Maintaining improvements

​​​​​Maintenance has come a long way at Woodside in recent years, but the journey’s not over yet. 

“It’s not an overnight thing when you have to change both structures and mindset,” notes Matthew Brierley, general manager maintenance, Production. “It’s not been an easy journey, either. But each asset has, as the time becomes right, embraced a new way of working.” 

That “new way of working” has evolved through various learnings: from turnarounds on floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) facilities; the benefits of tight planning and discipline; collaboration with Engineering and Production; increased use of visual management boards, strategy houses, lean continuous improvement (CI) and performance edge. 

The improvements have been dramatic and the reward optimises the half a billion dollars a year that Woodside spends annually on maintenance. “From 2014 to 2016 we managed to plan for 40% more work in campaigns and execute 45% more with a similar number, or fewer, personnel,” says Marc Senders, production excellence champion. The genesis to the improvements in maintenance is traced back to the introduction of campaign maintenance, whereby major maintenance tasks are carried out within a defined period. It’s a change promoted by senior vice president Production Jeroen Buren. 

The Northern Endeavour is cited as the first recipient of a campaign maintenance approach back in 2009. It trialed the intense schedule of maintenance during a specified period of time. “The idea was that outside the campaigns, you’d only keep a small maintenance crew for emergencies and to keep the plant running,” explains Roy Mellows, maintenance superintendent OneFPSO. 

The concept was then tested in 2013 at the Pluto LNG Plant, under the auspices of Mike Steel, offshore turnaround superintendent, and Ted Watson, maintenance engineering and master data team lead. The Campaign Maintenance project then moved to the Karratha Gas Plant (KGP), and was led by Marc Senders. 

This project was then combined with the existing ToolTime project which was already focusing on improving the maintenance productivity with tools such as task allocation boards, visual performance management boards and time writing. Marc says: “Explaining why we had to make these changes and then embedding all these new processes was one of the largest change management programs that maintenance in Woodside has seen.” 

“It wasn’t an easy ride,” agrees Alastair Bruce, “but it was a ride that needed to be taken.” Alastair, now general manager West Africa, was in at the start of maintenance’s new way of doing things. He recalls that when he was in charge of production at KGP, the maintenance technicians were extremely frustrated with the challenges they faced simply to do their job. “I spent a day with the INLEC (instrument and electrical) technicians and in the course of that day they managed only one hour of tool time for the shift, despite the efforts of themselves and others to make work available to them,” Alastair notes. 

“We knew from our research that planned work is typically executed four times more efficiently than unplanned work. “So planning the right work – and making sure we weren’t under- or over-maintaining equipment and wasting efforts – was critical.” Turnarounds epitomised the ultimate example of a campaign maintenance way of doing things, and the benefits were illuminating. Shannon Byers, production excellence champion, says: “I remember we’d always scratch our heads at the end of a major turnaround and say: ‘how do we make every day like a turnaround?’

“During a turnaround, there was a great deal of preparation. Every tool and every person had a place and as far as safety and efficiency were concerned, they always performed very well. “You still had emerging activities and challenges but the volume seemed to be quite successfully delivered within the timeframe. “What the Campaign Maintenance project brought was very aligned with the good things of the major turnaround.” 

“Collaboration between divisions was also critical to improving maintenance’s performance”, says Tyrone White, the maintenance and reliability manager and the maintenance process owner. “I work with maintenance leadership on the sites to ensure there’s complete understanding of the practices and processes we need to follow across the organisation. “It includes Maintenance, Operations and Engineering. Rather than Maintenance being the poor cousin, it needs co-operation between all to make it work. “It’s a three-legged stool.” 

Marc agrees that people now realise the importance of maintenance, and it’s in part thanks to the success of turnarounds. “We accept that Production is in charge but people nowadays realise that if we don’t do maintenance – and we don’t do it well – then it will hurt us,” he says. “So these days, Production, Engineering and Maintenance know well in ahead what is planned and maintenance can actually happen – before it becomes emergency repairs.” 

Scott Curedale, NWS offshore maintenance superintendent, says planning the campaigns efficiently so maintenance is restricted to single areas where possible is important. “You need to theme the campaigns efficiently so you’re not isolating something three times a year to do three different activities,” Scott says. “Isolate once, and then get out.” 

Matthew says Marc and Shannon are working with the central maintenance team to help drive these improvements across the whole function. “Each asset, as the time has become right, has embraced a new way of working,” Matthew says. “They’ve seen dividends in ToolTime, planning compliance, cost and engagement of people.” 

Visual management boards, work allocation boards and having everyone focused on driving strategy house and KPIs and getting engagement from the shop floor have all been critical in aiding the improvements. And continuous improvement ensures the journey’s never over. “It’s not fixed, it’s continuous,” says Scott. “Every year we look at how we can improve on the following year.” 

Final word to Phil Reid, currently vice president Production but a former general manager Maintenance. “Processes have been revised, tools are in place, people are trained, behaviours have been embedded, governance processes have been updated,” Phil notes. “This has created an awareness of performance from the shop floor up which has fundamentally changed the way people work.” He adds: “Real benefits are being delivered and the environment has been created through engagement of our people to drive ongoing performance improvement at the shop floor. “This will need ongoing support to sustain.”

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Trunkline Q4 2017​​