Pressure equipment and plants are often considered mere devices, if not something of a lower value. The risk is that of not giving them the necessary attention for safety measures.
This kind of awareness is mainly due to the fact that pressure equipment and plants do not handle the real “product” that was produced in the plant, but they handle the machines that produce it or the whole facility.
This “functional” point of view has relegated pressure equipment and plants to service equipment that are commonly less attended to. On the other hand, continuous regulatory developments and evolutions have created a particularly mixed legislative framework that discourages and makes it difficult for companies to systematically deal with the fulfillment of the statutory requirements provided for the implementation of this kind of equipment.
This article aims to describe a case study within a renowned mechanical engineering company: Leonardo Company S.p.A. Since 2018, it has been developing a pilot project in its facility in Foggia, in the field of Aerostructures Division, to restore full compliance of pressure equipment and plants.
The project has been designed as a result of a new point of view of the company management, which, over time, has developed the necessary awareness towards this workplace safety aspect. This has allowed to realize substantial investments to restore whole compliance of pressure equipment and plants of the different facilities and to ensure its maintenance over time.
The main winning factors that characterized the achievement of these goals can be summarized in four points.
Firstly, the strong commitment of the company representatives – for safety matters (EHS) and for the facility maintenance – who have always encouraged and supported the activities, not only financially but also with the right attitude and approach to the topic of pressure equipment and plants.
To the company motivation is to be added the availability and expertise of inspection agencies involved in the audits, who supported technicians during each stage of the project.
This approach allowed the user to find in the institution a spokesperson attentive to their needs, and ready to ensure technical support for safety matters.
Essential was also the methods adopted to conduct tests planned by the integrity checks of the leading facility pressure equipment, i.e., n°6 autoclave systems of significant dimension. The adoption of an acoustic emission (AE) method, together with pressure tests, has allowed the pressure trials to be carried out ensuring high safety standards, thanks to the high added value diagnostic approach. An analysis of 100% of the tested objects’ metal surface (including weld joints and nozzles) has also been carried out.
Last but not least, the project has been developed by adopting the criteria of the Industry 4.0, for efficiency and effectiveness of the actions taken.
The user, for the coordination and management of the project, relied on the platform PELM (Pressure Equipment Life Cycle Management), an important integration and management tool for information, specifically created and developed for risk management of pressure equipment and plants.
This platform, together with the related engineering services and in addition to the basic concepts of the common information systems (personal data, document management through digitalization, schedule, etc.), offers important innovations in terms of geolocation and equipment determination, implementation of specific risk analysis tools and, especially, an effective integration of the most common mobile devices.
The factors described above are to be considered, in all respects, the decisive elements that allowed the development of a project that, within a 24 months period, could restore the compliance of pressure equipment and plants of the facility with an approach that will support its maintenance over time.