How SunCoke Energy minimizes downtime to fuel their customers with coke, coal, and power.

By | 6 minute read | August 2, 2017

Leadspace image of planets to represent the MaximoWorld event

As technology reaches every corner of the globe, the world becomes more instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent than ever before. While companies in every industry now have the potential to achieve new levels of digital transformation, energy companies, in particular, are showing increased investments in analytics, mobile, and  Internet of Things capabilities to help reduce costs, and improve operations, security, and safety across their sites.

Core asset management challenges

Like most industries, some of the primary challenges facing energy companies revolve around management and maintenance of their critical assets: machines, equipment, inventory, and people. These challenges include:

  • Improving asset analysis
  • Facilitating compliance efforts
  • Planning shutdowns
  • Reducing manual interventions
  • Responding to complex supply chain demands
  • Aligning roles and responsibilities
  • Facilitating continuous improvement

The majority of these challenges revolve around two core themes: reducing downtime and improving efficiencies. Of the two, one theme resounded on day one of MaximoWorld 2017, which kicked off yesterday in Orlando, FL. Bringing together 500+ Maximo users from 16 countries across many industries, the agenda was packed with examples of companies who have a common challenge: how do we avoid downtime, and, if it does occur, how do we ensure it does not happen twice? While improving efficiency is great for the bottom line, downtime of machines and equipment is what makes operations managers lose sleep at night. Let’s look at one company that has utilized Maximo, the world’s leading enterprise asset management solution, to improve their investigative efforts when downtime occurs.

SunCoke Energy provides 25% of the U.S. & Canadian coke, power & coal supply

SunCoke Energy, a raw material processing and handling company serving steel and power companies, has taken their operational efficiency to new levels by implementing Maximo for Oil & Gas.  Suncoke Energy’s principal businesses are in cokemaking and coal logistics. Coke, an essential ingredient in blast furnace production of steel,  is a fuel with few impurities and a high carbon content, usually made from coal.  SunCoke has 6.3 million tons of annual cokemaking capacity with facilities in Illinois, Indiana, Virginia, Ohio, Brazil & India. These facilities are strategically located to serve their customers’ most critical assets. The 4.2 million tons in the U.S. alone accounts for 25% of the U.S. & Canadian markets. For more than 50 years, their plants have utilized an advanced heat recovery technology that produces the strongest and highest quality coke for today’s high-tech steels. With many customers relying on SunCoke’s coke, it is imperative for them to keep operations running smoothly to maintain their reputation and market leadership.

Similarly, on the coal logistics front, the company operates domestic and export terminals to serve coal producers and end users in the steel, coke, and power industries. With a collective capacity to blend and transload – transfer from one form of shipment to another – more than 45 million tons annually between their domestic and export terminals, Suncoke Energy helps customers get the right coals to their final destinations. Both businesses require optimum efficiency and leave little room for downtime.

Identifying the need for a robust root-cause failure analysis (RCFA) model

Prior to 2009, SunCoke had no asset management system at all. They would find themselves solving the same problem two or three times at different plants. Visibility into the history of an investigation was limited. If a problem occurred and they wanted to research the history of the asset or see the RCFA of that incident, it was difficult to find the information. As Joe Fluder, Director of Maintenance & Reliability, SunCoke Energy, commented, “We were really good at doing RCFA’s. We just couldn’t find them 6 months later.”Beyond the ability to find historical records, there was also a need for improved documentation of processes and work histori

es. In today’s world, employee turnover is high. What happens if an employee quits suddenly or retires? That asset knowledge is lost and work orders are left hanging with limited visibility into the status of each action item.

What to look for in an EAM solution

When looking for an enterprise asset management (EAM) solution that could solve their RCFA problem, they had some key business requirements in mind, such as:

  • Visibility across all sites and the corporate office
  • Improve timeline of RCFA completions
  • Ensure RCFA becomes permanent part of the asset record
  • Tools to promote the effectiveness of RCFA meetings
  • Escalations and notifications which provide a vehicle to drive corrective actions
  • Tracking and monitoring impacts and losses from events
  • Provide RCFA reports
  • Provide a method to retain institutional knowledge

SunCoke Energy ultimately chose Maximo & Maximo for Oil and Gas to solve their investigative woes. Maximo for Oil & Gas provides functionality that specifically supports required incident and defect investigations such as root cause failure analysis or after-action review. Regardless of the significance of the incident or defect, an integrated investigation application provides complete traceability into historical incidents, defects, work orders, and other relevant data, which helps to support the investigation.

Maximo World Maximo for Oil and Gas graphic

Figure 1: Maximo for Oil and Gas brings together traditionally separate business functions onto a single, integrated platform, and then adds a layer of industry-specific functionality to support the unique requirements of the oil and gas industries.

Using Maximo and Maximo for Oil & Gas, they were able to really dig into the details of why incidents were occurring and how to prevent similar situations in the future. It enabled them to get organized in their approach to conducting RCFA’s. For example, Maximo enables Pre-RFCA templates to enable effective preparation for the RCFA meeting that must occur to hash through the details of the incident. It will list 20-40 action items with things that you want to consider prior to your meeting, such as:  Have you gotten witness statements? Have you recorded the weather and time of day of the incident? You can create a checklist or simply assign the activities for others to complete.

Maximo also helped SunCoke get to the heart of issues by providing guidance on answering and documenting the ‘5 Why’s’ of an incident. The theory is that by repeating the question “Why?” five times, you will get to the true cause of a problem. Having a record of this analysis will help with identification of future problems. These records are also permanent, in that they cannot be deleted. This is important when it comes to change management. Consider what would normally happen if an employee quits or takes a new role. With Maximo, you immediately know all actions assigned to them and the status. This enables you to easily re-assign these tasks to avoid anything slipping through the cracks that could become a potential problem. As one attendee succintly put it, “If a plant manager gets hit by a bus, you have their complete audit record.” Well said, but I will leave the source anonymous on that one – and avoid buses at Disney.

This improved documentation and workflow also enabled much better communication and record-keeping. With over a thousand actions now documented in Maximo over the last several years, the compounding effect is beginning to be felt. As Fluder states, “One action completed by itself isn’t a lot, but each one builds on each other into something much larger.”

SunCoke has completed 820 RCFA’s since implementation and it continues to improve their asset reliability and investigative techniques using Maximo.

Learn more about Maximo and Maximo for Oil & Gas

Launch an interactive demo of Maximo to see how to keep your most critical assets running at optimum efficiency.

Read this report to learn how oil and gas companies can achieve operational excellence and improve quality with enterprise asset management.

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References to SunCoke Energy use case used by permission: MaximoWorld by