A 200,000 BPD U.S. refinery wanted to be a leader amongst its peers for mechanical integrity. The easiest, most impactful step? Improving bolted flange joint makeup. They partnered with Hex Technology to create a scalable solution for training hundreds of full-time craft and embedded contractors – and it’s already paying off.
“Now that our bolted joint program is up and running, we’re seeing much more consistent flange makeup.”
– Maintenance Supervisor
- 400+ assemblers trained in 4 months (130 staff, 270 contractors)
- 3-year program executed within 1 year
- Winner of Corporate Excellence Award
HOW THINGS WERE
The refinery prided itself on quality within its bolting processes and procedures. But a site visit and assessment by Hex Technology showed multiple opportunities for improvement.
Even though the refinery was a leader amongst peers under its corporate umbrella, site assessment scores revealed sound procedures hampered by a need for greater acumen among personnel.
This means assemblers and contractors interviewed during the assessment were less familiar with technical aspects bolted flange joints than they realized.
On topics like bolt elongation, gasket stress, or load control techniques, almost no assembler or contractor possessed sufficient knowledge.
The refinery relied heavily on QA/QC of bolted joints. But the problem with such measures is that they are reactive, not proactive. While QA/QC is an essential part of assembly, it is no replacement for having properly trained personnel.
To improve their site’s performance, the refinery again turned to Hex Technology.
“REDUCED LEAKS BY 99%”
Today the refinery’s bolting program accounts for every step and stakeholder in assembly – including staff and contractors.
“Now that our bolted joint program is up and running, we’re seeing much more consistent and reliable flange makeup. We’re not stressing joints,” the refinery Maintenance Supervisor says.
It starts with more knowledgeable and skilled crews. The refinery focused on training, using a hybrid model of computer-based training (CBTs) and hands-on work with programs developed by Hex Technology.
These trainings helped level the playing field among refinery staff and contactors and helped ensure everyone on-site is speaking the same language.
“[Today] Our site nested contractors have a higher level of craftsmanship and understanding of bolted joint make-up due to completing Hex CBTs, classroom training, and practical training,”
– Maintenance Supervisor
Craft assemblers are putting that enhanced knowledge to work in the field. They better understand the “why” behind site procedures.
Crews are filling out the proper documents. And they’re doing a better job of inspecting and providing feedback on crucial elements like flange surfaces, allowing the site to take corrective action instead of putting a potentially risky element back in service.
Discrepancies are getting noticed, documented, and addressed – which means they’re being repaired. Even better, bolted joints are being assembled correctly resulting in reduced rework. The Supervisor says maintenance hours spent on rework have decreased since the program launched.
He adds that the site’s bolting program has reduced leaks on exchanger bundles by 99%.
THE HEX DIFFERENCE: In their words…
✅ “Reduced risk of process leaks.”
✅ “Enhanced mechanical integrity.”
✅ “Leak-free start-ups.”
✅ “Craft joint make-up is more consistent and meets a higher standard.”
FROM VISION TO ACTION
Hex Technology and the refinery shared the same goal: Operational excellence on every joint, assembled by every crew, every day. Hex helped the site achieve that goal by:
1. Identifying Opportunities and Providing Solutions.
Hex senior leadership first conducted a site visit, examining every step from written procedures to hands-on work in the field and interviewing 10+ staff members. Hex then identified areas for improvement and delivered a plan for executing on them.
2. Improving Craft Skills with On-Site Training.
Hex’s master trainer led on-site sessions for staff and contractors. These visits included “Train the Trainer” sessions that provided crew leaders with a structure for educating current and future craft.
3. Enhancing Craft Knowledge with Scalable (and Non-Boring) CBTs.
Even among experienced craft personnel, technical bolting knowledge can be a need. Hex’s solution provided computer-based lessons available anywhere, anytime, on any device.
Assemblers enjoyed and learned from the content (“I got more positive feedback from the craft than negative –in fact, I got no negative feedback from anybody,” the Supervisor says), and the material was all delivered on an intuitive, user-friendly platform. (“This system is so easy, a child could use it,” according to a contractor foreman.)
4. Creating Practical Materials Melding Industry Bests with Site Needs.
All Hex Technology training and materials are based on the guidelines in ASME PCC-1, the leading document governing bolted flange joint assembly. Hex helped the refinery develop both practical (hands-on) tests and assembler field manuals that met PCC-1 guidelines and addressed key requirements specific to its site.
5. Building a Sustainable Program for Continuous Improvement.
Hex Technology doesn’t settle for once-and-done. We provide the infrastructure for a successful and sustainable bolting program – one that a site’s own staff could execute. Armed with knowledge from “Train the Trainer” and supported by CBTs and site-specific practical assessments, the refinery now has a foundation for bolting excellence that will withstand any challenges, whether they be turnarounds, staff turnover, or contractor change.
*Note: Hex Technology works under NDA and is keeping this success story anonymous according to that agreement. However, the supervisor quoted in this story is willing to speak directly with interested parties to verify the details. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.