The Future of Maintenance in the Processing Industry
With the help of scenario planning, the Dutch Maintenance Society (NVDO) inventories each year the current state of the (installation) maintenance market in The Netherlands.
In the past this has yielded vision documents in which contrasting future scenarios were sketched and analyses of relevant trends, key numbers and developments were presented about both the real property sector and the technical jobs market. This approach provides businesses with increased insight into their changing environments. Such scenarios form a valuable aid to members of both the NVDO and other interested organisations in the processes of identifying market opportunities and formulating long-term strategies. The same approach has now resulted in vision documents for the infra and processing industries.
The vision document, ‘Maintenance in the Processing Industry in 2020,’ contains four different extreme situations as possible future scenarios in this sector with corresponding competition patterns, opportunities and threats which companies in the sector could face. Thinking in terms of such extremes is important food for thoughts for entrepreneurs in the sector, as it can offer to help both in taking advantage of future developments and in preventing possible threats.
Whilst it is obviously impossible to sum up the entire situation as of 2020 in a single picture, the scenarios presented do comprise a valuable tool for asset owners, service providers, suppliers and advisers in evaluating possible strategies and anticipating change.
Process Industry in The Netherlands
The Dutch process industry encompasses a wide range of industrial production companies, many of which employ automated equipment to produce solid materials, liquids and/or gases. And naturally, all activities in this industry involve extremely important considerations regarding safety, health and the environment. Companies producing/ processing mineral oils, natural gas, chemicals, paper (paper products), rubber, plastics, earthenware, glass, alloys and/or waste products, all fall within the processing industry. The relevant vision document defines energy generation to be outside of this sector with the exception of the decentralised energy generation that takes place on the premises of asset owners.
Maintenance in the Process Industry
Within the process industry, the term maintenance primarily refers to repairs and maintenance directly or indirectly related to the processes involved in the production, e.g. repairs and maintenance of technical installations, pumps, piping, refrigeration installations, compressors, generators etc. This involves a wide spectrum of tasks which however all have one prime objective in common, guaranteeing and further optimising the operational reliability and continuity of the production processes. During recent years much attention has been given to the execution of preventive maintenance in the process industry, i.e. intelligent approaches to preventing technical faults and unexpected stoppages. Rapid technological developments have resulted in the deployment of a range of complementary maintenance concepts like TPM (total productive maintenance), RBM (risk-based maintenance) and RCM (reliability- centred maintenance) which in turn bring a dramatic increase in professionalisation to the field of maintenance.
Within the process industry, the term maintenance primarily refers to repairs and maintenance.
Through the increasing possibilities for executing maintenance remotely, the maintenance function is calling for less and less local presence.
The Vision Document Provides Orientation to a Range of Target Groups
The rapid globalisation during recent years has resulted in a dramatic increase in the role of so-called global asset owners. Dutch players in the process industry are increasingly been taken over by international parties who are looking to expand their geographic portfolio with a plant in the Netherlands and as a result, many foreign asset owners are now active in the Dutch process industry. Such companies have a limited emotional connection to the Netherlands and do not hesitate to move their operations elsewhere when their global strategy so requires. In such rebalancing- and-sell-out scenarios these global asset owners phase out their Dutch operations, and in turn invest in countries featuring high market demand and relatively low capital requirements and labour costs. The rising economies of the Middle East, India, China and Brazil are attractive for such purposes. The resulting relocations automatically lead to a decrease in demand for maintenance services in The Netherlands.
Through the increasing possibilities for executing maintenance remotely, the maintenance function is calling for less and less local presence. However the largest part of (capacity-related) maintenance activities still takes place at the location of the relevant assets. In the scenarios where divestitures take place in the Dutch process industry, it is therefore an applicable strategy to internationalise and move globally with the asset owner. This applies above all to service-providing parties with high added value services.
In a number of scenarios, maintenance companies and maintenance departments will find it necessary to focus on a certain product or customer segment. For service providers specialising in the needs of one or more customers this can for example mean that the asset owner in question will become technologically dependent on the service provider. This can possibly lead to such a bond of trust with the asset owner that, through the deployment of permanent personnel, the service provider’s service-based aspects can be expanded.
The strategic option of partnering ensures collaboration between the maintenance service provider / maintenance service department on the one hand, and suppliers, consultancy firms and clients on the other. This makes it possible to collectively arrive at innovative maintenance solutions in the context of the industrial market. Asset owners in the process industry are presently confronted with a number of substantial challenges in the areas of energy efficiency, cost management and improving the efficiency of their business processes.
At the same time, the need for outsourcing and working with permanent partners is increasing. There are numerous opportunities for maintenance service providers / maintenance service departments to develop types of service provision for their client, the asset owner, in permanent relationships with suppliers and consultancy firms. A permanent relationship makes it possible to think together proactively about reliability and energy-efficiency issues, as well as maintenance methods and ‘condition-based’ maintenance programmes.
Such concepts as asset integrity and reliability engineering are becoming increasingly important, with special prominence assigned to the aspect of technical reliability of assets. By extension, it can be stated that the bond of trust between asset owner and maintenance service provider is increasing in relevance.
Whilst asset owners can sometimes make this contractually compulsory, an important market role also accrues to the service provider in this connection, whose company culture and labour loyalty must harmonise with, or be the same as, that of the asset owner. At the same time, increasing globalisation can be expected to lead to increased use of foreign employees. This can in turn lead to language barriers forming a threat to process security, and thus negatively affect the service provider’s relations with the asset owner. To solve this issue it is important that supervisors speak more than one language and can communicate at a sufficiently high level with all maintenance engineers. Further, it is important that all maintenance tasks for a given asset owner are carried out by the same maintenance engineers(s), yielding the additional advantage that the technician(s) in question stays aware of developments in the area of maintenance. If maintenance engineers are able to communicate this to management, it opens opportunities for strengthening and expanding collaboration between the parties.
All relevant scenarios are identified and described in detail in the processing industry vision document. With its yearly Maintenance Compass, the NVDO indicates the path to be pursued in developing knowledge and expertise concerning the Dutch maintenance sector. The resulting value is multifaceted, it provides both interested parties with a clear insight into the wide and multiform maintenance/ repairs market and it also sheds light on relevant market developments and trends. In addition, the Maintenance Compass functions as a guide to companies wishing to obtain a clearer picture of the market in which they operate, in order to be able to exploit the opportunities for growth it offers in an optimal manner. The NVDO considers it extremely important for companies in the relevant sectors to be alert to new opportunities and for them to be able to take advantage of them rapidly and adequately.
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