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Losing your marbles? Striking the perfect balance between cost cutting and risk mitigation

20 January 2021 by Add Energy

Ongoing challenges relating to a global pandemic and subsequent low oil price have significantly enhanced the focus on how assets can be run more efficiently. But efficiently doesn’t just mean the lowest cost model, it must include maintaining acceptable risk profiles, and regardless of the challenges and limitations, there are always improvement opportunities to be realized.


In my own experience, I have seen significant improvements identified on both new and mature plants. Savings on older assets, have been in excess of $20M per year, by removing non-value adding maintenance, and for newer plants, savings of $500k+ by modifying the maintenance schedules and spares requirements dictated by the OEMs, moving to maintenance that is tailored to the operating criteria and design intent.

Do you remember KerPlunk? Played with a tall column of marbles, with 25 straws intersecting the column, to keep the marbles from falling. The aim is to remove the straws with the least amount of marbles falling when a straw is removed. So, if we imagine the marbles as the possiblerisk events, and the straws as the investment in risk mitigation, this can help to us appreciate that there are more critical straws (mitigations), in play than others. The key is to examine the role of each of the straws, and then choose to remove the ones that will not cause any marble to drop.

Taking the same approach to asset optimization can produce excellent results; helping to maintain risk management levels whilst optimizing costs. Using Pareto analysis is particularly effective in focusing on the greatest areas of change potential. Be aware that data structure/condition can play a large part in the conclusions that you draw, so be sure to consider the data quality and use that knowledge to guide your confidence levels in the savings identified. Remember that poor data taken as good data will result in bad decisions.

So, where can this approach be applied? Maintenance is a prime candidate to be examined, as time passes the maintenance programme must be adjusted to reflect the current asset situation, looking at capacity, throughput, manning levels, new techniques and historical data analysis can all help to build the picture of what needs maintained, how often it requires attention and what tasks need to be carried out. After this, the requirement for competence levels and materials that are necessary to perform the task must be in place. People are the starting point in any improvement drive, you must get them engaged and feeling like they own a stake in the improvements.

Spare part management is another area where significant cost savings and efficiencies can be gained. Keeping the materials records up to date is a full-time job and if not managed properly, it can cause excess stock holding of equipment that is no longer installed or duplication of parts where equipment was already in stock. This can result in millions of dollars of unnecessary expenditure by lack of data structure and connections. It’s as simple as a clear material mastering process and standard being put in place that will give you the means and starting point to optimizing expenditure.

Here are a few of the areas are where I have experienced common non-value adding maintenance hours, where hidden costs can hide:

  • Non-safety critical lighting: is this being looked after in the same way as emergency lights?
  • Smart Instrumentation: has legacy calendar-based maintenance been removed?
  • Optimized sequencing of maintenance: has a synchronized schedule for multiple jobs for one equipment been put in place?

Now is the perfect time to think differently and look to evolve your approach to Asset Management, without losing your marbles.

Add Energy’s Solution

At Add Energy, we utilize our proprietary analysis software to identify areas where optimization can be achieved. These results are analyzed by our consultants who apply their expert knowledge, judgement and experience of maintenance and materials management to determine tangible opportunities that will optimize expenditure for an asset without compromising safety or production.

To learn more about this solution, click here.


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