In our world of software, we seem to equate installation with implementation. For example, look at applications for your phone. Once purchased, mobile apps are very quick to install and get going. However, this concept does not hold true when implementing Mechanical Integrity (MI) software.

The complex software packages that are necessary to manage a good, state-of-the-art Mechanical Integrity program require a lot of implementation. It takes a significant amount of planning and coordination to ensure that you not only successfully implement your new MI software, but that you choose the right software to begin with.

Determine Why You Need MI Software

Before you can choose the correct MI software, the most critical question you can ask is why you are looking at an MI software system. To answer this question, you must clarify what your facility’s current state is and how the software will help you achieve your goals.

Below are some questions you and your team can ask yourselves when addressing why you need an MI software program:

  • Is your current program properly predicting failures?
  • Is there a lack of efficiency within the mechanical integrity program? If so, where is the lack of efficiency?
  • Does your facility have quick and accurate access to its data? (i.e. hard copy files, electronic files, excel sheets, binders, desk drawer, etc.)
  • Is cost a challenge for your facility? If so, where is your facility overspending its resources?
  • Are scheduling delays and downtime a challenge for your facility?
  • Are key performance indicators (KPIs) and reports easily generated that show the health of your facility’s mechanical integrity?

Based on your answers to these questions, you can determine if your facility is running at optimal levels and meeting its compliance, efficiency, and risk thresholds. If your answers to these questions are not helping your facility get to where you want to be, it’s probably time to look into improving the technology. These three tips can help you choose and implement the correct MI software for your plant.

Tip 1:  Assessment

After clarifying your facility’s need for a software program, you should assess a software vendor. The following six classifications will help you start:

  1. Scope of Software – Do you want to integrate your facility’s mechanical integrity and reliability programs into one tool that also incorporates the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), PHAs, RAM studies, RCAs and data history? Or do you want a simplistic version that only addresses a more specific process, such as the mechanical integrity of pressure vessels and piping? You should consider how comprehensive you need your reliability program to be.
  1. Strength of Software Analysis – Facilities with corrosion problems or aggressive environments will rely on strong computational analysis. Be sure to identify the approach to the risk calculations within the Risk-Based Inspection (RBI) modules of the software. Considerations should include whether your facility prefers a semi-quantitative or qualitative approach, and if you prefer looking at risk as a static or dynamic model.
  1. User Experience – Determine who the main users of the product are. This could include inspectors, engineers, IT specialists and managers. They will provide insight on how easy or difficult it is to use the program.
  1. Vendor Reputation – While all vendors highlight their reputations and client testimonials within the marketplace, you must sift through this information to determine which software will accomplish your objectives, answer your questions and mitigate your challenges.
  1. Cost – Plants have set budgets. Cost must always be a consideration, but you should also ensure that cost is not limiting long-term needs.
  1. Operational Software Needs
    1. Where will the software be installed? Should your company’s server or cloud host the software?
    2. Who will this program service? For example, does your company operate multiple sites worldwide, and if so, what are the units of measurement within each facility? Is the software available in more than one language?
    3. What is the software’s reporting and analytical offerings? Perhaps your facility wants easily customizable reports for management, overall inspector work scope management, or program KPIs. Be specific in the analytical requirements and what will bring the most value to reports.

After reviewing the criteria for the selection process, you can weigh the importance of each section from one to three. For example:

  1. Critical – Essential for the success of the mechanical integrity program.
  2. Required – Important for the overall operational efficiency of the program.
  3. Preferred – A preference, but not necessary to accomplish operational efficiency goals.

Tip 2:  Selection

At this point in the process, your research team should narrow down the top two to four vendors that best fit the needs of your facility. Schedule an in-person demonstration with each of the qualified vendors. While demonstrations take time and coordination for decision-makers, it is important to have those critical questions answered in person. Don’t just accept a vendor’s word, they must show you exactly how the program functions. After the meeting, ask the vendor for references, as they will give more details on the product, as well as the level of customer support clients will receive.

Tip 3:  Implementation

Once you select the appropriate software provider based on its qualifications, level of support and benefits, the next step is implementation. Selecting the right software is important, but without a thorough and efficient implementation process, the success of the whole program could hang in the balance.

In the past, facilities had teams of employees with reliability expertise that would implement new processes and software. With downsizing, retirements, and an overall shortage of qualified people, today’s best practice is to outsource the implementation stage to a third-party organization.

Indeed, facilities who implement MI software programs for the first time on their own usually experience trial-and-error scenarios. By outsourcing to a third-party organization who has already been though the learning curve and specializes in implementing mechanical integrity programs will get it right the first time. They already know how to avoid first-time user pitfalls and errors, implement in a timely manner, set up instructional meetings, and more.

Conclusion

No two facilities are the same, so it stands to reason that MI software needs will vary as well. Choosing and implementing the right software for your facility is a special methodology, and by utilizing these three essential tips to assess vendors, select configurations, and implement software, you are sure to make your facility’s MI software implementation a success.

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