Risk Based Inspection Seen Through the Eyes of the Experts

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Tags: Mechanical Integrity Risk Based Inspection

An AOC Consultant facilitates a virtual panel of Risk Based Inspection (RBI) experts to gain insight into the challenges and value of RBI implementation. Our experts consider why organizations implement RBI, common challenges, and strengths of an RBI champion.

Risk Based Inspection Seen Through the Eyes of the Experts

For a while I have been thinking on asking several Risk Based Inspection experts about their experience implementing an RBI program at any given facility. So, I have decided to contact several people with different backgrounds and expertise in order to check if there are any major differences in terms of what they have faced while implementing a RBI program.

Due to conflicting schedules and logistical challenges, I came up with the idea of a virtual panel. The idea was to conduct an interview with a twist: Basically it would be a blindfolded interview. I emailed three of my colleagues and asked them to answer four out of five questions which I provided. I kept it anonymous in that none of the panelists knew who else was on the panel to avoid any peer influence on their answers. In fact my RBI panelists had no idea who else was on the panel until the publication of this article.

So after some iterations and creative writing, the virtual panel interview looks like this:


Good day gentlemen,

We are here today to discuss several topics related to RBI implementation.

I will be the moderator and you will have 3 minutes to answer.

Let me introduce each one of you briefly.

Mike Hurley is a RBI professional with more than 20 years of experience as plant engineer and over 15 years of successfully risk-based inspection programs in the chemical manufacturing industry.

Leon Johnson is an Industrial Engineer as well as a learning management guru with multiple years of experience in RBI implementation in refineries and chemical plants.

Paul Raithby is a Mechanical Engineer with 20 years of experience in maintenance and reliability and a RBI expert from the UK.

Thank you all for participating in this event, let's get started.

Lenin:Why do organizations decide to implement RBI?
Mike:Well Lenin, basically for the following 3 reasons
  • An accident has occurred
  • Budgets need to be cut
  • Too many unplanned shutdowns with leaks or releases
Leon:I would say, Lenin, that most organizations I have worked with implementing RBI programs make the decision in order to optimize their inspection intervals. In some cases, user/owners also consider an RBI implementation to be part of their reliability improvement efforts.
Lenin:Basically organizations decide to implement an RBI program due to a loss of containment event(s) has occurred or due to a reliability improvement initiative will be implemented within the facility.

Lenin:What are the most common challenges that organization have to overcome to implement an RBI program?
Paul:Lenin, the main challenges are knowledge, skills, and resources. Often organizations do not have the requisite understanding of the RBI process and they lack the skilled individuals to implement and sustain the program. The people who could/would step up to run such an implementation project are typically already fully engaged in other work and thus the project needs to be prioritized against other projects/initiatives and even day to day tasks.
Mike:From my experience, I would say that the most common challenges are:
  • Establishing a management system for maintaining documentation, personnel qualifications, data requirements, consistency of the program, and analysis updates
  • Integrating the RBI program into the MOC program
  • Spending the time and resources to get all of the required data out of the equipment files
Lenin:It is important to highlight that, in general, organizations struggle to define RBI processes, to define what is their acceptable risk, and to move from time based programs to risk based programs.

Lenin:With that in mind, what are the three biggest challenges you have faced while implementing an RBI program?
Leon:The three biggest challenges are:
  • Commitment - Not just management commitment, but commitment from everyone on the RBI team. If leadership and/or individuals are unwilling to use the results of an RBI assessment to plan future inspections, then the value of the RBI effort will not be realized. If RBI team members are not committed to following defined RBI procedures and work processes, RBI results may not be reasonable and/or repeatable
  • Lack of well-defined processes - Some think that assembling an RBI team and purchasing software are enough to get started with RBI
  • Software implementation and integration - Once RBI software is purchased
Paul:I would say that the three biggest challenges are:
  • Management support. Commitment from upper leaders (and middle level leaders) to the project either through poor resource allocation or inadequate communication
  • Implementation of Quantitative Methodologies on facilities that the methodology is designed to be used on. Making the model fit as best as possible
  • Change management. Introducing people to new ways of working and new technology, helping them to develop new skills
Lenin:I have to say that at this moment I have started to realize that the RBI experts are more aligned on what they have faced, that I had imagine. The only differences I have noticed so far is the questions they have decided to answer from the pick list.

Lenin:But lets continue with the panel interview.
Lenin:What are the key elements that a RBI champion must have?
Mike:This person must be a self-starter, and problem solver and must possess the following knowledge:
  • Process - as a minimum, basic understanding of unit operations
  • Equipment- as a minimum, understanding of fundamental design requirements, materials of construction, etc.
  • Inspection Technology - as a minimum, knowledge of the different types of inspection and their strengths and limitations
Leon:The key elements that a RBI champion must have are:
  • Communication - The value that the RBI program is to deliver results that need to be constantly communicated to stakeholders and RBI team members (What's in it for the organization? What's in it for me?)
  • Collaboration - The RBI champion has to use informal leadership skills to influence stakeholders and RBI team members to stay committed to the RBI program and work together to sustain it

Lenin:And finally, what are the most exciting developments or changes that you have seen in the last 10 or 20 years on mechanical integrity?
Paul:Technology has improved significantly with the better ability to implement intelligent Integrity Operating Windows through integration with process historians. The same technology helps to support the process with good charting tools enabling data to be consumed as information more readily. Global processes/standards for Mechanical integrity have become more aligned with common goals.

Lenin:To conclude, I would like to say that I have enjoyed the journey I have taken with this experiment and learned a lot from it. The main thing I would like to say is that even though we think that each organization has a unique culture, discipline, and maturity, among other things, the reality is that there are common themes across most of them that repeat constantly. The challenges we face while implementing an RBI program might be similar but each challenge has to be managed on it's own.

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