As an Operational Certainty consultant, Jerry works with manufacturers and producers to improve the reliability of their processes. It starts with a complete understanding of the assets used in the production process and keeping these records current as an important component of an effective reliability strategy.
Jim: Hi, everyone, and welcome to another edition of “FIRSTHAND: Operational Certainty in a Pod.” Today, I’m joined by Jerry Chen. You may have caught our “5 Questions for an Emerson Expert” podcast we did together a few months ago. In case not, let me give you his background. Jerry is a Principal Field Engineer on our Operational Certainty Consulting team. They assist manufacturers and producers in developing a sustainable culture of reliability in their operations. Jerry is a mechanical engineer by way of the University of Tennessee, and he has a wide range of industry experience working for Eastman Chemical, Schlumberger, and now, Emerson. Welcome to the podcast, Jerry.
Jerry: Thank you, Jim. Thank you for having me.
Jim: You bet. And today, our discussion is around walkdowns. And I’ve heard the term “walkdown” used in different contexts. From a standpoint of improving reliable performance, what is a walkdown?
Jerry: It’s a great question, Jim. So essentially, a walkdown is to verify the legacy equipment and remedy any gaps in the maintainable equipment asset list. Really, the priority is to identify the existence of this piece of equipment. How can you maintain something that you don’t know exists? So it’s really important to identify the existence of this piece of equipment.
And then it brings another question, which is how credible is that data that’s currently in the ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] or CMMS [Computerized Maintenance Management System] system? How do we know if we are over or under-maintaining that piece of equipment or maintaining it at all? That’s the purpose of the walkdown, to identify the existence of the piece of the equipment and it’s about finding that baseline and identifying those pieces of equipment.
Jim: Okay, that makes sense. So why are these walkdowns important?
Jerry: walkdowns are foundational to all maintenance programs. You can really, again, only fix what you know that you have. How do you know what you have? By conducting a walkdown. And then it also helps with maintenance work prioritization. You can do a criticality list and identify your most critical assets and focus on those and leverage your resources on the most important assets, so you’re not wasting your time and your resources on less critical items.
And then also, having a CMMS your org maintenance team can count on. That’s one of the important things a walkdown brings is that confidence in you CMMS. And really having that solid foundation helps with doing criticality analysis, helps with building build materials, helps with building accurate PMs to the assets, and really focusing on those critical assets.
Jim: Well, that makes a lot of sense that really getting a good understanding of what all you have and kind of determining priorities and just helping you overall with scheduling and making it more sustainable, all your practices. So what circumstances would call for a walkdown?
Jerry: So I’ve been involved in many, many walkdowns. Really, a lot of our clients just feel that their CMMS is cluttered or has a lot of non-maintainable assets within their system, whether it’s been, you know, a pump’s been decommissioned or part of the plant’s been decommissioned and they haven’t had an opportunity to go through and defragment their CMMS system to remove things like consumable items or ambiguously titled items or things like ladders and non-maintainable items of those nature. Or maybe it’s a greenfield plant and it’s a new plant and they just want to know what is there or if there’s an acquisition and they want to, again, identity what is currently there, what are they getting into.
But yeah, I’m sure we can all think of a handful examples of why it’s important to take inventory of your plant. And the number one big issue that a lot of the plant face are inaccurately populated CMMS systems. Because the last time, maybe, the CMMS was configured was when the whole system was purchased or when it was implemented, but that could have been 10 years ago, and things change over time.
Jim: Yeah, it sounds like there’s a lot of different things that may, from the effort that was done at one point in time, need to be revisited. One of the wonderful things, as we live in this world of advancing technologies is, you know, all these digital tools that come. And a lot of manufacturers and producers are undergoing digital transformations in different areas. How is, from a walkdown standpoint, doing a digital approach different than what’s been traditionally done?
Jerry: Our digital process involves our digital tool, Ordital. It’s, in a nutshell, a photo organization and data extraction tool. Essentially, we use an app to collect the information from the asset, you know, from the name plate or from the equipment, and bring in that data into a loadable format, into your ERP system or CMMS system. And we’re essentially leveraging technology to reduce the amount of information exchange.
As you can imagine, if you’re walking out there with a pen and paper, writing down information, there’s a possibility of human error or transcription error. And then if you introduce someone else, like I hand the paper to you, Jim, and have you enter in that information, it may be hard for you to read my handwriting. We’re trying to minimize that exchange of information by implementing this digital process.
With the picture of the asset and its name plate, we have that information at all times, and we have that information accessible at all times, so we won’t have to go back out to the asset out at the client’s site, because we have a picture of the asset. I guess diving now into what are we doing during the walkdown with the app? So we’re using the app to collect data on the asset while, at the same time, organizing that data in real time: categorizing the photo as a piece of equipment or categorizing the photo as a name plate for that piece of equipment, or identifying tag photos.
In other processes or in the past, traditionally, people have used pen and paper or a steno pad and that is prone to errors. Or, you know, some of our competition, they’ve been using tablets. But a majority of them essentially are using it as a digital pen and paper method, so that typographical error is still there. Maybe handwriting isn’t an issue anymore since it’s digital, but, again, typing it in possibly introduce error.
Our process involves taking that physical photo of the data so there aren’t any discrepancies, there isn’t any bias, and we have the photo as the source document and we can always refer back to it if we need to, so reducing that possibility of human error.
And then after the walkdown is complete, we’ll provide the pictures of the equipment, the name plates, the tags, vendor photos and we provide that to the client. And what we really do at the end is we provide the most critical attribute data and transcribe it so they can populate their CMMS so they can be more effective with their maintenance and identify those gaps in their equipment or supply chain and identify obsolescence if… So you have a pump and that pump manufacturer has gone out of business. Well, it’s time to start phasing in a new manufacturer, and that way, you can get ahead of that obsolescence.
Yeah, ideally, using this digital method is not only saving time and money, but most importantly, we’ve increased the accuracy with the digital method. And our belief here at Operational Certainty is that accurate data drives effective maintenance.
Jim: Well, yeah. What you’ve just described between putting something on a pen and paper and especially if you’re handing it to me, who knows what you’re gonna get in that database there. To capture it electronically, to put it into that database, make it searchable, all the other things we get from our digital world, that just seems like such a better way to be able to do that. So can you share any generic examples of walkdowns you’ve participated in and some of the results that were achieved?
Jerry: Recently, I was on a project with three of my teammates and we recently went offshore. The team was comprised of two baby boomers, a gen-xer, and myself, a millennial. I had used the app before, but this was the first time for them to use the tool. And wow, did these buys pick it up fast. They were capturing the assets three times as fast as opposed to using a pen and paper. They could see the time savings immediately. And with those time savings, we were able to re-allocate that time for additional hierarchy development, additional asset collection, and additional time to QC [quality control] the data. So we were delivering a topnotch product to the client.
Really, the client was very surprised at the speed that we completed the walkdown, but they were more thrilled with the outstanding data that we delivered and the photos we delivered. So overall, we delivered the asset data with photos and additional level of confidence that they hadn’t seen before from our competition.
Jim: Well, that sounds like a real digital transformation to the whole walkdown process. Great. Can you give us a glimpse of what the future looks like for walkdowns?
Jerry: We live in this world of technology and finding ways to implement it. And I, myself, am an early adopter of technology. I love finding ways to implement technology. Sometimes, it may slow down the process in the beginning, but overall, it’s going to speed it up. The future of walkdowns, foundationally, maintenance hasn’t changed. Things are going to wear and break. Hopefully, we can fix them before they do.
Right now, we’re working on implementing augmented reality or mixed reality and virtual reality into the walkdown process, essentially, creating a 3D version of your plant so that you can get a Google Street View of your plant. That way, you’re not spending additional time in hazardous environments or danger if they don’t need to be in danger.
We’ve shown it to a client and they just get awesome ideas from using the private Google Street View, per se, of their plant. And there’s a huge possibility for applications of this new process.
Jim: Well, Jerry, I think you’ve given that Google Street View analogy, I think, paints a great picture, you know. You imagine you’re in your plants and looking around and being able to see that from your desktop and really pinpoint things, that really seems like an exciting future of what is coming for walkdowns and what we’re already seeing here today. Really appreciate you sharing and painting such a great picture of how walkdowns are going through this digital transformation. So thank you so much for joining us today, Jerry.
Jerry: Thank you very much, Jim.
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Visit the Operational Certainty section on Emerson.com for more on the methodologies to apply technologies to digitally transform your manufacturing and production operations. You can also connect and interact with other Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and digital transformation experts in the IIoT & Digital Transformation group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community and/or at the September 23-27 Emerson Exchange conference in Nashville.