British Petroleum Refinery – Lima, OH

The Lima Refinery has seen dramatic improvements in performance as a result of “eliminating the defects” in their operation. Overall, they have improved their bottom line by more than $10 million annually by improving output, eliminating waste and cutting costs.

The refinery put around 80% of their personnel through The Manufacturing Game® workshops over the course of about nine months. The Manufacturing Game® workshops helped build a common culture and vision around creating a more reliable operation. It also helped build the trust between union and management. The union members saw that better reliability meant doing a lot of things they had wanted done all along (e.g., doing work right the first time, eliminating safety hazards, reducing late night and holiday call-outs, etc.) Management saw that the union members had a lot of passion and good ideas once they understood the vision.

The Lima Refinery launched over 30 action teams to take out the defects in their operations. Action teams worked on things like, improving the mean-time-to-failure on “bad actor” pumps, reducing hydrocarbon loss to the sewer, repairing inadequate insulation on piping and losses to the flare. The Lima Refinery also created a Continuous Improvement Forum where action teams could come when they hit roadblocks and where new opportunities for improved performance and new action teams could be launched.

The bottom line results at the Lima Refinery have come from eliminating the defects that cause maintenance work/costs, losses in productive capacity, and waste. The meantime-to-failure on their pumps has quadrupled from 12 months to 48 months, exceeding world-class levels. Hydrocarbon losses have decreased from over 1.4% to under .36% resulting in millions of dollars in savings, output has risen by over 7% and the refinery’s on-line analyzer reliability is around 90%, creating the ability to further improve their yields. Even more impressively, the personnel at Lima were able to see bottom line payback within the first year and spent very little capital.

These improvements came as the result of hard work, dedication and passion from almost all of the employees at the refinery. They took the vision created in The Manufacturing Game® workshops and made it a reality in their plant. The Butane Action Team is a great example of how the Refinery was able to make such large improvements so fast and with so little capital.

The Butane Action Team*

The team decided to work on a defect in the butane sphere that they felt was a safety hazard. In the summer months, these spheres would heat up and the pressure would increase. Operators would open a valve to the flare to release the pressure and avoid safety problems. For years, the operators and mechanics had complained but it wasn’t anybody’s job to fix it. Once the team started working on this defect they quickly determined that the cooler on the compressor was undersized; it was very hot to the touch. They went to the plant’s “bone yard” where scrapped equipment was kept; found a larger cooler; had it refurbished and passed it on to engineering to ensure it passed through their management of change process for safety. They installed the new cooler and immediately the pressure on the vessel came down and the valve to the flare could be closed. The team eliminated the safety issue and in the process cut out over $1.5 million worth of butane going to the flare annually. As a result of several action teams like the Butane Action Team, the Lima site was able to reduce their hydrocarbon weight loss by more than 1% resulting in a $10 million reduction in annual operating costs.

* The preceding information is based on materials published by BP at the 1996 SMRP Conference and the 1997 NPRA Conference