, facilities need to ensure their maintenance strategies are in alignment with their performance objectives. Performing maintenance activities that do not align with performance objectives such as periodic intrusive inspections can hinder facilities by increasing the probability of failure since they involve taking equipment apart. If facilities do not have a good understanding of the purpose of a specific maintenance task, they should stop performing the task and re-evaluate their strategies.

Lastly, facilities need to identify the critical and non-critical assets of their facility when incorporating RCD into their projects. Identifying non-critical equipment to run to failure or run to maintenance will help facilities preserve their costs by ensuring their budget is spent on proactive work for assets that provide the greatest long-term value for the facility.

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