Mechanical integrity can mean a number of things. It involves the management of a company’s processing equipment to ensure that it is safe and fit for operation, including regular maintenance checks and inspections. This equipment might include pressure vessels and storage tanks, piping systems, relief and vent systems and devices, emergency shutdown systems, and controls. Mechanical integrity services encompass testing and inspection of equipment on a regular basis, such as that required to maintain regulatory compliance, or after an equipment failure. Testing and inspection may be requested if a piece of equipment appears to be close to failure, or is operating marginally. Whether or not a mechanical integrity program is required in your industry, having one in place can offer many benefits.
You have probably heard the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This means that it is generally easier (and less costly) to prevent something negative, rather than fix it after it’s happened. Many of the benefits associated with a mechanical integrity program have that phrase at their core.
In last week’s Fun Fact Friday post, we learned about the Bhopal and Love Canal disasters and the regulations that resulted from them. The Bhopal incident, in particular, could likely have been avoided by having preventative maintenance procedures in place and adhering to them. One of the major benefits of having a mechanical integrity program in place is the prevention of an uncontrolled release of chemicals or hazardous materials into the environment. In addition to the obvious harm to human life and the environment, a spill or explosion can result in hefty regulatory fines and cleanup costs, as well as downtime and decreased productivity. The reputation of the company at fault may be damaged as well, resulting in long-term financial consequences.
By performing regularly scheduled inspections and maintenance, a company can have an idea of how much life is left in a particular piece or equipment or infrastructure, like a vessel or section of piping, or what repairs will likely need to be made in the near future. In addition to the safety aspects of having that knowledge, the company can also budget for anticipated repairs or replacements, rather than being hit with a sudden (and often large) expense. Spare parts inventory can be managed appropriately, and downtime and decreases in production can be avoided or minimized as well.
Trained and certified inspectors can provide proper training to maintenance personnel as part of a mechanical integrity program. This allows staff to monitor conditions on a daily basis and address issues before they become problems. In doing so, potential accidents are avoided and money and time used in a more efficient way.
Having your company’s own mechanical integrity program in place versus simply complying with required inspection guidelines means that your program can be tailored to your company. While your internal standards must still represent recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices, your own program can be customized to ensure that your processes continue to perform the way you intended, and even aim to improve reliability and performance over time. The first step in creating a customized, effective mechanical integrity program is to interpret how broad standards and requirements apply to your particular business. Encorus Group’s Mechanical Integrity Project Managers have experience in developing and implementing programs for all types of businesses, and would be pleased to help you with yours.