Good communication and coordination with relevant operations and process design staff helped fast track the change-control activities for the temporary solution. The process technologist and utilities manager supported the work at all stages, and took an active role in vetting the mechanical and structural design. We kept the management team informed at every stage, as this was a problem that had the potential to shut the whole refinery down for an extended period.
This required major engineering effort. Significant design changes were envisaged, based on the results of these trials. The plan was to redesign the overflow from the weir so that aeration was eliminated. By the time all this happened, I had already moved to a new location, so I could not keep track of subsequent actions.
- 1. It is necessary to identify root causes to solve serious reliability problems.
- 2. The participation of the pump vendor and design contractor enabled quick analyses. Vendors and design contractors are a great source of knowledge, and should be used when available.
- 3. Temporary solutions must also be properly engineered. We have to apply change control procedures, even if changes appear insignificant. We can fast-track these with good communication and cooperation.
- 4. Maintenance engineers can make their jobs more interesting by methodically addressing serious reliability problems. Solutions may sometimes be innovative, but analysis must always be thorough and based on facts.
- 5. Given the freedom to explore, people often come up with innovative solutions. In this instance, we used an unusual way to measure aeration, another to repair the suction bells and yet another to stop the aeration. Even the way in which the plate was inserted into the weir box required creative ideas, in this case from the mechanical supervisor and crane operator.
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In solving difficult reliability problems, tap knowledge and skills wherever they reside. Innovation and creativity are available at every level in the organization. These talents can flower or be smothered, depending on how we deal with people.
Analyze risks and apply change control procedures before implementing temporary solutions. These need the same quality of design and engineering as permanent solutions.
Difficult challenges make a maintainer's life interesting.