By relying on equipment monitoring software to provide real-time information about key assets, a Brazilian petrochemical company completed a key project on time and saved $250,000.

Equipment condition monitoring systems can be leveraged to yield significant savings for plant operators when at-risk machinery is identified and repaired before it creates a catastrophe. In one case, predictive maintenance performed through equipment monitoring saved a petrochemical company as much as $250,000.

Engineers at Braskem, a petrochemical company headquartered in Brazil, directly experienced the benefits of equipment monitoring, wrote Control Global contributor Paul Studebaker. At their PP4 polypropylene unit in São Paulo, engineers noticed that data from one of the unit's reactor pump bearings indicated that it was vibrating excessively. The degree of the vibrations detected by the machine maintenance software meant that the asset required fairly immediate attention. Complicating matters was the fact that the reactor was already scheduled for production in order to meet a previous commitment to a customer. An unplanned shutdown and emergency repairs could have cost more than $400,000 in lost revenue.

However, continuous condition monitoring enabled Braskem engineers to identify wear on the bearing so it could be repaired with minimal downtime, avoiding a situation in which it failed unexpectedly and created a compromising situation. The bearing was inspected constantly with data collection software to identify its exact condition in real-time, enabling the project to be completed without risk of the bearing breaking. Machine operators were also able to have a replacement part assembled as the current bearing approached the end of its lifecycle. Once their customer commitments were fulfilled, engineers were able to shut down the reactor and swiftly replace the worn bearing and housing with parts already on hand. The maintenance took only 22 hours to complete, and Braskem estimated that it was able to save $250,000 through preventative maintenance. 

Maintenance costs will never go away completely. Braskem is projected to spend around $669 million (1.54 billion Brazilian reals) on repair work and asset improvements in 2013, about 70 percent of its total capital expenditures, reported BNamericas. Because companies already need to devote so much of their precious resources to keeping assets functioning smoothly, any tools that can further decrease the costs of maintenance and replacements go a long way toward improving long-term company profitability.