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Placing review engineers at a design contractor’s office should be part of the budgeted cost of plant projects. Compared to the incredibly shortsighted, yet popular, “as cheap as possible” approach still taken by many operations, the incremental cost for such MQA (Machinery Quality Assessment) staffing has been estimated to require a multiplier of 1.05 or about a 5% add-on. For example, a certain bare-bones and, from the future reliability point of view very risky, turbomachinery procurement effort may cost $60,000,000. In contrast, the approach whereby reliability is being assessed and imparted at the inception of the project would cost $63,000,000.

Over the course of several decades, we found that an appropriation request for the higher project cost would not be rejected by sensible top managers. Common sense tells us it’s highly unlikely for only the smaller of two budgets to meet the ultimate owner/operator’s return-on-investment criteria.

To be clear, good reliability professionals ascertain that the design-engineering firm’s cost estimating manuals don’t list only the cheapest machines available. Intelligent project-design bases or project-cost estimates must reflect reliable equipment. Thus, competent reliability professionals will be (should be) hard at work conveying these requirements to management.

Having one’s engineers at the design contractor’s facility ensures that cross-sectional drawings of equipment in your plant will be made available for audit purposes before you buy equipment such as heat exchangers or rotating machinery. Those audits may need to take place at the equipment vendors’ facilities, and your designated engineers would need to participate in them. While doing this type of audit, the design contractor’s and owner/operator’s personnel may not be able to copy the vendor’s drawings. Still, those documents must be available for review.

Cross-sectional drawings with their critical dimensions removed (so as not to give away the vendor’s competitive advantage) must be part of the purchase order and, typically, be listed as a condition of sale. Moreover, a good contract is structured to withhold nominally 15% of the total amount due until the ultimate owner/operator receives all specified documents. What to review is spelled out on 90 pages of appendix material in my book, Machinery Uptime Improvement.TRR

Editor’s Note: Click Here To Download A Full List Of Heinz Bloch’s 24 Books

Heinz Bloch’s long professional career included assignments as Exxon Chemical’s Regional Machinery Specialist for the United States. A recognized subject-matter-expert on plant equipment and failure avoidance, he is the author of numerous books and articles, and continues to present at technical conferences around the world. Bloch holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and is an ASME Life Fellow. These days, he’s based near Houston, TX. 

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