FAST Instrument Audit Lessons for All Gauge Users
WIKA’s Full Audit Service Team (FAST) is staffed with instrumentation engineers who visit your facility at no extra cost to identify problem gauges and provide engineering-based solutions to correct them.
“Typically, a full Instrument Audit at a large plant will take four days with two FAST engineers on site,” says Tony Maupin, senior instrumentation engineer for WIKA’s FAST program. Audits at most smaller facilities take two days, while some very large plants can require two weeks to a month.
In 2013, WIKA’s FAST team performed more than 40 Instrument Audits. “Customers know they need to pay more attention to their gauges and schedule an audit as the first step to a solution,” says Maupin. The team’s work depends on the complexity of the operation and how rigorous an Instrument Audit the customer wants, he adds.
Instrument Audit Patterns
FAST engineers have discovered that in far too many cases, a pattern of neglect has developed over time that can be difficult for customers to correct on their own. “That’s why we typically find that 25% of gauges are nearing the failure point,” he says.
Complicating matters, FAST engineers find that almost three-quarters of the plants they visit lack accurate specifications and documentation to indicate which gauges belong where. This causes gauges to be misapplied, and as a result, more prone to failure. At minimum, the FAST engineers recommend posting a laminated sheet in the gauge storeroom, outlining different kinds of gauges and their uses.
On average, the audit team finds 25% of a plant’s gauges are “red,” requiring immediate replacement. Another 40% are tagged “yellow,” meaning they are still viable but must be replaced during the next scheduled maintenance cycle. The statistics vary, with some plants having more gauges needing replacement and others requiring fewer.
Instrument Audits do discover shining stars, however. Some operations list specs on each gauge that spell out their applications in detail and note when gauges need to be checked, repaired, or replaced. The best facilities also keep up-to-date databases on gauge inventory and history.
Storeroom Audits Included
Storeroom audits are another job of the FAST team, which analyzes gauge SKUs to ensure only the correct ones are on the shelves—streamlining supplies and making it simpler for operators to replace gauges with the correct ones when needed. By standardizing a plant’s gauge population, the FAST team can typically reduce gauge inventory by 40%, saving money as well as time.
Importance of the Right Gauge in the Right Place
An Instrument Audit reminds plant personnel of the critical role gauges play. “Gauge failures can lead to all sorts of crises—leaks, fire, and even explosions,” says Maupin. “Those conditions can, in turn, result in regulatory fines, costly downtime, or, even worse, injuries to people.
“In too many cases, such failures come about from misapplied gauges. Having the correct knowledge beforehand can prevent avoidable, and potentially costly, mistakes.” Maupin says.
Maupin will be presenting more findings from FAST audits at the 2014 Maintenance and Reliability Technology Summit in Rosemont, Illinois, March 18-21. His presentation, “The Processing Instrumentation Crisis” is scheduled for March 19.