Effectively managing a Mechanical Integrity (MI) program can be one of the most challenging tasks faced by managers in the oil and gas industry today. A typical MI program contains many competing elements that must be juggled and prioritized: inspection, compliance, data management, failure prediction, preventative maintenance, reporting, and a multitude of others.

As a manager, you want to make sure that the tasks you have lined up in terms of building or improving your MI program relate back to better managing risk, better managing cost, or increasing compliance. These are the three key components that are integral to achieving a best-in-class MI program.

1. Risk Management

One of the most important concepts to managers across the board is risk management. MI plays a vital role in modern risk management by using quantitative risk assessments to provide a solid basis for anticipating, preventing, and mitigating physical, social, and economic risks. By targeting areas of high-risk, a well-managed MI Program can reduce unplanned failures, decrease overall loss of containment risk, and increase the efficiency of inspection programs.

2. Cost

Balancing cost and risk management is one of the greatest challenges faced by managers. You can manage all day and make sure risk is mitigated to low levels, but what if you’re spending way too much money to do that? One of the things that qualifies a good MI program is that it is cost-effective—that you’re spending the money well to mitigate the risk.  A good MI program helps you maintain peak performance and meet output and profitability goals, while also optimizing costs to help ensure that you are effectively spending money on mitigating risk.

3. Compliance

The final key to effectively managing your MI program is compliance. Even if you are successful at managing both risk and cost, your MI program can still be unsuccessful if you are noncompliant. It is crucial to successfully manage both OSHA and internal compliance. Therefore, it is important that your MI Program follows OSHA’s compliance guidelines and recommendations for Process Safety Management (PSM) to assure the continued integrity of your process equipment. Internal compliance is also managed through your MI Program by allowing you to track compliance to Preventative Maintenance (PM) activities schedule, evaluate your PM program results and effectiveness, and collect failure data needed to support and update risk-based PM strategies.

Measuring Your MI Program

To manage your MI program well, you must first measure your program well. The three keys we use to build and manage MI Programs—risk, cost, and compliance—should also be used to measure your program going forward.

You want to measure these three categories not merely at one stand-alone point in time, but on an ongoing basis so that you can make your program even better moving forward. To accomplish this, you need to determine what kind of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you will need to have in place to help you get where you want to go.

Example KPIs

Choosing the right KPIs to help manage your MI Program the way you want to manage can be a daunting task. This process often begins with asking, “What information should I be tracking?”

The answer to this question lies in the three keys. Your KPIs should systematically answer the following questions:

  • How much risk do I have?
  • How well am I spending my money?
  • Am I in compliance or not?

By relating KPIs back to the three keys—risk, cost, and compliance—you are able to summarize how you are performing in these three critical areas. For example, one of your KPIs relating back to risk might be measuring the percentage of assets that have an inspection strategy based on a damage model, as shown in Figure-1.

Figure-1 How to Measure Risk

This KPI shows that if only 40% of assets are being evaluated and related back to a predictive damage model, you are a poor performer. Perhaps you’ve done a damage model from a compliance perspective, but it was never followed up on—it was never implemented into the inspection management data system, therefore it’s not being tracked on an ongoing basis to provide ongoing value. This KPI will help you to better manage your predictive damage model going forward.

Similarly, one of your KPIs relating to cost may be measuring annual spend per pressure vessel, as shown in Figure-2.

Figure-2 How to Measure Cost

This KPI shows us that if you are spending $3,000 per vessel now, you are an average performer. If you want to reduce that cost to $2,000 per vessel in the next three years, tracking this cost gives some sort of target. You not only know where you are now, but also know your goal. Therefore, you can use this KPI to lower your cost per vessel over time.

And lastly, one of your KPIs relating to compliance may be measuring assets overdue for inspection, as shown in Figure-3.

Figure-3 How to Measure Compliance

This KPI shows that in a 2,000 pressure vessel facility, if 0.50% of your assets are overdue for inspection you are an average performer. If you want to improve this KPI over time, you can make sure to prioritize procedures to inspect these items and then make certain you abide by your program, whether it’s a Risk-Based Inspection (RBI) program, or a fixed interval program.

It is often said, “You cannot improve what you cannot measure.” KPIs make it possible to measure plant performance, and choosing the right KPIs will help to build and manage an industry best-in-class MI program.

Managing an effective MI program involves juggling competing priorities, implementing useful systems, employing the right people in the right roles, and utilizing experience. Learning to consistently reduce failures and increase reliability while staying in compliance with ever-shrinking budgets is an ongoing challenge that can be more easily met if you focus on managing risk, optimizing cost, and increasing compliance.