The power producer had always taken the traditional approach by wrapping insulation mats around their gas turbines during scheduled inspections. However, uneven mat insulation may result in the nonuniform heat distribution of the turbine casing, causing it to warp, and the process of fitting the insulation is quite time consuming and costly. Furthermore, breathing in scattered fiberglass is harmful to worker’s health, therefore, aggressive effort to reduce the scattering of fiberglass from insulation mats contribute to improved safety working circumstance than that of the base regulatory compliance action. To combat these issues, the power producer established a team tasked with improving efficiency and working circumstance, which set about on a review of the insulation process.
“We wanted something that would solve all our insulation woes in one fell swoop.”
In the course of the review, an employee discovered several issues with the process for fitting and removing thermal insulation. He recalls:
“The process of fitting and removing thermal insulation had to be performed by a team of experienced engineers and was therefore very human-dependent, making it difficult to speed up. Mats had to be attached in a specific configuration, which meant that when insulating a given part of the turbine, the engineers needed to retrieve the appropriate mat from storage and then fit it onto a specific position on the turbine. The process was then repeated many times over and the process of going to fetch individual mats—and sometimes returning the mats that were fetched in error—was terribly time- and labor-intensive.”
Prolonged exposure to high temperatures and wear/degradation caused by securing wires had also caused the insulation to become less resilient, to the point that half of it had to be discarded and replaced after a few uses—a very cost inefficient state of affairs. The review also found that whenever insulation was fitted or removed or wiring work performed, glass fiber was thrown up in the confined space around the turbine.
Because restricting improvements to only a single area would not have had significant results, the employee wanted a holistic solution to the problem. However, the search for concrete solutions was fruitless, leaving him at his wits end.
- THE PROBLEM
- A productivity review of the process of fitting and removing insulation found that the human-dependent nature of the process made improvement a challenge.
- Significant wear and degradation meant that half of the insulation had to be discarded and replaced after only a few uses, which was very cost-inefficient.
- The review also found that the existing approach did not ensure worker safety due to the glass fiber scattered during fitting and removal.