• Moody Engineering, Inc.

Structural Asset Health (Pt 2): a Better Way to Manage Deteriorating Steel

While a reactive approach can limp you along, an innovative, proactive approach can extend the life of your structural steel and assets for decades to come.

A Reactive Approach Gets Expensive

In Part 1, we described the "Old Way" of inspecting, reporting and repairing deteriorating steel, without considering a facility's budget or overall strategy...very reactive in nature.

This reactive approach leaves Owners with an inspection report describing how bad their structures look (something they already knew) and confirmation that they need to do something about it. Not only is the Owner subject to multiple rounds of expensive engineering with this approach, they're also making changes piecemeal, which subjects them to catastrophic failures and expensive repairs that likely fail to address the problem of deteriorating steel and assets.

There is a better way.

Moody Engineering has developed a comprehensive, proactive, step-by-step approach to structural asset health that will save your facility time and money.

Step 1: Inspect Systems, Not Structures

Instead of hiring an Engineer to evaluate a single structure you’re concerned about, consider developing an actionable strategy that evaluates all the structures in a given system, we call these “strategic inspections.” By considering multiple assets in your inspection, you’ll be laying the foundation for establishing a Structural Asset Health (SAH) program at your facility.

If set up the right way, Structural Asset Health programs will increase the life value of both your critical and non-critical assets, all while saving you time and money. These programs are surprisingly easy to get started and there are huge benefits in creating tangible actions. Strategic inspections will also save your company from additional “rounds” of engineering inspections.

Step 2: Eliminate the “2nd Round” of Engineering

The value in establishing strategic inspections is to include “repair and replace-in-kind" (RIK) information within the original inspection report, in lieu of simply calling out defective members. It’s a streamlined inspection process that greatly reduces the need for additional engineering inspections and/or proposals.

With both RIK details and a risk rating, the results of your original inspection can be budgeted for and easily synced with your Maintenance Department’s schedule and workflow process.

Step 3: Establish a Rating

Structural members must be rated based on their importance to the system as a whole and put into a risk matrix. The risk matrix rates members based on criteria customized to meet the needs of the facility. Typically, members are rated by criticality to safety risk, production, and building condition; however a facility may also choose additional criteria related to outage schedules, budget thresholds, etc.

A Professional Engineer (PE) must identify whether the structural components are primary elements. Primary elements are the determining factor as to whether components are rated “critical” or “imminent,” or “fair.”

The “criticality” rating is based on an “if/then” logic system: if this asset were to fail, how would it affect production and how many days would it take to get the system back online?

Again, a diligent Engineer will leverage the matrix as a tool to work with the Owner’s Maintenance Department to build members into their routine maintenance schedule based on a given risk rating. Further, risk ratings will also drive the frequency of required inspections.

After the initial inspection report, a Structural Asset Health (SAH) program should be established from its results, with sequence of inspection guidelines for each asset, based on performance. In SAH programs, assets are put on inspection cycles where instead of starting from scratch, qualified inspectors are looking primarily for falling hazards and changes in condition.

Major assets can be simple to repair if a program is in place. It's time to get ahead of your aging assets.

How to Rate Members

The rating system we have established at MEI for our clients is a good starting point for establishing your own system. Structural members are given a rating of 1 through 6, from excellent to failure. Here is a break down of the rating system we use in Structural Asset Health programs we setup for clients:

1 – Excellent condition – new structure or building

2 – Very good condition – no problems noted

3 – Satisfactory/fair condition – structural elements show some minor deterioration or corrosion. All primary structural elements are sound but may have minor section loss, cracking, spalling, decay, infestation or scour (scour refers to localized loss of soil, often around a foundation element).

4 – Poor to serious condition – loss of section, deterioration, spalling, decay, infestation or scour are considered advanced (poor condition) or have seriously affected primary structural components where local failures are possible (serious condition).

5 – Critical condition – Advanced deterioration of primary structural elements. Fatigue cracks in steel, shear cracks in concrete, severe decay or infestation in timber or scour may have been removed the substructure support.

6 – Imminent failure to failed condition – major deterioration or section loss present in critical structural components, or obvious vertical or horizontal movement affecting structure stability (imminent failure). In the failed condition, the structure is out of service and beyond corrective action.

When to Take Immediate Action

Structural elements rated as No. 5 or No. 6 require immediate action. For Critical Condition (No. 5) structures, unless Operations implements a system where the structure is closely monitored, it may be necessary to close the structure until corrective action is taken.

Beyond No. 5, if a structure with a No. 6 rated members exists, it must be closed to access; however, corrective action may be possible to put it back into light service.

Our hope is to give you valuable guidance about how your aging facility can save time and money by maintaining healthy structural assets in a very deliberate, proactive manner.

Next Time...

In the Part 3 of this series, we'll layout our recommendations for:

  • When and where to spend money on structural upgrades

  • Avoiding common mistakes

  • How to setup a proactive structural asset health program at your facility

Until then, if you have any questions about structural asset health for your facility or you have a good idea you want to run by a qualified engineer, please contact us - we're happy to help anytime.