Q: Could you briefly explain your role and how it relates to the availability of engineering systems?
Mike McCarthy (MMc): My role is that of a reliability consultant - supporting Sellafield Ltd in the development and assurance of its T-RAM/dependability processes on several major projects.
Panos Frangos (PF): I am an Operational Research and Data Analytics practitioner. My team develops analytical tools and techniques which contribute to the accelerated risk and hazard reduction of the Sellafield Site.
Q: How would you define ‘availability’ in this context?
MMc and PF: There are several ways of measuring ‘availability’ e.g. the traditional (uptime/total time) but also other measures such as ‘percentage of time a receiver plant is able to accept a donor plant package’ (this is linked to a rejection rate concept). Also, availability is the actual production time left after subtracting planned and unplanned downtime. Within Sellafield, availability is also measured at different levels – component, system and value stream.
Q: What do you think are the key challenges for reliability and systems engineers to improve the overall availability of equipment and other resources?
MMc and PF: The biggest challenge is having sufficient high-quality data to make decisions with an acceptable degree of confidence. Another is overdependence on MTBF as the only measure of equipment ‘reliability’ - particularly when the dominant failure modes have an exposure dependency. The nuclear industry operating environment sets some unique challenges to provide highly reliable systems balanced with achieving high availability but with reducing costs.
Q: How do you think approaches to these challenges have changed over the last 5-10 years?
MMc and PF: Technological advancement – e.g. the potential for automated ‘live’ data capture feeding digital twins and using Artificial Intelligence methods to anticipate real equipment behaviour such as availability bottleneck events. Furthermore, the use of ‘the cloud’ to run faster and larger simulations and virtual reality to design operational strategies and train operators.
Q: What experience do you plan to draw upon during your presentation and how can this help other engineers?
MMc and PF: 30 years thinking about reliability engineering as a science and experiences from close collaboration between reliability practitioners – designers, procurement professionals, maintainers and operators. We also have experience of training and mentoring engineers across all disciplines.
Q: What are you most looking forward to from the rest of the event?
MMc and PF: Hearing the experiences and thoughts from across industrial sectors on the same topic. It’s also a good opportunity for networking and to benchmark additional opportunities.
Q: Why do you think it is important for engineers to get together to address the issue of availability?
MMc and PF: Availability is a very large topic, it would be great to hear what other practitioners and theorists are up to. For Sellafield, high availability translates into accelerated risk reduction – supporting the Sellafield mission of ‘Safer Sooner’. Also, it’s an opportunity for cross functional learning. Availability is directly linked to overall equipment effectiveness/performance measure. The more it is understood the easier it is to design the right system for the right job. Therefore, the challenge is probably how to minimise availability losses rather than increase availability!
Achieving Asset Availability: Reliability, Maintainability, and Supportability will be taking place live online on 6 July 2021. Join this seminar to:
- Gain the insight needed to develop and refine strategies for maximising the availability of assets
- Learn more about the impact of digital technologies on your role and responsibilities
- Identify opportunities to operate assets in a more sustainable and cost-effective manner
- Equip yourself with the knowledge to get the most out of existing equipment – reducing the cost of maintenance or further capital expenditure
- Make better decisions about where to invest in new technology to improve performance and reliability
- Prepare for the transition to a net-zero carbon economy by reducing waste throughout the asset lifecycle
To view the full programme and book your place, please visit the event website.