Proper preparation ahead of a process assessment in your facility will ensure you get the most out of the engineer’s visit to your plant. The most useful process assessments are performed when the equipment is running so the engineer can observe any normal or suboptimal operations real-time.
While instrumentation can provide great information, it can also mislead due to poor calibration or location within the process equipment. The same goes with local field gauges. Thus, using our human senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell, and perhaps even taste [in the quality control lab]) while running the equipment can reveal further information that instrumentation can’t detect.
ICYMI: Read Part 1: What is a Process Assessment?
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Distribution plate and tubesheet inspection on a thin film evaporator. (Text & Photos by Kyle Mathis)
Having operational flexibility is also important for a successful process assessment. For example, the engineer may request a pump speed increase, temperature decrease, or pressure increase during operation to observe the effect it has on the process. If an issue requires a shutdown for further investigation, such as a fouled distribution pan, we will ask for that as well; however, we are cognizant of production needs and will adjust our assessment as best we can.
Another preparation task is to compile maintenance, management of change, and production records so we can study any historical changes. Small changes, such as adding a valve, could cause significant process changes for better or worse. Similarly, preventive maintenance records (or lack thereof) could explain peculiar process phenomena.
Finally, have availability for various plant personnel to interact with the engineer during the assessment. Operators and mechanics have valuable insight into cause-effect relationships and non-documented changes that may have occurred. Plant engineers and managers may bring a different perspective and also need to be aware of potential non-documented changes.