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The Power of Data-Driven Decisions for Industrial Facilities and Their Operations

The operate phase of industrial facility projects is complex, complicated, and critical to the overall success of any project. Data-driven decision-making can enhance operation processes for any industrial facility. Vijay Mali, a dedicated and experienced Digital Transformation Manager at Lamprell, shared his insights into the operate phase. Responsible for information management, operational management, structural integrity management, and more, Vijay has years of experience and expertise in the industrial facility landscape.

Here are his recommendations for industrial facilities ready to upgrade their operation processes:

Sharing asset data internally is a common challenge

Sharing asset data across internal stakeholders can be difficult when industrial facilities are stuck in manual, outdated processes. There are two phases of asset data gathering and sharing—the first is when the assets are being built (some might call this phase the greenfield phase). The second phase occurs when modifications are needed in the operation (some call this phase the brownfield phase). “These two phases are entirely different,” said Vijay. “Each has a different set of stakeholders with different data gathering and data sharing requirements. But the biggest challenge is gathering data reliably.”

To manage this challenge, industrial facilities need to first understand how data gathering is happening right now. “In the case of an already established industrial facility, they are most likely employing paper-based, manual inspection and maintenance checklists for recording daily asset conditions or asset maintenance or asset performance monitoring,” said Vijay.

After recording data, information needs to be added to each system (e.g. asset inspection, maintenance integrity, performance monitoring system, etc.). “Each system is different because each is within a different department,” said Vijay. “And when the field personnel gathers the data they’re assigned to gather, they go back to their desk and then transfer the data they gathered manually on a paper-based checklist into the disparate system.”

Environmental factors can create issues for paper-based data gathering. Vijay shared, “Some of these facilities are very humid or too hot. Sometimes this paperwork gets wet from the rain or damaged from humidity. Other times there’s a possibility of getting grease or oil on the paper checklist.”

When these environmental factors create damage, they can hide or partially hide a critical range of data then that data is input incorrectly into the system, creating a chain of events that is based on poor data. “These mistakes can result in some major rework and subsequently will impact the cost risk and progress of the project,” said Vijay.

Digital solutions can keep operations running smoothly

To reduce the risk of paper-based checklists, Vijay recommends implementing digital solutions. “We can address the paper-based issues by using a mobile or tablet-based digital checklist,” said Vijay. “We can employ these digital systems with connectivity and capture the data instantly, in real time, to help the rest of the business make data-driven decisions instead of relying on outdated or inaccurate data.”

This real-time data can help supervisors, engineers, managers, and even executive management make better decisions for deploying the proper maintenance strategies or deciding when to replace equipment. By using digital solutions, industrial facilities can also avoid the issue of double work which is so common for field personnel who collect data on a paper-based checklist and then have to enter that data into a computer once they return to their desk.

Critical data can also be found in historical documents

Using a mobile device or a tablet-based checklist can help industrial facilities find and use real-time data quickly and easily—helping them make better data-driven decisions. But industrial facilities shouldn’t look past another key goldmine of information—historical documents.

“Sometimes the data we need will not come from real-time monitoring systems, but in previous history data,” said Vijay. “This can be unstructured data, so you will need to use a contract extraction system to extract the data from various documents and link that data to a particular asset tag.” Doing this manually, or trying to connect multiple systems can be exhausting and time-consuming.

Instead, Vijay recommends using a digital solution that has advanced workflows and contract extraction systems that can make sense of the data from multiple documents and systems. “With a better system, the right data can be available to the right person at the right time with fewer hassles. And it becomes a single source of truth,” said Vijay.

Better communication practices can make data more accessible across the business

Gathering data in real time, reducing double work and environmental challenges, and utilizing historical data can all add to a better operation process. But to take the next step, Vijay recommends analyzing internal communication practices to make sure data is accessible across the business, especially to leaders.

“Most of the time leadership is not engaged because they don’t have proper availability of information or data to understand what the problem is or the extent of the problem,” said Vijay. “We can achieve better communication if we have proper dashboards and data visualization systems in place where leadership teams have access to the data.”

With robust reporting, teams can visualize data and the impact on the business, plans for the future, customer relationships, and so much more. Instead of asking middle management leadership to do a lot of paperwork and submit unnecessary information, industrial facilities should invest in better distribution of communication throughout the business. “You can engage leadership by giving them access to data-driven insights,” said Vijay.

Maximize production uptime and asset availability with these three best practices

While data is a critical aspect of the operate phase, Vijay shared three best practices for industrial facilities ready to upgrade their operation processes. Consider his tips to be proactive in asset monitoring, skill development training, and improving relationships with vendors.

Tip 1 - implement a functional asset monitoring system

Industrial manufacturing facilities should have a functional asset monitoring system in place. Vijay shared that with the right maintenance and inspection strategies, you can be proactive instead of reactive. “We should have spare parts and inventory management solutions in place and proper warehousing and material management systems so if an asset goes down, we can ensure we have the right amount of spare parts so we don’t impact production,” said Vijay.

Tip 2 - use training and skill development programs

Don’t underestimate the power of training and skill development programs. “We should have the right training and skill development,” said Vijay. “We should have trained manpower in place with proper technicians that will understand what to do when an asset does go down.” With better training and skill development programs, industrial facilities can reduce downtime and create more efficient processes. Plus, if a SME needs to come in from a third party, facilities can engage with them quickly if staff and employees have background training in asset maintenance, etc.

Tip 3 - develop strong relationships with your vendors

Vijay also recommends that industrial facilities prioritize relationships with vendors and partners. These relationships can also help reduce downtime and make sure you get back up to speed quickly. “If equipment goes down and there is a critical part failure with no in-house part available, a good relationship with your vendors and partners can help you reduce downtime,” said Vijay. And if your vendor or supplier has augmented reality solutions, they can provide instructions and help perform maintenance. This can help reduce the time you might wait if the vendor relies on an overseas contractor that might not be available for 10 days to come to your facility. “With augmented reality, we can quickly interact with the SME on the vendor side and if there are any anomalies observed, we can take quick action to prevent downtime,” said Vijay.

Ready to learn more about accelerating your journey to a smarter, more efficient industrial facility? Check out our eBook here to elevate your industrial facility operation processes.

Vijaykumar Mali
Digital Transformation Manager,
Lamprell Energy Limited, UAE

Vijaykumar drives Digital Transformation for Lamprell Energy, a leading EPCI contractor to the international energy sector. Based in Sharjah, Vijaykumar develops and implements digital twin technology, which is being used in major EPCI projects at the Lamprell UAE facilities. A results-driven professional, Vijaykumar also has experience in EPCI engineering and project management for marine, oil & gas (offshore and onshore), and renewable industries.