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Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183

The analytic hierarchy process applied to maintenance strategy selection

M. Bevilacqua a, M. Braglia b,*
Dipartimento di Ingegneria Industriale, Universita` degli Studi di Parma, Viale delle Scienze, 43100 Parma, Italy
Dipartimento di Ingegneria Meccanica, Nucleare e della Produzione, Universita` degli Studi di Pisa, Via Bonanno Pisano 25/B, 56126 Pisa, Italy
Received 12 October 1999; accepted 24 March 2000

This paper describes an application of the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) for selecting the best maintenance strategy for an important
Italian oil refinery (an Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle plant). Five possible alternatives are considered: preventive, predictive,
condition-based, corrective and opportunistic maintenance. The best maintenance policy must be selected for each facility of the plant (about
200 in total). The machines are clustered in three homogeneous groups after a criticality analysis based on internal procedures of the oil
refinery. With AHP technique, several aspects, which characterise each of the above-mentioned maintenance strategies, are arranged in a
hierarchic structure and evaluated using only a series of pairwise judgements. To improve the effectiveness of the methodology AHP is
coupled with a sensitivity analysis. q 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Maintenance; Process plant; Failure mode effect and criticality analysis technique; Analytic hierarchy process

1. Introduction gical choices, managerial and organisational procedures,

etc. At this level of selection, it is only necessary to define
Many companies think of maintenance as an inevitable the best maintenance strategy to adopt for each machine,
source of cost. For these companies maintenance operations bearing in mind budget constraints. It is not necessary to
have a corrective function and are only executed in emer- identify the best solution from among the alternatives that
gency conditions. Today, this form of intervention is no this approach presents. The maintenance manager only
longer acceptable because of certain critical elements such wants to recognise the most critical machines for a pre-
as product quality, plant safety, and the increase in main- allocation of the budget maintenance resources, without
tenance department costs which can represent from 15 to entering into the details of the actual final choice. This
70% of total production costs. final choice would, in any case, be impossible because the
The managers have to select the best maintenance policy plant is not yet operating and, as a consequence, total
for each piece of equipment or system from a set of possible knowledge of the reliability aspects of the plant machines
alternatives. For example, corrective, preventive, opportu- is not yet available. In other words, the problem is not
nistic, condition-based and predictive maintenance policies whether it is better to control the temperature or the vibra-
are considered in this paper. tion of a certain facility under analysis, but only to decide if
It is particularly difficult to choose the best mix of main- it is better to adopt a condition-based type of maintenance
tenance policies when this choice is based on preventive approach rather than another type. The second level of deci-
elements, i.e. during the plant design phase. This is the sion making concerns a fine tuned selection of the alterna-
situation in the case examined in this paper, that of an Inte- tive maintenance approaches (i.e. definition of the optimal
grated Gasification and Combined Cycle plant which is maintenance frequencies, thresholds for condition-based
being built for an Italian oil company. This plant will intervention, etc.). This level must be postponed until data
have about 200 facilities (pumps, compressors, air-coolers, from the operating production system becomes available.
etc.) and the management must decide on the maintenance Several attributes must be taken into account at this first
approach for the different machines. These decisions will level when selecting the type of maintenance. This selection
have significant consequences in the short-medium term for involves several aspects such as the investment required,
matters such as resources (i.e. budget) allocation, technolo- safety and environmental problems, failure costs, reliability
of the policy, Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) and
* Corresponding author. Fax: 1 39-050-913-040. Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) of the facility, etc. Several
E-mail address: (M. Braglia). of these factors are not easy to evaluate because of their
0951-8320/00/$ - see front matter q 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S0951-832 0(00)00047-8
72 M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183

intangible and complex nature. Besides, the nature of the effectiveness the methodology is coupled with a sensitivity
weights of importance that the maintenance staff must give analysis phase.
to these factors during the selection process is highly subjec-
tive. Finally, bearing in mind that the plant is still in the
construction phase, some tangible aspects such as MTBF
2. The API oil refinery IGCC plant: a brief description
and MTTR can be only estimated from failure data concern-
ing machines working in other plants (in this case oil refi-
The Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle
neries) under more or less similar operating conditions.
(IGCC) plant [6], currently being assembled at The
Furthermore, they will affect each single facility analysed
Falconara Marittima API oil refinery, will make it
in a particular way and, as a consequence, the final main-
possible to transform the oil refinement residuals into
tenance policy selection.
the synthesis gases which will be used as fuel to
It is therefore clear that the analysis and justification of
produce electricity. The IGCC plan will be placed in
maintenance strategy selection is a critical and complex task
a 47,000 m 2 area inside the oil refinery.
due to the great number of attributes to be considered, many
The electricity produced by the IGCC plant will be sold to
of which are intangible. As an aid to the resolution of this
ENEL (Italian electrical energy firm) while some
problem, some multi-criteria decision making (MCDM)
65,000 ton/h of steam will be used inside the oil refinery
approaches are proposed in the literature. Almeida and
for process requirements. The total cost of the project
Bohoris [1] discuss the application of decision making
amounts to about 750 million dollars.
theory to maintenance with particular attention to multi-
In recent years, economic and legislative changes
attribute utility theory. Triantaphyllou et al. [2] suggest
have led to increased co-operation between petrochem-
the use of Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) considering
ical and electrical firms. The adoption of strict environ-
only four maintenance criteria: cost, reparability, reliability
mental standards, both in Europe and in the United
and availability. The Reliability Centered Maintenance
States, is forcing oil refinery firms to reduce the emis-
(RCM) methodology (see, for example, Ref. [3]) is probably
sions of pollutants from the process plants and reduce
the most widely used technique. RCM represents a method
the potential pollution of the refined products. The same
for preserving functional integrity and is designed to mini-
pollution control requirements, mainly a reduction in the
mise maintenance costs by balancing the higher cost of
level of nitrogen and sulphur oxides, together with the
corrective maintenance against the cost of preventive main-
increasing need to control operating and investments
tenance, taking into account the loss of potential life of the
costs, is pushing electrical firms to search for more
unit in question [4].
economic and cleaner production methods.
One of the tools more frequently adopted by the compa-
The combined effect of the above-mentioned factors has
nies to categorise the machines in several groups of risk is
led several oil refineries to adopt IGCC technology for oil
based on the concepts of failure mode effect and criticality
refinement heavy residuals processing. IGCC technology
analysis technique (FMECA). This methodology has been
has proved to be a valid solution to the market requirement
proposed in different possible variants, in terms of relevant
of efficient, clean, low consuming and environmentally
criteria considered and/or risk priority number formulation
orientated production technologies.
[5]. Using this approach, the selection of a maintenance
The API oil refinery uses a thermal conversion process
policy is performed through the analysis of obtained priority
and has a production capacity of about 4,000,000 tons of oil
risk number. An example of this approach has also been
per year (80,000 barrels per day). The production cycle is
followed by our oil company, which has developed its
typical of oil refineries with a similar production capacity:
own methodology internally. This approach makes it
the current distilled yield is higher than 70% and the resi-
possible to obtain a satisfying criticality clustering of
duals are used to produce fuel oil and bitumen. Oil refine-
the 200 facilities into three homogeneous groups. The
ment heavy residuals with a high sulphur content will be
problem is to define the best maintenance strategy for
partly converted into the synthesis gases syngas (which
each group.
will be cleaned in the IGCC gasifiers) and partly used to
To integrate the internal self-made criticality approach,
produce bitumen.
this paper presents a multi-attribute decision method based
The three main objectives of the oil refinery management
on the AHP approach to select the most appropriate main-
are the following:
tenance strategy for each machine group. In this procedure,
several costs and benefits for each alternative maintenance 1. the elimination of heavy residuals used to produce fuel
strategy are arranged in a hierarchic structure and evaluated, oil with high and low sulphur content;
for each facility, through the use of a series of pairwise 2. the ability to process almost every type of heavy oil with
judgements. Finally, considering that the maintenance a high sulphur content;
manager can never be sure about the relative importance 3. the substitution of the present low efficiency thermoelec-
of decision making criteria selected when dealing with trical power plant with a more efficient system, with
this complex maintenance problem, to improve the AHP lower levels of pollutant emissions.
M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183 73

3. Possible alternative maintenance strategies since the maintenance program must combine technical
requirements with the firms managerial strategy. The
Five alternative maintenance policies are evaluated in this IGCC plant complex configuration requires an optimal
case study. Briefly, they are the following. maintenance policy mix, in order to increase the plant avail-
ability and reduce the operating costs.
Corrective maintenance. The main feature of corrective Maintenance design deals with the definition of the best
maintenance is that actions are only performed when a strategies for each plant machine or component, depending
machine breaks down. There are no interventions until a on the availability request and global maintenance budget.
failure has occurred. Every component, in accordance with its failure rate, cost
Preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance is and breakdown impact over the whole system, must be
based on component reliability characteristics. This studied in order to assess the best solution; whether it is
data makes it possible to analyse the behaviour of the better to wait for the failure or to prevent it. In the latter
element in question and allows the maintenance engineer case the maintenance staff must evaluate whether it is better
to define a periodic maintenance program for the to perform periodic checks or use a progressive operating
machine. The preventive maintenance policy tries to conditions analysis.
determine a series of checks, replacements and/or It is clear that a good maintenance program must define
component revisions with a frequency related to the fail- different strategies for different machines. Some of these
ure rate. In other words, preventive (periodic) mainte- will mainly affect the normal operation of the plant, some
nance is effective in overcoming the problems will concern relevant safety problems, and others will
associated with the wearing of components. It is evident involve high maintenance costs. The overlapping of these
that, after a check, it is not always necessary to substitute effects enables us to assign a different priority to every plant
the component: maintenance is often sufficient. component or machine, and to concentrate economic and
Opportunistic maintenance. The possibility of using technical efforts on the areas that can produce the best
opportunistic maintenance is determined by the nearness results.
or concurrence of control or substitution times for differ- One relevant IGCC plant feature is the lack of historical
ent components on the same machine or plant. This type reliability and maintenance costs data (the plant start-up is
of maintenance can lead to the whole plant being shut proposed for March 2000). Initially, the definition of the
down at set times to perform all relevant maintenance maintenance plan will be based upon reliability data from
interventions at the same time. the literature and on the technical features of the machines.
Condition-based maintenance. A requisite for the appli- This information will then be updated using the data
cation of condition-based maintenance is the availability acquired during the working life of the plant. The analysis
of a set of measurements and data acquisition systems to system has been structured in a rational way so as to keep
monitor the machine performance in real time. The the update process as objective as possible. This has been
continuous survey of working conditions can easily and accomplished through the use of a charting procedure, using
clearly point out an abnormal situation (e.g. the exceed- well-understood evaluations of different parameters and a
ing of a controlled parameter threshold level), allowing simple and clear analysis of corrective interventions. The
the process administrator to punctually perform the maintenance plan developed for the machines of the IGCC
necessary controls and, if necessary, stop the machine plant is based on the well-known FMECA technique [7,8].
before a failure can occur. The analysis results have provided a criticality index for
Predictive maintenance. Unlike the condition-based every machine, allowing the best maintenance policy to
maintenance policy, in predictive maintenance the be selected.
acquired controlled parameters data are analysed to find
a possible temporal trend. This makes it possible to 4.1. The maintenance strategy adopted by the oil refinery
predict when the controlled quantity value will reach or company
exceed the threshold values. The maintenance staff will
then be able to plan when, depending on the operating The internal methodology developed by the company to
conditions, the component substitution or revision is solve the maintenance strategy selection problem for the
really unavoidable. new IGCC plant is based on a criticality analysis which
may be considered as an extension of the FMECA techni-
que. This analysis takes into account the following six
4. The IGCC plant maintenance program definition
An electrical power plant based on IGCC technology is a machine importance for the process;
very complex facility, with a lot of different machines and maintenance costs;
equipment with very different operating conditions. Decid- failure frequency;
ing on the best maintenance policy is not an easy matter, downtime length;
74 M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183

Table 1 m. Propagation effect. The propagation effect takes into

Weight values assigned to the relevant parameters considered in FMECA account the possible consequences of a machine failure
on the adjacent equipment (domino effect).
Parameter Weight n. Production loss cost. The higher the machine importance
for the process, the higher the machine criticality due to a
Safety 1.5
loss of production.
Machine importance for the process 2.5
Maintenance costs 2 To restrict the complexity (and the costs) of the analysis
Failure frequency 1
to be performed, the number of evaluation parameters is
Downtime length 1.5
Operating conditions 1 reduced by grouping together those that are similar and by
removing the less meaningful ones. An increase in the
number of parameters does not imply a higher degree of
analysis accuracy. With a large number of parameters the
operating conditions;
analysis becomes much more onerous in terms of data
with an additional evaluation for the
required and elaboration time. Besides, the quantitative
machine access difficulty.
evaluation of the factors described is complex and subject
Note that, the six parameters presented below derived to the risk of incorrect estimates. The following clusters
from an accurate pre-analysis to select all of the relevant were created.
parameters that can contribute to the machine criticality. As The spare machine availability mainly affects the unin-
reported by the maintenance manager, 12 criteria have initi- terrupted duration of the production process and can there-
ally been considered: fore be linked to the machine importance for the process
and the production loss cost. In terms of spare parts, the
a. Safety. Considering the safety of personnel, equipment,
maintenance cost can include the machine type factor,
the buildings and environment in the event of a failure.
while the manpower contribution to the maintenance cost
b. Machine importance for the process. The importance
can be clustered with the downtime length attribute.
of the machine for the correct operation of the plant. For
System safety, failure frequency, access difficulty
instance, the presence of an inter-operational buffer to
and operating conditions are considered to be stand-
stock the products can reduce the machine criticality
alone factors by the maintenance staff.
since the maintenance intervention could be performed
For every analysed machine of the new IGCC plant, a
without a plant shutdown.
subjective numerical evaluation is given adopting a scale
c. Spare machine availability. Machines that do not have
from 1 to 100. Finally, the factors taken into consideration
spares available are the most critical.
are linked together in the following criticality index CI:
d. Spare parts availability. The shortage of spare parts
increases the machine criticality and requires a replenish-
ment order to be issued after a failure has occurred. CI S 1:5 1 IP 2:5 1 MC 2 1 FF 1
e. Maintenance cost. This parameter is based on
manpower and spare parts costs. 1 DL 1:5 1 OC 1 AD 1
f. Access difficulty. The maintenance intervention can be
difficult for machines arranged in a compact manner, placed where S safety, IP machine importance for the process,
in a restrict area because they are dangerous, or situated at a MC maintenance costs, FF failure frequency, DL
great height (for example, some agitators electric motors downtime length, OC operating conditions, AD
and air-cooler banks). The machine access difficulty machine access difficulty.
increases the length of downtime and, moreover, increases In the index, the machine access difficulty has been
the probability of a failure owing to the fact that inspection considered by the management to be an aggravating aspect
teams cannot easily detect incipient failures. as far as the equipment criticality is concerned. It is there-
g. Failure frequency. This parameter is linked to the mean fore suitable to evaluate the effect of the machine access
time between failures (MTBF) of the machine. difficulty as an a posteriori factor. For this reason with
h. Downtime length. This parameter is linked to the mean this approach the machine criticality index has been multi-
time to repair (MTTR) of the machine. plied by the machine access difficulty.
i. Machine type. A higher criticality level must be assigned A rational quantification of the seven factors has been
to the machines which are of more complex construction. defined and based on a set of tables. In particular, every
These machines are also characterised by higher mainte- relevant factor is divided into several classes that are
nance costs (material and manpower) and longer repair assigned a different score (in the range form 1 to 100) to
times. take into account the different criticality levels. For the sake
l. Operating conditions. Operating conditions in the of brevity, only the evaluation of the machine importance
presence of wear cause a higher degree of machine for the process attribute is reported as an example in
criticality. Appendix A.
M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183 75

Table 2 4.2. Critical analysis of oil company maintenance MCDM

Maintenance policy selection based on criticality index
Criticality index Maintenance policy
Some aspects of the criticality index CI proposed and
. 395 Predictive prepared by the maintenance staff are open to criticism.
290395 Preventive Eq. (1) represents a strange modified version of the
, 290 Corrective
weighted sum model (WSM), which probably represents
the simplest and still the most widely used MCDM method
The weighted values assigned by the maintenance staff to [2]. But, in this case, there are some weaknesses.
the different parameters are shown in Table 1. (a) The WSM is based on the additive utility supposi-
The weight assigned to safety is not the highest because in tion [2]. However, the WSM should be used only when
an IGCC plant danger is intrinsic to the process. The oper- the decision making criteria can be expressed in identical
ating conditions are weighted equal to one in accordance units of measure.
with the hypothesis of a correct facility selection as a func- (b) The AD factor should be added and not used as a
tion of the required service. The breakdown frequency is multiplying factor.
weighted equal to one in virtue of the fact that failure (c) Dependencies among the seven attributes should be
rates are currently estimated values only. carefully analysed and discussed.
The CI index has been used to classify about 200 (d) The weight values reported in Table 1 are not justified
machines of the plant (pumps, compressors, air coolers, in a satisfying manner. The maintenance staff also have
etc.) into three different groups corresponding to three serious doubts about these values, which would suggest
different maintenance strategies, as shown in Table 2. that they have little confidence in the final results
Note that only corrective, preventive and predictive main- obtained by the MCDM model. Moreover, no sensibility
tenance strategies have been taken into account by the refin- analyses have been conducted to test the robustness of the
ery maintenance management. results. This fact is probably due to (i) a sensitivity analy-
The main features of the three groups are the following: sis is not an easy matter, and (ii) the absence of a software
package supporting this request.
Group 1. A failure of group 1 machines can lead to
serious consequences in terms of workers safety, plant Despite these problems, the classification produced using
and environmental damages, production losses, etc. the CI index has made it possible to define three homoge-
Significant savings can be obtained by reducing the fail- neous groups of machines. The composition of the clusters
ure frequency and the downtime length. A careful confirms the expectations of the maintenance staff and is
maintenance (i.e. predictive) can lead to good levels considered to be quite satisfactory. On the other hand, the
of company added-value. In this case, savings in doubts of the maintenance staff mainly concern the main-
maintenance investments are not advisable. This tenance strategy to adopt for each group of machines. This
group contains about the 70% of the IGCC machines factor has been used as the starting point for the develop-
examined. ment of an AHP approach to assign the best maintenance
Group 2. The damages derived from a failure can be strategy to each cluster element, taking into account several
serious but, in general, they do not affect the external possible aspects.
environment. A medium cost reduction can be
obtained with an effective but expensive mainte-
nance. Then an appropriate cost/benefit analysis 5. The analytic hierarchy process
must be conducted to limit the maintenance invest-
The AHP [911] is a powerful and flexible multi-criteria
ments (i.e. inspection, diagnostic, etc.) for this type
decision making tool for complex problems where both
of facilities (about the 25% of the machines). For this
qualitative and quantitative aspects need to be considered.
reason a preventive maintenance is preferable to a
The AHP helps the analysts to organise the critical aspects
more expensive predictive policy.
of a problem into a hierarchical structure similar to a family
Group 3. The failures are not relevant. Spare parts
tree. By reducing complex decisions to a series of simple
are not expensive and, as a consequence, low levels
comparisons and rankings, then synthesising the results, the
of savings can be obtained through a reduction of
AHP not only helps the analysts to arrive at the best deci-
spare stocks and failure frequencies. With a tight
sion, but also provides a clear rationale for the choices
budget the maintenance investments for these types
of facilities should be reduced, also because the
Briefly, the step-by-step procedure in using AHP is the
added-value derived from a maintenance plan is
negligible. The cheapest corrective maintenance is,
therefore, the best choice. Group 3 contains 5% of 1. define decision criteria in the form of a hierarchy of
the machines. objectives. The hierarchy is structured on different levels:
76 M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183

Table 3 quantitative and qualitative information; and (5) it is well

Judgement scores in AHP supported by commercial software programs. However, it is
Judgement Explanation Score necessary to remember some possible problems with AHP
(rank reversal, etc.) which are currently debated in the litera-
Equally Two attribute contribute equally to the upper- 1 ture [1416].
level criteria
Moderately Experience and judgement slightly favour one 3
attribute over another 6. The hierarchy scheme
Strongly Experience and judgement strongly favour one 5 In designing the AHP hierarchical tree, the aim is to
attribute over another
develop a general framework that satisfies the needs of the
Very strongly An attribute is strongly favoured and its 7 analysts to solve the selection problem of the best mainte-
dominance demonstrated in practice nance policy. The AHP starts by breaking down a complex,
8 multi-criteria problem into a hierarchy where each level
Extremely The evidence favouring one attribute over 9 comprises a few manageable elements which are then
another is of the highest possible order of
broken down into another set of elements. Considering the
critical aspect of this step for the AHP methodology, the
structure has been created following suggestions from the
from the top (i.e. the goal) through intermediate levels maintenance and production staff of the oil refinery (Fig. 1).
(criteria and sub-criteria on which subsequent levels The AHP hierarchy developed in this study is a five-level
depend) to the lowest level (i.e. the alternatives); tree in which the top level represents the main objective of
2. weight the criteria, sub-criteria and alternatives as a func- maintenance selection and the lowest level comprises the
tion of their importance for the corresponding element of alternative maintenance policies.
the higher level. For this purpose, AHP uses simple pair- The evaluation criteria that influence the primary goal are
wise comparisons to determine weights and ratings so included at the second level and are related to four different
that the analyst can concentrate on just two factors at aspects: damages produced by a failure, applicability of the
one time. One of the questions which might arise when maintenance policy, added-value created by the policy, and
using a pairwise comparison is: how important is the the cost of the policy. These criteria are then broken down
maintenance policy cost factor with respect to the into several sub-criteria as shown in Fig. 1.
maintenance policy applicability attribute, in terms of The definition of the hierarchy scheme described above
the maintenance policy selection (i.e. the problem has been developed using a brainstorming process. All the
goal)? The answer may be equally important, moder- people concerned with maintenance problems in the oil
ately more important, etc. The verbal responses are then refinery where the IGCC plant is being built have been
quantified and translated into a score via the use of included in the study. In particular, we have involved the
discrete 9-point scales (see Table 3); maintenance engineering personnel (who perform the criti-
3. after a judgement matrix has been developed, a priority cality analyses and develop the maintenance improvement
vector to weight the elements of the matrix is calculated. procedures), the MON (Maintenance On Site) and MOF
This is the normalised eigenvector of the matrix. (Maintenance Off Site) staff (who manage the maintenance
operations for the transfer and the mixing of the oil refinery
The AHP enables the analyst to evaluate the goodness of products).
judgements with the inconsistency ratio IR. The judgements The hierarchy scheme has been based on the fees due
can be considered acceptable if I R # 0:1: In cases of incon- during the oil refinery maintenance management. In this
sistency, the assessment process for the inconsistent matrix way the four criteria of the first level of the hierarchy
is immediately repeated. An inconsistency ratio of 0.1 or have been immediately identified. Possible differences of
more may warrant further investigation. For more details on opinion expressed by maintenance supervisors have been
IR, the reader may refer to Saaty [9]. smoothed using the Delphi technique. In this way we
After its introduction by Saaty [9], AHP has been widely have tried to maximise the advantages of group dynamics
used in many applications [12]. Designed to reflect the way and reduce the negative effects due to the subjectivity of
people actually think, the AHP was developed more than 20 opinions.
years ago and it is one of the most used multi-criteria deci- The formal tool used during the hierarchy structure defi-
sion-making techniques. This fact is probably due to some nition was the Interpretive Structural Modelling (IMS)
important aspects of AHP such as [13]: (1) the possibility to [17,18] approach. IMS is a well-established interactive
measure the consistency in the decision makers judgement; learning process for identifying and summarising relation-
(2) it does not, in itself, make decisions but guides the ships among specific factors of a multi-criteria decision-
analyst in his decision making; (3) it is possible to conduct making problem, and provides an efficient means by
a sensitivity analysis; (4) AHP can integrate both which a group of decision-makers can impose order on
M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183 77

Fig. 1. The AHP hierarchy scheme adopted.

the complexity of the problem. The steps of this methodol- f. the partitioning of the elements and the extraction
ogy are briefly the following [18]: of the structural model, termed ISM is then
a. identification of elements which are relevant to the performed.
decision making problem;
b. a contextually relevant subordinate relation is chosen; The relevant factors defining the damage criteria are iden-
c. a structural self-interaction matrix (SSIM) is developed tified as loss of production, damages to facilities, to product,
based on pairwise comparison of elements; to environment, to people, and to company image. The
d. SSIM is converted into a reachability matrix and its production loss is linked to facility downtime derived
transitivity is checked; from a failure (time required for detection, repair or repla-
e. once the transitivity has been achieved, the conversion cement and re-starting) and divided in MTBF and MTTR in
of an object system into a well-defined matrix model is a successive hierarchy level. The facility damages are
obtained; divided into direct and indirect: the direct damage deals
78 M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183

Table 4
Pairwise comparison example with respect to damages attribute for machines of Group 1. Note: row element is x (or 1/x) times more (or less) important than
column element

Production loss Plant damage Product damage Environmental damage People damage Image damage Local Priority

Production loss 1/7 3 1/5 1/7 1 0.050

Plant damage 9 3 1 9 0.352
Product damage 1/7 1/9 1 0.030
Environmental damage 1/3 7 0.181
People damage 9 0.352
Image damage 0.035

with the tangible effects of the failure on the machine, between a suitable level of detail and a manageable
the indirect damage takes into account the possible complexity of the hierarchy structure for actual
influences (i.e. reduction) of the failure on the working industrial applications.
life of the plant as a consequence of a domino effect
on other facilities and instruments. Finally, the environ-
mental damage is divided into internal and external to 7. The AHP analysis
the plant.
For the maintenance policy applicability factor, two Once the hierarchy structure of the maintenance decision
sub-criteria are taken into account: the costs required making problem has been defined, the priorities of the
for the policy implementation and the reliability. The scheme have been calculated using pairwise comparisons
maintenance costs are divided into hardware (i.e. and the Delphi technique.
sensors), software (i.e. a reliability commercial soft- The three machine groups previously described have
ware), and training costs. The reliability criterion been analysed through the use of the AHP methodology.
includes the technical aspect of the maintenance strat- In this situation five different alternative maintenance poli-
egy adopted in terms of fault detection capability and cies have been considered. The pairwise judgements used to
facility restoring capability. perform the AHP analysis were stated by the oil refinery
The added-value criterion deals with the indirect benefit maintenance management that developed the modified
of a particular maintenance policy. This category includes FMECA analysis shown in Section 4.
the improvements in terms of product quality, safety, and Table 4 gives an example of the damages factor for the
internal skills (i.e. an overall better knowledge of the machines of Group 1, with the relative judgements of impor-
machines employed). tance (IR results equal to 0:03 , 0:1 obtained by adopting
With respect to the policy cost factor, four sub- the quantitative scale showed in Table 3.
criteria have been considered for the successive hierar- It is clear that the most important aspect, in terms of
chy level: MTBF, MTTR, saving in the stock of spare damages, is the plant damage attribute. This consid-
parts, and assurance aspects (i.e. possible decreases in eration is due to the fact that the highest cost derived
insurance premiums that can be obtained by adopting a from an accident is due to production plant damages
particular maintenance policy). Note that the investment (direct and indirect, i.e. domino effect). Environmen-
required to implement the policy is not included as sub- tal damage is the least important element because of the
criterion. This is due to the fact that the maintenance presence of modern and sophisticated safety systems
investment for a single machine is negligible with that guarantee limited consequences for the environ-
respect to the other sub-criteria of the policy cost ment.
factor. For this reason, the investment required attri- Fig. 2 shows the global priority indices for each criterion,
bute has been introduced only as sub-criterion of the sub-criterion and alternative included in the AHP hierarchy
policy applicability factor in the hierarchy. structure for a particular Group 1 machine (a 23MW power
The proposed hierarchy must not be intended as a air compressor).
general for any process plant application, with some As can be seen, the overall inconsistency index is equal to
choices concerning only the particular IGCC plant 0.046, which is less than the critical value of 0.1. For brev-
here analysed. Besides, it is possible to note how ity, the partial IR values are not shown in the figure. Never-
some possible dependencies among the attributes have theless, all the IR values result lower than 0.1.
not been treated. These structure simplification choices Table 5 shows the final ranking for three machines, each
derive from the necessity to obtain a good trade-off representative of a different group.

Fig. 2. Global priority indices obtained for a Group 1 facility.

M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183 79
80 M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183

As shown, the AHP results generally confirm the FMECA increases, the priorities of the remaining criteria must
indications. Once again, for the Group 1 facility the best decrease proportionately, and the global priorities of the
maintenance policy proves to be the predictive one. For alternatives must be recalculated. All the results reported
these machines the most expensive and sophisticated stra- in Tables 68 were obtained using the Expertchoice soft-
tegies (i.e. predictive and condition-based) are highly ware, a multi-attribute decision making tool which was used
preferable with respect to the others because of the critical to support all the AHP applications reported in this paper.
aspect of their failures. For example, from Table 6, one can clearly see the
The Group 2 machine shows a slight preference for robustness of the predictive maintenance strategy for the
opportunistic maintenance even if preventive and predictive machines that belong to Group 1. This policy remains the
policies should not be neglected. best solution, increasing or decreasing the priorities of each
The analysis performed for the machine belonging to criterion. It is only when one increases the priority of the
Group 3 shows that corrective and preventive maintenance applicability factor to an improbable 96% that we obtain a
are equally appropriate. So, the decision to use corrective change in the final ranking with the condition-based main-
maintenance for this group of machines should be carefully tenance strategy.
considered. The limited failure consequence in terms of For the Group 2 machines (Table 7), the final solution is
production loss is not sufficient to clearly and immediately less stable. Opportunistic and predictive maintenance stra-
state that no maintenance action should be performed before tegies show some alternations in priority positions. In parti-
the failure. cular, the maintenance staff must take into consideration
The three machines selected for the AHP analysis can be applicability and added-value priority evaluations.
considered as representative of the corresponding groups. In There are no situations where catastrophic changes in the
other words, they represent more or less the average char- final ranking are observed.
acteristics of the facilities which belong to the same cluster. An analysis of the Group 3 machines (Table 8), highlights
For this reason, the results obtained for this representative more reversals in the final ranking. Corrective, opportunistic
equipment have been extended to all facilities of the groups. and predictive maintenance strategies can all be considered
This position has been considered sufficient and satisfactory to be the best solution, depending on which weighting
by the maintenance staff. In any case, a more detailed analy- criteria are used. It can, therefore, be seen that the sensitivity
sis requiring a new set of pairwise judgements for each analysis shows how, in the case study under examination,
facility of each group can be always performed. This is the maintenance staff should concentrate their attention on
probably the best solution for the extreme equipment the pairwise evaluation of the four criteria. It is clear that a
characterised by the CI values near to the limit of the few changes in the judgement evaluations can lead to modi-
belonging cluster. fications in the final priority ranking. But it must also be
remembered that the importance of corrective maintenance
never goes away. In other words, we have three different
8. Sensitivity analysis strategies, all of which can provide the best solution, and the
differences among them are never of great importance.
Although the ranking solution showed a possible scenario Summarising the considerations discussed above, one can
where, for example, damages aspects are clearly the most affirm that the AHP selections presented in Section 7, which
important criteria for Group 1 machines (see Fig. 2), the concern the best possible maintenance strategies for the
AHP solution can change in accordance with shifts in IGCC machines, can be accepted with a good degree of
analyst logic. To explore the response of model solutions confidence by the company maintenance staff.
(i.e. the solution robustness) to potential shifts in the priority We conclude this section with two final considerations.
of maintenance strategies, a series of sensitivity analyses of First, the sensitivity analysis proposed here is only relevant
criteria weights can be performed by changing the priority to the priorities of the four first-level criteria. Second,
(relative importance) of weights. Each criterion can be char- because we have changed each attribute weight one at a
acterised by an important degree of sensitivity, i.e. the rank- time, only the main effects have been considered. In
ing of all strategies changes dramatically over the entire other words, interaction effects of the changes made to
weight range [19]. The problem is to check whether a few two or more weights have been ignored. These simplifica-
changes in the judgement evaluations can lead to significant tions have been adopted for the following reasons:
modifications in the priority final ranking. For this reason,
sensitivity analysis is used to investigate the sensitivity of 1. the final solution is mainly sensible to changes in the
the alternatives to changes in the priorities of the criteria at priorities at the highest level of the hierarchy;
the level immediately below the goal. The analysis proposed 2. the introduction of the interaction effects makes the
emphasises the priorities of the four first-level criteria in sensitivity analysis too complex for actual applications.
the AHP model reported in Fig. 1 and shows how changing Nevertheless, one should note that the main effects are
the priority of one criterion affects the priorities of the generally the most important aspects in a sensitivity
others. It is clear that as the priority of one of the criteria analysis.
M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183 81

In other words, the simple approach described here seems

Corrective maintenance
to be a good compromise between efficiency and efficacy.

9. Conclusions

The definition of the most appropriate maintenance poli-
cies for a large system such as an IGCC plant requires the
development of the appropriate decision support systems.
Preventive maintenance

The maintenance plan selection for each component is very

complex due to the difficulties concerning data collection,
the number of factors to be taken into account, their subjec-
tivity, the large number of the plant machines (around two
hundred in the case under examination) to be considered,

and the fact that the plant is still being built.

When integrated with a pre-analysis of the facility criti-
cality, the AHP technique has proved to be a valid support
for the selection of the maintenance strategy. The hierarch-
Opportunistic maintenance

ical structure of the proposed AHP combines many features

which are important for the selection of the maintenance
policy: economic factors, applicability and costs, safety,
etc. Also, accepting the fact that there are some differences,
the AHP results are not completely different from those
directly proposed by oil refinery personnel. This is not a

surprise because the same experts performed the two

analyses. But the AHP approach is characterised by some
important properties which are considered highly by the
Condition based maintenance

maintenance staff:
a. AHP technique makes it possible to approach the deci-
sion making problem in a more complete and thorough
way, taking several factors into account. This capacity is
more difficult to obtain when using conventional meth-
odologies such as FMECA. It must also be considered
AHP final ranking for three machines, each one representative of a different group


that the AHP is able to manage a large number of possible

alternatives in an efficient way;
b. AHP can integrate both qualitative and quantitative
information. With AHP a direct quantitative judgement
Predictive maintenance

of the relevant maintenance factors is not necessarily

required by the maintenance manager. The pairwise
comparisons are preferred by the manager when several
intangible criteria have to be treated, as is the case with
maintenance selection. In addition, AHP is the only

known MCDM model that can measure the consistency

of the decision maker;
c. AHP procedure is readily available in decision-making
software packages from several commercial software
Machine description

Centrifugal pump
Centrifugal pump

sellers. In particular, these software tools make it possible

Air compressor

to conduct a sensitivity analysis which improves the

effectiveness of the procedure and the stability of deci-
sions reached through AHP.
The results and the satisfaction of maintenance manage-
ment derived by using the proposed methodology confirms
how AHP can enhance and improve the understanding of the
Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Table 5

dynamics of a similar complex problem and represents an

effective approach to arrive at decisions.
82 M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183

Table 6
Observations derived from sensitivity analysis of the criteria priority values with machines of Group 1

Criteria Decreasing Relative priority value Increasing

in final solution (%)

Damages Predictive maintenance is always the best 56.6 Predictive maintenance is always the best
strategy strategy
Applicability Predictive maintenance is always the best 36.8 Predictive maintenance strategy is reached
strategy and overcame by condition-based
maintenance but only when applicability
priority is equal to 96%.
Added-value Predictive maintenance is always the best 36.8 Predictive maintenance is always the best
strategy strategy
Cost Predictive maintenance is always the best 26.7 Predictive maintenance is always the best
strategy strategy

Table 7
Observations derived from sensitivity analysis of the criteria priority values with machines of Group 2

Criteria Decreasing Relative priority value Increasing

in final solution (%)

Damages Opportunistic maintenance is always the 26.2 Opportunistic maintenance strategy is

best strategy reached and overcame by predictive
maintenance when damages priority is
equal to 34.2%.
Applicability Opportunistic maintenance strategy is 56.5 Opportunistic maintenance is always the
reached and overcame by predictive best strategy
maintenance just when applicability
priority is reduced to 50.5%.
Added-value Opportunistic maintenance is always the 5.5 Opportunistic maintenance strategy is
best strategy reached and overcame by predictive
maintenance when added-value priority is
equal to 11.5%.
Cost Opportunistic maintenance is always the 11.8 Opportunistic maintenance strategy is just
best strategy reached and overcame by predictive
maintenance when cost priority is equal
to 19.8%.

Table 8
Observations derived from sensitivity analysis of the criteria priority values with machines of Group 3

Criteria Decreasing Relative priority value Increasing

in final solution (%)

Damages Corrective maintenance is always the best 15.1 Corrective maintenance is reached and
strategy overcame by opportunistic maintenance just
when damages priority is became to
17.1%. Predictive is the new best strategy
when priority is equal to 53.1%
Applicability Corrective maintenance is reached and 63.5 Corrective maintenance is always the best
overcame by opportunistic maintenance just strategy
when applicability priority is reduced to
61.5%. Predictive is the new best strategy
when priority is reduced to 47.5%
Added-value Corrective maintenance is always the best 6.2 Corrective maintenance is reached and
strategy overcame by opportunistic maintenance
when damages priority is became to
10.2%. Predictive is the new best strategy
when priority is equal to 20.2%
Cost Corrective maintenance is always the best 11.8 Corrective maintenance is reached and
strategy overcame by opportunistic maintenance
when damages priority is became to
19.1%. Predictive is the new best strategy
when priority is equal to 33.1%
M. Bevilacqua, M. Braglia / Reliability Engineering and System Safety 70 (2000) 7183 83

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