Maintenance improvement in the petrochemical industry
Oluwasina, Oluremi Isaac
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Technology is the answer to most of our human needs but every technology is often accompanied by other challenges which often lead to the evolvement of another technology. One of the technologies that have greatly impacted our world is that of energy development out of which the petro–chemical industry is an important one. The petro–chemical industry remains the main energy hub for our world today through ranges of products coming from its ambit but not without its own challenges too. One of which is the issue of breakdown or shut down which always require maintenance. Shutdown, many a times, may be planned (annual, quarterly, condition–based, time–based, preventive and so on) or unplanned (run–to–failure). In any case, maintenance personnel (mechanical, electrical and instrument) must perform their duties to fix it. In the process of fixing the equipment several factors affect the effectiveness of the personnel. To improve maintenance activities, factors affecting its effectiveness should be addressed. Some of the factors that are already been considered are; Overall Equipment Effectiveness(OEE), Precision maintenance, Maintainability, Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), Work Order management, Equipment, Logistics, Process optimization, Supply chain management, Maintenance strategies, Continuous Improvement Hours and so on. (Taylor, 2000; Siemens.com, 2010) Of those factors, many people hardly think of ergonomics as a factor of reckoning with maintenance activities. Ergonomics is mostly thought of in relation to operators and office workers. According to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in U.S.A (2009), ergonomic injuries are the most common cause of workplace illness and injury in the United States. Back injuries and cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, bursitis and epicondylitis form the majority of non–fatal occupational injuries and illnesses, costing employers more than 12 billion dollars per year in lost work time, workers compensation payments and medical expenses. Of the cost implication of ergonomics ailment reported above, how much of it is related to maintenance activities? Is there any relationship between maintenance activities andergonomics? In what direction is the relationship? positive or negative? How much is the impact in either direction? If it is negative, how can we mitigate it? Finally, what are the benefits, if any? These are some of the vital questions this dissertation is set to answer in relation to: physical, somatic, medical, overhead cost, production down–time and personnel morale. To achieve the afore–mentioned, several research instruments were employed which include; case studies, questionnaires, physical observations, interviews, literature reviews, internet resources, journals and other sources (industry experts and professionals). Relevant keywords and concepts were thoroughly researched in the literature review which serves as a base for the dissertation. Two hundred technical personnel (maintenance) serve as the population sample and questionnaires were administered to them. Technical personnel with appreciable number of years of experience occupying managerial positions were also interviewed. The outcomes of all the interviews, observations and questionnaires were analysed and interpreted accordingly to verify how ergonomics impact maintenance. This dissertation based on findings, was able to establish that ergonomics impact the activities of maintenance personnel culminated in proposing an E4M (Ergonomics for Maintenance) assessor. The assessor alongside utilization guidelines and a training matrix will help to effectively mitigate the impact of ergonomics on maintenance activities. There is room for further development of the tool into a computer based package for real–time assessment and mitigation. The assessor and its instruments cannot work alone without the commitment of stake–holders in the industry. That is why recommendations were included for effective application of the tool. The dissertation did not overlook the good works the industry has been doing in the area of creating awareness about repetitive stress injuries among its workforce but only complement its efforts in areas they might not look into. That is in a bid to improve the effectiveness of its workforce which will directly increase productivity, profit and stakeholders confidence. On the other hand, it will reduce their indirect losses through; production down–time, medical cost and over–head costs. However, the application of the E4M assessor is not limited to the petro–chemical industry only but finds its applicability in other industries like; manufacturing, aviation, automobile and any other field where maintenance activities take place particularly in third world countries.
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