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SPIRS: Are they worth the paper they’re written on?

by | Dec 3, 2019

I have carried out numerous studies of MRO inventory for companies around the globe, and I question the existence of SPIRs in the new era of digital data.

Peter Eales

Chairman - KOIOS Master Data

Context: Oil and gas upstream projects typically extract material requirements from Spare Parts Interchange Lists (SPILs), sometimes referred to as Spares Parts Lists and Interchangeability Records (SPIRs) or Recommended Spare Parts List (RSPL). These lists are supplied to the owner / operator (O/O) at handover by the Engineering Procurement Contractor (EPC) having been supplied to the EPC by the manufacturer or the vendor of the equipment.

What challenges do SPIRs create?

There are a number of issues for plant operators that arise from the use of SPIR documents in oil and gas projects. The release of these documents by the EPC is often left until the very end of the project, or not at all, despite financial penalty clauses being inserted in the contracts. This is a real challenge to the operator who wants to reduce the operating risk by purchasing long lead items early enough, and those who want to calculate the size of warehouse they require in a greenfield project.

The format of the SPIR is frequently inconsistent; effectively being a paper form that has been recreated onto a spreadsheet and edited many times. In the end it resembles nothing much more than an optimistic vendor order form. Certainly, it is an incredibly difficult document to extract data from, and as no two forms are constructed in the same way and often have merged cells. Extracting a complete project worth of data is a costly exercise in terms of both manpower and time.

Case study: ever decreasing O-Rings…

If we look at these documents, it soon becomes clear that they have many drawbacks: they are not extractable; contain only a brief description of the product, often just a noun; they take no account of the equipment criticality; they take no account of the O/Os maintenance capability, or their spares and repair strategy, such as repair or replace. Data quality is extremely poor in these types of documents. In this example, from a single 62-line SPIR document, O-Ring is described four different ways. The shore hardness is also missing from the details, making it impossible to safely order the part from another supplier. For consumable items, it is common for the original part manufacturers name to be omitted from the document.

SPIR Document Example 
“O” RING
OD: 18.5, ID: 15.5, t: 1.5
FKM
O RING
OD: 16.6, ID: 11.8, t: 2.4
NBR
ORING
OD: 66.5, ID: 62.5, t: 2
NBR
O-RING
OD: 6.5, ID: 3.5, t: 1.5
NBR

I would also challenge the spares actually listed on the form. Interpretation of what constitutes two years operating spares vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some list only basic consumables, as in their opinion, that is all that is required in the first two years, some list a full production BoM (Bill of Materials) that includes such items as pump casing. Neither approach is helpful to the analyst trying to decide what spares to stock in the plant or organize an on-demand local supply for.

The companies that design and manufacture equipment rarely operate them, and EPCs do not always have experience of operating and maintaining plants – so why would they know what spares you need? Asking the vendor how he calculated the failure rates in your application gets an interesting range of answers, although when you ask him if he will take back all his recommended spares that you have not used in five years’ time, you usually get the same answer! To be fair some major manufacturers do track component failure rates in the field, but they are few and far between.

I would strongly challenge the decision to list the “two years recommended spares” on the SPIR. How many plants are designed for a two-year life? As a materials manager working with the maintenance team, I simply want to know all the maintainable items required for the life of the equipment. My task is to determine the spares required to keep the revenue producing assets running for the life of the plant.

When is a spare no longer a spare? When it becomes waste

Commissioning spares is another column frequently found on SPIR documents. Before you buy the commissioning spares check with the EPC, they will probably be responsible for these spares during the commissioning period and will be leaving you a mountain of unused spares, and will usually be asking a hefty price for them on handover. As an owner operator, you will be in danger of overloading your warehouse with spares you might never use or have already purchased.

I do not want to spend subsequent years repeating the exercise to find out what spares I do not have, or which spares I will never use, you know, those spares that were purchased “just in case”.

When reviewing SPIR documents in order to determine the spares required for the operation, the criticality of the equipment, the maintenance capability, and an understanding of the planned consumption also need to take into account. Furthermore, a number of organisations have strategies to run certain non-critical equipment to failure and then replace the complete unit rather than repair the item using the recommended spares. This information is, understandably, not on the SPIR form but is vital in the decision-making process.

It never ceases to amaze me seeing a room full of people analysing SPIR forms and ordering the spares listed – using the column added by the vendor – without taking these factors into account.

I have carried out many studies of MRO inventory for companies around the globe, and the two most frequent causes of non-moving stock is spares purchased for equipment that is no longer exists, and more commonly, spares purchased for equipment where the plant maintenance capability does not exist to repair and item; motor and pump spares are the favourites. It should go without saying that there is no point in keeping a bearing for a motor in a zoned area for your repair shop to use if the repair shop is not approved to complete work to that standard, or does not have a facility to test the repaired equipment. Pump and motor spares are most frequently purchased and remain unused, as most often the maintenance strategy is to send these units out for refurbishment when they fail. So why were they purchased in the first place? Probably because they were listed on the SPIR and the buyer has taken the appealing route of taking the word of the manufacturer regarding the required spares or they have purchased the spares as part of a package.

So, what is the solution? 

In the age of international digital data exchange standards such as ISO 8000, it is frankly mystifying that people are still using these outdated methods of creating and distributing the vast amounts of data required for large projects. 

I firmly believe the answer lies in a simple data exchange service.

There is a paradigm shift using new technology and international standards such as ISO 8000. The antiquated process of buyer-led templates is replaced with supplier-led specification delivered in a computer interpretable format. The success of this new method lies in the provenance of data, eliminating any ambiguity and making data easy to extract.

It can be achieved by a simple clause in the contract with the EPC:

“The supplier shall supply technical data for the products or services they supply. Each item shall contain an ISO 8000-115 compliant identifier that is resolvable to an ISO 8000-110 compliant record with free decoding of unambiguous, internationally recognized identifiers.”

This result? Guaranteed data quality leading to a reduction in costs and increased efficiency.

To find out more about the tools you need to unlock the power of ISO standard digital data, visit KOIOS Master Data.

About the author

Peter Eales is a subject matter expert on MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) material management and industrial data quality. Peter is an experienced consultant, trainer, writer, and speaker on these subjects. Peter is recognised by BSI and ISO as an expert in the subject of industrial data. Peter is a member ISO/TC 184/SC 4/WG 13, the ISO standards development committee that develops standards for industrial data and industrial interfaces, ISO 8000, ISO 29002, and ISO 22745. Peter is the project leader for edition 2 of ISO 29002 due to be published in late 2020. Peter is also a committee member of ISO/TC 184/WG 6 that published the standard for Asset intensive industry Interoperability, ISO 18101.

Peter has previously held positions as the global technical authority for materials management at a global EPC, and as the global subject matter expert for master data at a major oil and gas owner/operator. Peter is currently chief executive of MRO Insyte, and chairman of KOIOS Master Data.

KOIOS Master Data is a world-leading cloud MDM solution enabling ISO 8000 compliant data exchange

MRO Insyte is an MRO consultancy advising organizations in all aspects of materials management