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Operational Excellence (where do we start)

Operational Excellence (where do we start)

Many organizations have appointed a leader to initiate an operation excellence philosophy and the first thing they discover, improving operational excellence is one of the most crucial challenges facing CEOs across the globe. Indeed, multiple pressures – competition, more stringent regulation as well as investor and stakeholder expectations – are driving leaders to focus heavily on operational excellence as a means to boost productivity. However, while more companies are pursuing operational excellence initiatives, few are succeeding in their efforts. Traditionally, large capital investments in new technologies have been considered the answer. However, in our experience, we have seen that maximization of operational excellence does not always require major capital investment. Instead, companies would benefit from a proven operations management system driven by a culture of continuous improvement. With this in place, it is possible to identify and execute targeted tactics that lead to significant savings.

So where do you start, how about the heart of operations, the control room by enhancing Situation Awareness. You can incorporate the research of the Abnormal Situation Management Consortium as it applies to operator situation awareness. Educate operators on today’s best practices and International Standards. Help operators understand that information can be displayed in a manner that facilitates operator recognition of abnormal operating conditions, including prompt detection of, and appropriate response to, abnormal and emergency conditions.

Here is one example where small changes can have significant impact on performance and reduce downtime. Almost all industrial processes are controlled by operators using dozens of graphic screens. The graphic designs are typically little more than P&IDs covered in hundreds of numbers. This traditional, “low performance” Human Machine Interface (HMI) paradigm is typical in all processes controlled by DCS and SCADA systems. It has been shown to be lacking in both providing operator situation awareness and in facilitating proper response to upsets. Poor HMIs have been cited as significant contributing factors to major accidents, including fatalities. HMI improvement has become a hot topic. The knowledge and control capabilities now exist for creating High Performance HMIs. These provide for much improved situation awareness, improved surveillance and control, easier training, and verifiable cost savings.

Getting operators to drink the cool aide is not easy. The best way to do this is by educating operators and engineers, so they not only understand why change is better, they actually accept the vision and long term objectives. We want operators involved with design but first they need to understand what works and what works better – best practices, so our workshops provide the foundation that a culture change can build on. So where do we start? Educate operations on best practices and standards, help them understand the benefits, and create a road map for change and help them by improving situation awareness.