International recognition for excellence in asset management

The Siemens operations and maintenance team at Severn Power has been recognised for its best practice approach to asset management with the award of the international standard, ISO 55000.

The Institute of Asset Management’s audit team completed their four-day assessment at Severn earlier this year. They were particularly impressed by the teamwork they witnessed between Siemens and the plant owner, Calon Energy.

“We couldn’t have achieved this without the strong collaboration with Ian King, the asset operations manager at Calon Energy, and his colleagues,” says Sean Grundy. A passionate advocate of asset management, Sean heads the UK gas business in Siemens and was Severn station manager when the ISO 55000 goal was set.

“Back then there was limited knowledge of the standard in our part of Siemens and few saw the value of going through ISO 55000 unless you were the plant owner,” he recalls. “But what we’ve achieved at Severn has really changed that perception in Siemens. We’ve shown that even if you don’t own the plant and make the capex decisions, there’s no barrier to getting accredited. And, very importantly, that this standard can really add value for our customers.”

Sean is mindful that whilst ISO 55000 has been enthusiastically adopted by power plants in other parts on the world – such as the Middle East, where he’s worked as an energy consultant – it’s been slower to take hold in the UK.

“In the past, plant managers with safety, quality and environmental standards often questioned the need for a fourth. That’s changing. Many companies now have asset managers looking at what’s best for the overall fleet, and for them ISO 55000 offers a life-cycle approach to asset management. Whether you’re buying, selling or operating an asset, or if you own it, these are good practices to adopt to manage its bottom-line value whilst minimising your risk exposure.”

He believes having ISO 55000 could be a real differentiator for Siemens Gas & Power. “If our customers are considering buying an asset and looking at risk, we can give them a level of confidence by helping them to fully understand where the risks are, how best to manage them and the costs they can expect.

“Equally, when an owner comes to sell an asset, ISO 55000 will show potential investors how an asset and its risk profile is being managed, which will help to achieve the best selling price.” Inspired by Severn’s example, the global O&M team in Siemens now intends to promote ISO 55000 across all of its sites.

One attraction of adopting the asset management approach enshrined in ISO 55000 is that everyone feeds in to the decisions being made. As Dan England, who took over from Sean as plant manager at Severn Power, puts it: “You don’t have a technical specialist taking control of the investment schedule and the commercial manager left without a voice. Decisions are made using a risk-based process and so silo thinking disappears. We focus on qualitative reviews and statistical calculations rather than emotive individual opinions.”

An example is the approach to the air-cooled condensers at Severn. Previously, the Siemens team would have carried out a maintenance inspection on the condensers, highlighted any defects and submitted a price to Calon Energy for fixing them – “a rather knee-jerk reaction” says Dan. Today, the station has a five-year plan. “Rather than advise Calon Energy they need to spend £40k this year, by managing the risk we can budget for £10k over the next five years.”

Whereas a typical maintenance strategy is built around the recommendations of the equipment manufacturer, asset and risk management takes into account historic data to make more informed decisions. For example, Severn’s four boiler feed pumps would each cost £80k to overhaul, based on the OEM recommendations, but by analysing past and current performance data and opting instead for a condition-based strategy, the Siemens team is proposing to achieve an extra 8000 hours from these critical assets, representing significant potential savings for Calon Energy.

Dan points out that it’s Calon Energy’s willingness to openly share its business strategy with Siemens that enables the generation of an asset management plan. “Our plan can only succeed if it aligns with the stakeholder’s strategic objectives. If Severn switches from running 60 per cent to 20 per cent of the time, then clearly the owner’s business priorities change and so does the asset management strategy. Last year reliability was fundamental to the client, whereas this year flexibility is a high priority. Our plan has to reflect that.”

Calon Energy’s Ian King has spoken in the last two years of “a sea change in the way Siemens and Calon Energy work together” and of how he welcomes a much more collaborative and less contractual way of working. Calon Energy shared the cost of the assessment process with Siemens and is keen to adopt the process across other assets. Ian believes in looking long-term. “We cannot focus solely on keeping the units running day-to-day. We need to extend our horizon.”

The joint asset management team sits down each month to discuss the highest risks at Severn and agree mitigating actions. Ian says the meetings help Calon Energy to better plan and budget. “We don’t get hit with expensive surprises. Rather than focus on individual pockets of work dotted around site, we look at the interconnectedness of it all. It’s not just a case of ‘doing x will cost y’. The work we discuss is part of a bigger picture. We understand the risks and the options.”

He adds that Siemens has always been good at putting forward improvement proposals, but often independently and without a risk perspective. “It’s a joint discussion now between Calon Energy and Siemens. We look together at an engineering improvement project – whether the focus is health and safety, the environment, availability or flexibility – and decide if there’s mileage in taking it forward.”

Good asset management doesn’t only benefit the asset owner. Dan says it’s given his team of 37 a far clearer focus. “We’ve moved from getting caught up in the day-to-day and fire-fighting to being much more strategic, and that’s freed up valuable time for our lean maintenance team. We’re now more effective and efficient.” Has the advent of a new standard meant more bureaucracy? “Not at all. We have a single integrated business management system that includes all four standards and one action tracker. We’ve removed documents that don’t add value.”

Sean has previously observed that the danger with a long-term O&M contract is resting on your laurels: “The challenge is not to get too comfortable”. Is there a danger of complacency with asset management? “Every year we have to ask Severn’s owners: ‘What do you want to get from your asset?’ That continuing collaboration and openness is very important.” Next year’s ISO 55000 assessment date is already in the diary. “We have to show continuous improvement, take on board any findings and continue to mature,” says Sean.

Meanwhile there are plans for a team celebration. “The fact we achieved certification at the first attempt is a real credit to the team,” says Dan. “Severn has always been a shining star in the Siemens O&M fleet and the way they’ve responded is awesome. They got on board and showed great commitment.”