Peak performance in process engineering

Paul Boughton

Roald Rodseth reveals a new approach to performance assessment that is designed to minimise downtime while maximising efficiency

Cost-effective functionality is the goal of any enterprise that uses equipment and machinery to produce a product. Machines must consistently and sustainably perform their designed function and the cost to achieve this must be at a minimum over their lifecycle. This boils down to performing at peak levels for the lifespan of the machines.

DesSoft and Radiant Operations International (Radiant) are two companies that are devoted to the challenge of assisting enterprises in achieving the ideals mentioned above. From the cauldron of innovation and development, the following topics stand out as beacons, lighting the way to peak.


An outstanding characteristic of modern plants and machinery is the perplexing range and number of items in the plant. It is easy to become distracted by the large number of these items, each clamouring for attention. The question of where to focus attention to ensure the highest impact is a critical one.

Various approaches to determine priorities have been developed. A number of these do not provide convincing results. In some cases the evaluation criteria are too complex and have a very subjective component to them, leaving one unconvinced that the outcome is reliable.

Radiant and DesSoft have developed an effective and powerful method to determine which machines to focus on. The essence of the approach is to evaluate each machine at the plant in terms of the impact a failure of it will have on the production loss as well as on the cost of repairing it. An important aspect of the evaluation is that the worst possible failure case is considered. In addition to this, it is assumed that absolutely no prior preparation had been done to minimise the impact of the failure. The impact of this failure is reflected in the time the plant will not be able to produce while the failure is being resolved. This can also be reflected in a monetary value loss.

It is important to emphasise the use of the worst-case impact value. This sets the benchmark for the unmitigated risk situation and provides an indication in absolute term of the consequences of not putting risk control measures in place.

These impact values, as they are termed, are then ranked in order of priority. Further analysis of the machines from an asset management point of view is guided by the ranking. The starting point is naturally the highest value items and the list guides further analysis by systematically working down through the lower value items. This is illustrated in Fig. 1.

Asset management program development

A further feature is the development of an effective approach to the analyses of the asset management requirement for each item listed in the hierarchy, as well as the prioritisation of these. The approach enables the specification of the actions that need to be done in order to achieve peak machine performance as rapidly as possible. The approach is known as ‘Stages on the DRIVE to Peak’ and is shown in Fig. 2. These represent a series of aspects that need to be considered to determine the requirements. They are also graded in terms of the impact that they have on developing the asset management program. The stages are as follows:







The above innovations form part of a comprehensive philosophy of physical asset management known as Impact Driven Asset Management (IDAM).

Software program development

The third innovation has been to computerise IDAM, and the software application has been named DRIVE. The entire process of developing an asset management strategy and program is encapsulated by the application. This facilitates the creation, review and monitoring of such a program and also serves as an administrative application that administers the day-to-day operation of the asset management process. It also serves as real-time updating and adjusting of the program to maintain its relevance and to ensure its improvement. Fig. 3 shows a screenshot of a ribbon used in the application.

The principles referred to above were recently applied to a selection of eight machines on a sugar mill in the province of Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa, at Sezela. This sugar mill is one of Illovo Limited’s plants.

A total of 295 actions required to move the performance of the machines to peak were considered. 47% of these were deemed to be adequate and required no revision whilst 53% required creating or revising.

This represents a significant improvement to the current asset management program in use at the sugar mill and it is important to understand that this result was achieved in a remarkably short space of time with a minimum set of resources. This information is presented graphically in Fig. 4 and Fig. 5.

IDAM, coupled with the Drive software application, has been developed into a formidable combination and has a proven track record in assisting enterprises to achieve peak performance rapidly and effectively.n

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Roald Rodseth is with Radiant Operations International in South Africa.

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