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Sulzer benefits from management principles

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World Pipelines,

In order to improve efficiency and reduce costs associated with their core business, many manufacturing and production industries have implemented Lean principles. While effective, these values also need to be applied to the maintenance facet of businesses to ensure reliability of equipment and minimise the time lost due to breakdowns.

The oil and gas sector has made improvements to onsite maintenance procedures. Enhancing preventative maintenance techniques and reducing the incidence of reactive repairs has made a significant impact on production efficiency. It is a major challenge to eliminate breakdowns and minimise downtime related to repairs.

If specialist equipment – such as pumps, motors and generators – breaks down, it is often the job of an external supplier to make the repair and return the equipment to service. In many cases, this type of equipment plays a vital role in production and is supported by standby facilities that allow repairs to be made with minimal impact on productivity.

The use of redundant or standby machinery has a significant impact on capital expenditure that may not be sustainable in the current economic climate. Therefore, the removal of primary equipment, as well as that used on a standby basis, can lead to a reduction in performance and a loss of revenue.

The knock on effect of removing a single pump or motor can be quite substantial so the repair to return the equipment to normal service must be done as soon as possible. This requires expertise and experience in order to provide a realistic timeframe for the repair work.

Sulzer’s Lean principles have reinvented the way its service work is performed. From the initial enquiry, through the repair and overhaul process, electrical testing and final dispatch of the product, every aspect of a repair has been scrutinised. This has created the most efficient use of labour and resources, while maintaining the quality and the standards expected by customers.

This is exemplified by the new service centre that was recently opened in Perth, Western Australia, which has state-of-the-art repair facilities that are designed to optimise repair procedures and build on the high quality service available to the local oil and gas industry. Offering a 24 hour year round support enables Sulzer to deliver expertise in an efficient manner and to keep operations running with minimal delays.

This is achieved through the application of Lean principles within the workshop environment, combined with a policy of continuous improvement.

Lean operations look at eliminating any form of waste in the repair process and, in this case, the most important aspect is time. Therefore, the key lies in refining the various repair processes to minimise delays and ensure high levels of quality.

A great deal of equipment used in the oil and gas industry operates in potentially explosive atmospheres. Therefore, a crucial aspects of any repair is ensuring that the correct documentation is created and available when required. However, preparation of this information is time consuming and this process could potentially be improved by applying Lean principles.

Sulzer’s service Centres in Australia are certified to ANZEx or IECEx or both and in the past each Service Center kept their own library of technical documents. As part of an internal review it was discovered that some projects had been delayed because of a lack of documentation and there were also cases of duplication, both in documentation and processes.

As part of the continuous improvement process, standardised Sulzer documentation has been created. This has consolidated the technical documentation to provide a common library that all sites have access to, thus reducing time to access such documents. At the end of a project, a comprehensive standardised dossier was created, which sped up the final checking and auditing process.

For larger projects that involve a number of suppliers and contractors, Sulzer has the competency to manage these on behalf of the end customer, allowing clients to reduce their supplier base. This also passes the onus of project completion onto the prime contractor, reducing number of client resources engaged in the project.

Main contractors need to show good working practices and skill levels in order to comply with many clients’ qualification standards, often requiring a number of certifications including ISO 9001, 14001as well as OHSAS 18001.

Employee training is a crucial aspect to delivering projects on time; expertise and experience can save considerable time during a repair project, which has led Sulzer to instigate an in-house training program. This ensures that all new employees, many of which have been previously trained, achieve the skill level required within the Sulzer organization.

The employee skill matrix forms a key aspect of a ‘lean’ repair by ensuring the most suitable and qualified staff are available for each stage of the project as the oil and gas industry uses a considerable amount of ATEX certified equipment. Those involved with any repairs need to be suitably qualified and equipped to complete the work.

Adapted from press release by Anna Nicklin

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